This Saturday at the Second Annual Blue Hills Great Estate Fall Foliage Weekend at Eustis Estate in Milton there will a special local guest. The Choco-leles, a group of ukulele players based in Historic Lower Mills, will lead ukulele groups all over the Northeast to serenade guests touring the latest addition to the Blue Hills Reservation.
There may be as many as 50 ukulele players at the event. Depending on the weather, the group will either play and sing outside as guests enter the building and tour the grounds, or if it’s raining, players will break up into small groups spread out all over the mansion. In the last hour, they’ll move to the building’s historic kitchen.
“We’ll be playing music from the 1870s, when the mansion was first built, all the way to the present day. We’re doing ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’ all the way to ‘Count on Me’ by Bruno Mars,” explains Anne Ku, founder of the Choco-leles and convener of the ukulele groups at the event. “Everyone can come and sing along!”
The Choco-leles will also be premiering the easy, ukulele, upbeat version of the famous 1947 hit “Autumn Leaves” and a mash-up of two songs “It’s So Easy to Fall in Love But Breaking Up is Hard to Do.”
The Choco-leles, so named because they’re based out of Lower Mills’ Walter Baker Artist Lofts, formerly the Baker’s Chocolate Factory headquarters, were just founded this past January. Ku’s a musician who loves the ukulele and wanted to start a group close to her. Since it started, the group sees as many as 20 participants at each jam session, and has a mailing list of over 100.
Ku teaches ukulele classes to children at the Adams Street Branch of the Boston Public Library which is one of the few libraries that lends out ukuleles. The Choco-leles are one of many local clubs in the Ukulele Union of Boston (UUoB). New England actually has a robust ukulele scene, with more than 14 groups across Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
So, why the keen interest in the instrument? “The ukulele is called the friendly or social instrument,” explains Ku. “It’s easy to learn and easy to sight-read and sing along.”
Her goal is to get more local people interested and participating; beyond the BPL, her 1.5 hour crash course for complete beginners is the most popular of the various ukulele workshops she gives at the Walter Baker Building. The Choco-leles, and all the other ukulele events, are totally open to the public. “It’s great for Baby Boomers who have time on their hands!” she says.
Ku is also part of the Boston Guitar Orchestra, which will be performing Sunday November 4th at the Eustis Estate. It’ll be a more coordinated affair, with a longer, more formal set of music.
The Eustis mansion was originally constructed by architect William Ralph Emerson for Edith Hemenway and W.E.C. Eustis in 1876. In 2014, Historic New England began restoration on the property, and the Eustis Estate Museum opened to the public in 2017.
Check out the video: Hey Good Lookin’ – by Hank Williams, performed by the Choco-leles at Standish Village, June 2018.
Katherine J. Igoe is a freelance writer and editor who freely admits she just moved to Southie with her husband in 2017. Loves writing about local food, culture, and space savers, as well as more serious things like mental health. Follow her/send her ideas on Twitter @kjigoe.
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