There’s a whole lot of singing and laughing going on when the PHUNsters gather at Baulkham Hills every week.
Many of the Members of PHUN (Paramatta Hills Ukelele Network) are local but others travel far and wide to be at the Hills Club for the gatherings. Sue, 77, has dementia and is given a lift to the group every week by her husband. She says she remembers the songs and enjoys playing: “Music is so important for me.”
It’s a great atmosphere as people arrive and at least 40 people start strumming their ukes. Some are just learning and some have been playing for several years.
Arthur and Denise Ongley established the PHUNsters in 2008. It started off with a handful of people and has continued to blossom.
Arthur says it was born from a desire to connect with, and give something beneficial to the community. He says the health benefits of music and keeping connected are well documented.
“We are wired for companionship, community and creativity. PHUN enables and encourages seniors and retirees to celebrate their purpose, their stories and the musical soundtrack of their lives through learning and playing ukulele with others. Music self-played is happiness selfmade.”
After 15 years and several moves to bigger premises PHUN has grown into a vibrant musical community made up of people who have discovered the joy of making music, making friends, and sharing the joy of both with others.
On the day I visit the music includes crowd favourite “Will you still Love Me Tomorrow?”, John Farnham, Red Gum and Mike McClellan’s Song and Dance Man.
As Denise says: “PHUN gives folk an opportunity to learn their favourite songs and new ones, to enjoy the moment, and share their stories. When the group gets together, the room lights up with musical joy and friendship.”
Ken Caroll, chairman of the Hills Club has been a PHUNster member for nearly seven years.
“It’s been absolutely great,” he said Lynne moved from the Hills to Nowra in January and still returns to play in the group once a month. A member for 10 years, she says. “ This is my family and I like to sing.”
Marlene took up the ukelele last year and says it is very relaxing. “The music is just beautiful. It’s like caressing your soul. I come every week and enjoy every bit.. the people are just beautiful.”
Bob was given a ukelele for his 70th birthday and joined the PHUNsters to learn how to play it. His wife joined the group not to play ukelele but for the social connections and plays a cajon .. a Portuguese drum. “We both love coming”, they say.
Members play regularly for charities, at festivals and at aged care homes.
Robyn from Northmead joined when Arthur and Denise started the group in 2008.
“This group has been my sanity. My husband has dementia so he has a Carer for four hours while I come here to this.” The “this” is a 90 minutes of playing and singing followed by coffee, lunch and a good chat at the club’s bistro.
Trish has been a member for 14 years . “I come from a musical family and just love music. The group is lovely and has just grown and grown. You build relationships.”
She met Gisela at exercise classes and encouraged her to join PHUN after hearing that she had a ukulele but had never learnt to play it.
Gisela said: “I had been wanting to play the ukulele for a number of years and when I saw this beautiful red ukulele, I couldn’t resist buying it. But there it sat for two years untouched.
“I approached the first PHUN meeting with trepidation, but with everyone’s friendly welcome I look forward to becoming a regular of this happy musical group. Music always uplifts me.”
PHUN meets at The Hills Club in Baulkham Hills for Ukulele Thursday from 10.30am until 12pm (except during School Holidays). There are also classes for those who want to learn to play.