Music Beats Lockdown Blues In Portstewart
Long before the COVID-19 lockdown closed the doors of Portstewart Men’s Shed, a thriving music tradition had been established.
Firstly by Mark Roughan, a retired teacher and musician, who started a beginners tin whistle class in the shed. Like the ‘Pied Piper’ Mark seemed to draw musicians from around Portstewart to the shed, and very soon the place was filled with a whole medley of musical instruments and sounds. Anyone who was remotely musical, joined in the weekly sessions. We were privileged to have also attracted notable musicians such as Trevor Keys, Stuart McNicholl, Jimmy Stratton and many others.
Trevor Keys gifted the shed with his fine skills in Ukulele playing and formed a beginners ukulele group. Trevor is a famous musician from the Showbands era and played with the Flingels Showband in Derry. He also owned a musical instrument shop in the City for many years. By the time the pandemic had struck, Trevor had a thriving Ukulele group meeting during the week and Friday evenings at the Men’s Shed, along with the Mark, Jimmy and Stuart.
Realising that the option to meet and play together was no longer an option, the Men’s Shed staff persuaded Trevor to try Zoom as an alternative way to ‘meet’ and play. After a few weeks of trial and error on Zoom , the group gathered and the music began again. Since April 2020 the group have met faithfully on Zoom to practice and play. Their repertoire of music has grown from 25 songs to 65!
The Men’s Shed members were also happy to extended the invitation to non-members who were isolated from their music groups, so some local ladies also joined the group. The highlight of the groups achievement was the Shed Christmas Zoom concert, which Trevor compered. It was heartening to see and hear all of the group performing a piece of music and being supported by their shed friends and family. There have been many benefits to the zoom gatherings , not least that the members were able chat and make music together. The group members have been able to support one another through the strange times that we have found ourselves in. The Portstewart Ukulele Zoom Group are always open to new members. If other men’s shed members would like to join in , please feel free to contact Catherine Taylor for further details.