The Villages Daily Sun

Ukulele Players Take Over Lake Sumter Landing For Day of Smiles

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Posted: Thursday, December 21, 2017 8:00 am

Bill Pope plays the ukulele to make people smile. Sporting a button-down Hawaiian shirt covered in golden-brown ukuleles and a Santa hat on his head, Pope led a crowd of about 200 people Wednesday in playing the four-stringed instrument at Lake Sumter Landing Market Square.

Ukulele players from around The Villages played a series of songs, including holiday classics such as“Jingle Bell Rock” and “Let It Snow,” as well as mainstream hits like “You Are My Sunshine” and “Teenager In Love.”

Pope, of the Village of Gilchrist, has been part of the Ukulele Players Club of Lake Miona for three years. He said he plays the instrument to make people happy and give them a reason to smile.

“When we get new members in the club, sometimes they can look depressed,” Pope said. “If you’re able to give someone a gleam of happiness or make them smile, that’s what it’s all about.”

Pope acted as the master of ceremonies for the event, and onlookers and players alike had permanent smiles on their faces as the group played songs using three basic chords they had learned only 30 minutes before.

Dennis McLean is a teacher in the Ukulele Players Club at Lake Miona and has been playing the ukulele for five years. Originally a guitar player in high school, he realized as he got older that the ukulele was much easier to play because it is much smaller and has only four strings.

“I’m able to play better than I used to play on the guitar,” McLean said. “The ukulele is probably the easiest of the string instruments to play.”

McLean, of the Village of Collier, instructed the ukulele players about 30 minutes before the show as they sat in white chairs on the square. He taught them three chords: C, F and G7, which were all they needed to play the songs on the set list for the day.

Julia Bills was one of the performers in the crowd and she was playing a banjolele, which is a hybrid of a banjo and a ukulele.

She has been playing the instrument for about two years and has been involved in several different ukulele clubs since moving to The Villages in 2010. She observed the set list and noticed a particular song that she said is her favorite.

“My favorite song is ‘Flaming Ukuleles’ and I’m really excited to be playing it,” said Bills, of the Village Santo Domingo.

Several onlookers were impressed by the entirety of the performance, and many people began to dance and sing along to the music.

“If you can’t smile when you live here, you might as well move out,” said Susan Moen, of the Village of Country Club Hills. “It just makes you laugh.”

McLean and Pope stood on the stage, joined by fellow members of the Ukulele Players Club of Lake Miona, and as the rhythm took over, Pope began to dance through the crowd.

“Sometimes you tell people about The Villages and they don’t necessarily understand what it’s about,” said Rob Lonergan, of the Village of Pine Hills. “This is the perfect example.”

Tim Briggs is a staff writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5307, or tim.briggs@thevillagesmedia.com.