40 Ukulele-toting North Texans Take the Stage!
The Grace Avenue United Methodist Church Ukulele Choir of Frisco performed an eight-song set at the final luncheon at Portland’s General Conference 2016 on Friday, May 20, 2016. When 40 ukulele-toting North Texans, decked out in Hawaiian shirts took the stage, it quickly became a Holy Ghost kind of thing. That is the term founder Joe Stobaugh uses to describe the two-year old, inter-generational choir. “There is great communal power in the Choir. It crosses all boundary lines. I put an article about starting the choir in the church newsletter and 20 people showed up.”
The group‘s members ranged from eight years old to 60. Their repertoire ranged from the African American Spiritual "Wade in the Water," to the Irish Rock Band U2’s "Where the Streets Have No Names." A highlight of the set was an original song with text by John Thornburg and music by Rev. Stobaugh, entitled "Wake Up." Rev. Stobaugh is a prolific composer and has released a full-length album.
“The ukulele is an instrument that you can have a lot of success with really quickly,” he explained. “Within 30 minutes you can play three chords. It is not like a piano or a cello. It has four strings and you do not hurt your hands when you play,” he said with a smile. “It is hard to be mad when you are playing the ukulele.”
Band member Laura Simmons agrees, “One year ago I had never played a string instrument. It is a blessing, and the fellowship is amazing. Being here at General Conference 2016 is a chance of a lifetime,” she said.
Pastor Billy Echols Richter, pastor of Grace Avenue UMC, was pleased with the success of the Choir. “We’ve got a lot of enthusiastic, great people who want to praise God,” he said. “They feel that being in the Choir is not just about the music, but how they express their love for God.”
Looking back on the Choir’s beginning Dr. Echols- Richter recalled with a chuckle, “Joe pulled them together, and it has been a great experience. When he came to me with the idea of ukulele choir, I said, ‘It will never work.’ ”