IN THE international music world there are Stradivariuses and there are violins.
On the Northern Rivers, there are ukuleles made by Micheal Connor and then there are, well, ukuleles.
Of course, that comparison may be taking it a bit far, especially in Mr Connor’s opinion. His keen sense of humour and passion for the humble uke prevent him from any claims of grandeur.
But he does concede: “There are factory-built ukuleles, but mine are handmade and have a much better sound. It’s the subtleties of the instrument, such as the tones different timbers create, that I take into account.”
The Corndale electrician-turned-woodworker sells his instruments at the markets at Bangalow and The Channon. And while the price tag may be steeper than a mass-produced model – at about $650 and up – there’s no shortage of takers since ukulele sales took off.
It seems the compact instrument has been busy making a comeback, with groups like the Brisbane Ukulele Musicians Society and the Gold Coast’s G-CUP now being joined by Lismore’s first ukulele group.
Founder Jeanti St Clair, a long-time uke player, said it was an idea that grew out of a suggestion and took on a life of its own.
“We have only had two meetings and the second one, at the Red Inc space in Magellan Street, attracted 41 people,” she said. “If we get any bigger, we’re going to need another venue.”
Mr Connor, who will teach a ukulele workshop with friend Allen McFarlen, from Barron River Guitars, on the Gold Coast in June, started making the instruments about three years ago.
“A friend’s son wanted to build a ukulele for school and came to me for help,” he said. “I went to LesDorahy at Booyong, who handcrafts guitars and mandolins, and has a book on how to make a ukulele.”
Since then, Mr Connor has experimented with complex measurements and materials to produce ukuleles that have a high-grade sound.
He believes the ukulele’s resurgent popularity is partly because it is a great excuse “to play daggy old songs on it” and partly because it was just such fun. Added McFarlen: “I even know a musician who plays AC/DC on his ukulele.”
Tweed Community College will run a Ukulele for Beginners course with John Chandler in May. For det-ails on the course by Mr Connor and Mr McFarlen, call 6628 4385.