Text by Jim D’Ville // Photos by Eric Max

D’Ville leading his workshop.

Springtime in the Alleghenies sounds like the title to a Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald musical from the 1940s, but in reality it’s the season and location for the annual Allegheny Ukulele Soiree. Hosted by the Allegheny Ukulele Kollective, the 5th annual soiree was held April 20–22 at the rustic Laurel Lodge in the Allegheny foothills just outside Altoona in western Pennsylvania. Performers included America’s ukulele sweethearts Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel, Danielle Ate The Sandwich, Mim, The Dirty Hillers, and this writer. A beginner workshop track was taught by Amber Rozel of the Steel City Ukulele Club. Ukulele-related vendors included Mim’s Ukes, Mainland Ukes, Dewdrop Ukulele, and The Hug Strap.

The lovely results of a lei making class.


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Amber Rozel and the one-legged strum.

It doesn’t take long before a well-run festival outgrows its venue, and according to festival director Mike Holzer, that’s what is happening  with the Allegheny Ukulele Soiree. “This year’s Soirée far exceeded our expectations. We sold out with 150 amazing attendees and were definitely bursting at the seams this year. While we all love our current venue and its beautiful scenery, everyone seems to understand the need for a new, larger venue moving forward. Plans for next year include more vendors, more workshops, and some non-player activities such as an Ask A Luthier panel.”

The 6th Annual Allegheny Ukulele Soiree will be held May 3–5, 2019, at the Altoona Grand Hotel. Headlining next year’s event will be Aaron and Nicole Keim, aka The Quiet American. The rest of the lineup will be announced in early fall, with registration opening in November. If you’d like to teach or perform at next year’s Soiree, the organizing committee are accepting performer/instructor applications for 2019. For more information check their website: ukulelesoiree.com.

The finale, with Mim, Sarah Maisel, Craig Chee, Melissa Nannen, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Amber Rozel, Louise Troxell, Erin Ryan Barnes, and Mike Holzer.

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