The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Ukulele takes its place in the pews

New Hampshire praise band has 20 of them

The newfangled popularity of the ukulele is popping up in the pews. Messiah Lutheranin Amherst, N.H., a congregation of about 70 families, recently started a ukulele praise band.

The uke has gained in popularity because the Hawaiian instrument is easy to learn and instructional videos are viral on YouTube, said Thomas Teichmann, pastor ofMessiah. Music legends Paul McCartney and Pete Townsend have embraced it, but when uke virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro posted online his rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in 2006 popularity soared. 

At Messiah, Linnea Micciulla, the music director, was playing in a uke club when the idea of a church praise band sparked interest. “Everyone was interested in asking her about her uke band and said, ‘Why don’t we start a band here?’ ” said Teichmann, who also wanted to play the uke.

So in January, Micciulla launched what is being referred to as the Ukelele Praise Band or U-Choir until they settle on a name. About 20 participate. 

“The ukulele is easy to learn, especially if you played guitar,” said Micciulla, who grew up singing traditional hymns and playing the organ. But “Amazing Grace” on the uke? “Pretty much anything translates. It doesn’t have to be a Hawaiian song,” she said. 

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Embracing diversity