91-year-old Ottawa woman takes up the ukulele (with video)

Ottawa Citizen

She proudly calls herself an “old folkie” and, with her late husband, Gil, hosted countless hootenannies — singalongs — over the decades in the living room of their Ottawa home.

But Helen Levine waited a long time before deciding to pick up an instrument herself.

A very long time.

“That’s one thing I love about the instrument. You don’t have to be good,” says a laughing Levine, 91, as she cradles her Republic resonator ukulele on the sofa of her new apartment at the Rockcliffe Retirement Residence.

Levine took up the instrument a year ago at the urging of her daughter, Tamara, who’d fallen in love with the ukulele herself after hearing players from the Bytown Ukulele Group (BUG) play at the annual spring Grassroots Festival. With lessons from another Ottawa folkie, musician and CKCU radio host Chris White, a longtime family friend, Levine slowly coaxed her arthritic fingers into the simple chord shapes…

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