Hula hula hallelujah
For almost a decade the Blue Mountains Ukulele Festival has been held on a February weekend, and this year – thanks to the suggestion of a keen ukulele-playing clergyman – St Hilda’s hosted a special service on the Sunday that had the church overflowing with people.
“Last October I got a call from Larry Galbraith, the minister of the Church of Christ at Epping… who said he was performing at the festival and wondered if we would be willing to run a ukulele service on the Sunday morning,” says Katoomba rector the Rev Ray Robinson.
“I wasn’t sure what a ukulele service was but I said I’d give it a go if I could wear my Hawaiian shirt!”
A service was put together that included songs playable on the little instrument, and Mr Galbraith – as part of his performance on the Saturday night – invited those in attendance to come to church the next day.
Music scores had been prepared with the expectation that about 50 people would come, Mr Robinson says, but “people started showing up an hour before the service… by the time it started, it was standing room only! One church member counted 178 ukuleles and, in total, there was about 300 people in all, so many spilt onto the street outside.
“Church members who came a little late discovered they had nowhere to sit but they were very gracious in welcoming the visitors.”
Churchgoers and visitors got stuck into the spirit of the service, he adds, singing songs like ‘Hula Hula Hallelujah’ (“One or two even broke out into a little hula dance”), and he describes the sight of nearly 200 people strumming away as a “fantastic spectacle”.
“I told the congregation before I gave a gospel message that I was a little disappointed in the lack of Hawaiian shirts but that I’m sure we could do better next year,” Mr Robinson says.
“All in all it was a lot of fun and a great gospel opportunity – with not only many Christians from other churches visiting, but many interested non-believers part of the fun. It’s in the calendar for 2019!”