Ukulele Babes bring happiness and health with music and singing

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Three women in La Mesa have tapped into the power of playing music together. The three of them strum their ukuleles in retirement homes and sing-along concerts to bring joy to others. They call themselves the Ukulele Babes.

Lorraine Whaley and Sara Megling started their group in 2010, playing together at the Kroc Center just for fun. Anastasia Berkheimer joined them in 2012. For three years, the women have played and sung at a senior living facility and a nursing home and, sometimes, at the Joan Kroc Center.

Three women in La Mesa have tapped into the power of playing music together. The three of them strum their ukuleles in retirement homes and sing-along concerts to bring joy to others. They call themselves the Ukulele Babes.

Lorraine Whaley and Sara Megling started their group in 2010, playing together at the Kroc Center just for fun. Anastasia Berkheimer joined them in 2012. For three years, the women have played and sung at a senior living facility and a nursing home and, sometimes, at the Joan Kroc Center.

“Fame and fortune have found us. Or they would if we didn’t play for free,” Megling joked.

Ukuleles look like small guitars. The four-stringed instruments are an invention of the Hawaiian people. 

“Believe it or not, the ukulele is even older than we are,” Megling said, laughing with Whaley and Berkheimer.

The three women practice every Wednesday morning to practice their skills and learn new songs. When they sing at senior centers, they lead the people in old standards like “Tin Pan Alley” and some cowboy songs.

Sometimes members in the audience will recall a memory that made a certain song important in their life.

“The seniors that we entertain know and love these old songs and enjoy singing along. One woman told the group that her father sang them on the radio in Chicago for quite some time,” said Whaley, who learned how to play the ukulele from her mother.

Berkheimer said everyone is happier when they all sing together. That is true quite personally for her, too, with her experience of recovery from breast cancer. Playing the ukulele and singing with Whaley and Megling has been like a therapy for her.

“I am happier than I was before, more outgoing. We have formed close and lasting friendships with each other because of our common interest in and love of music,” she said.  

In fact, one of Berkheimer’s favorite memories with the group is the day she graduated from treatment at the Scripps Proton Therapy Court and met with the Ukulele Babes.

“Playing the ukulele with my friends helps me to relax. It helps me to focus on the positive in life, keeps my mind sharp,” she said.

With Christmas underway, the Ukulele Babes entertained the folks at Waterford Terrace retirement home in La Mesa last Monday afternoon. The three of them were decked out in Christmas colors and finery, with Megling donning a Santa hat.

“We’ll start with Deck the Halls,” Megling said, with Berkheimer and Whaley on either side of her.

As she usually does at the sing-alongs, Megling gave a little history of each song.

“Deck the Halls is a Welsh carol. And like most carols, this one was originally meant to be danced to. Did you know that a lot of carols were written in taverns?” she asked.

People laughed, and then the Ukulele Babes strummed and sang, the audience joining in with the help of song sheets provided them.

When asked if playing the ukulele was difficult to learn, Bekrheimer smiled and shook her head. “We teach ourselves, but Sara does take lessons at Alan’s Music in La Mesa,” she said.

“The biggest challenge in playing the ukulele is trying to get old, stiff fingers to reach difficult chords,” Whaley said.

For Berkheimer, the challenge is tobe able to stand for a complete performance. “I alternate standing and sitting because of arthritis in my knees,” she said.

But the three women do a good enough job in rousing audiences. Last Monday, the people at Waterford Terrace shook jingle bells in their hands as they sang Christmas carols. 

“I really like making our audiences happy,” Berkheimer said.

The Ukulele Babes welcomes all interested new and experienced players to join in their group for practices and sing-alongs. They will meet in the community room of the Guava Garden apartments once a month on Thursdays. For more information, call Megling at 619-469-8635.

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