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9/26/2012 3:14:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Annual Red Hill Music Festival Oct. 13
SUMNER - During the "Roaring Twenties," no member of the "In Crowd" would dream of attending a party without a flapper dress, or raccoon coat and porkpie hat, and, of course, that mandatory accessory, the Ukulele.

During the Fifties, Arthur Godfrey made the ukulele a trademark of his show. And, who can forget tiptoeing through the tulips with Tiny Tim and his uke? All four of the Beatles were avid ukulele players, and many musicians today are mixing the instrument into their ensemble. It has become the "hot" instrument among acoustic musicians.

Yes, the ukulele is back! And, you can learn to play it at the 7th annual Red Hill Music Festival, set for Oct. 13 at the United Methodist Church in Sumner. This annual event brings hundreds of people from around the Midwest to spend a day learning new techniques or being introduced to a new instrument by master musicians.

"We started the Festival in 2006, mainly concentrating on the hammered dulcimer and the mountain dulcimer," said Joan Brian, founding member of the Red Hill Dulcimer Society, which sponsors the event. "But, we've grown so much in what we offer in order to welcome those who play other instruments."

This year, the Festival will offer beginner and intermediate lessons in violin, Irish whistle, and folk percussion, as well as the hammered and mountain dulcimer and jamming skills.

Nationally known teacher, Danny Shephard, of Hopkinsville, Ky., and his wife, Dottie, will be back to offer a class in Beginning Ukulele. Danny Shephard promises, "You can learn a song in three minutes." If you don't own a uke, never fear, loaners are available. Then, progress to Danny's Intermediate Uke class or Dottie's class on how to integrate the uke with other musicians.

Why learn the ukulele, of all instruments? According to Doug Hawf, owner of Doug's Music Shop in Mount Carmel, who has been an instructor at every one of the festivals. "If I were teaching a beginner to make music, especially a child, I would recommend the ukulele for three reasons. First of all, the instrument is small and light and the neck is easier for smaller fingers to reach around than a guitar. Second, and most important, you will learn basic chord structure and music theory that you can carry on to other instruments." The third reason is that they can be purchased at an economical price.

The Red Hill Dulcimer Society is fortunate to have two members who perform on the ukulele. Susan Fischer had training as a pianist but in the '60's, a friend loaned her a uke, "Within minutes, with two chords, I was playing a song. Now all these years later, I have played the same uke at our church, at camp and Cowboy Church with kids. I can just keep learning and enjoying being part of the Red Hill Society." Paula Jones, another founding member of the group and an educator, added. "I saw Sharrie George play one at our 2010 festival and she was having so much fun, I had to try it. I purchased one and had a blast. Now I play it more than my dulcimer. My grandchildren love to have "parades" playing the ukulele and the tamborine. And they are learning to make music."

The Red Hill Music Festival is proud of the teachers who conduct the classes. Tull Glazener, Molly McCormack, Rick Thum, and Danny and Dottie Shephard have national reputations both as instructors and performers. Local talent, Doug Hawf, is a multi-instrumentalist and a natural teacher.

The Red Hill Festival is well-known for the quality of its instruction. "Our teachers are the best," said club member Bill Minton. "I've been all over the USA and you won't find better instructors or entertainers than we have here. People need to come to the concert. Just because it's free, doesn't mean you won't get top notch entertainment."

Minton was referring to the free concert, open to the public, which will begin at 3:30 p.m. and includes performances by the host club and the instructors. For the last few years, the church sanctuary has been standing room only and attendee's have remarked that this variety and quality of music is not normally available in this area. All are invited.

The festival is held at the United Methodist Church, 300 S. Christy, Sumner. Classes begin at 9 a.m. Five class sessions will be held and jamming is always available. Registration is $20 for the day in advance, and $25 at the door. Youth attend for free. Last year, more than 125 students from Michigan, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana and all parts of Illinois participated. Vendors are available to sell instruments and music related items.

A lunch will be provided by the Methodist Youth for a free will donation.

Further information, class schedules and registration forms are available at or by calling Jerry at 618 928-1507. Anyone with a curiosity about acoustic music or a desire to learn is invited. Some loaner instruments are available.

Club President Beth Leggitt summed up the goals of the group. "Red Hill Festival is a great instructional opportunity with friends, fun and music. You have a chance to brush up on old music techniques, learn new tricks and jam with friends. If you've never played an instrument before, come on over and join us! There will be someone there who will get you started on a lifetime of fun!"

The Red Hill Dulcimer Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching and preserving acoustic music. Membership is open to musicians of all skill levels. Founded in 2006, the group has played at hundreds of churches, schools, historical societies, civic events, nursing homes and music festivals through out the Tri-State. Bookings can be obtained by calling Jerry at 618-943-5610.


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