Ukulele choir strums, sings popular songs with passion


Published:

Fresh off its successful inaugural Ukulele Festival on Feb. 23, the Pareidolia Ukulele Choir is steadfastly working on improving its skills with even more passion than before.

On average, 50 people, most of whom fall in the age range of 60 to 80, regularly attend the gatherings at Pareidolia Brewing Co. where the bi-weekly Sunday afternoon meetings are held. The conviviality in the room is electric. The sea of gray-haired ukulele enthusiasts jubilantly strum and sing popular tunes — from Guthrie to Beatles as well as folk standards.

At 1 p.m., there’s a 30-minute beginner class followed by instruction for intermediate level players. At 2 p.m., there’s open mic and anyone can sign up. But, usually the more confident players tend to participate, entertaining and inspiring the group.

Jackie O’Connell, a lifelong Brevard County resident who teaches the beginner class said, “Playing the uke is fun.” A talented guitar player, she is one of the original members of the choir, where she had her first uke lesson.

For those who are passionate about learning, O’Connell also offers ukulele lessons on Friday mornings.

The choir, the brainchild of the owner of the brewery and local musician Mike Brown, started in May 2018 with the goal of not merely increasing business, but to enrich the community as well. Membership quickly grew from 30 to the current number of more than 80.

The choir participated in the July 4 parade in Sebastian and the Christmas concert in Vero Beach.

Participants agreed that the ukulele is easy to learn at Pareidolia because the atmosphere is friendly, supportive and there’s encouragement.

“It’s amazing,” Kathy Doner said.

George Woods, an 88-year-old Palm Bay resident, attended the choir for the first time on March 10. He played the guitar as a youth and recently heard about the growing popularity of the ukulele, so he decided to check it out. Although undecided as to whether he’ll join, Woods’ assessment was that the group is friendly, and he had fun.

“My, my, my. I never knew such a thing like this existed,” he said. “I’m quite impressed to know so many old people are having such a good time. I like it.”

The Pareidolia Ukulele Choir meets on the first and third Sundays each month at the Pareidolia Brewery Co. at 712 Cleveland Street in Sebastian. There’s no cost to join the choir and lessons are free. Everyone is welcome. Ukuleles are available for use during the lesson.

For information, go to pareidoliabrewing.com or the Facebook group Pareidolia Ukulele Choir.