He’s touring with a band – at the age of 88.
Leonard Metcalfe, of Skelmanthorpe, is the oldest member of Shelley Over 60s Ukulele Band, having only taken up the instrument less than two years ago.
Now he is helping to take the sound of the Hawaiian instrument made famous by George Formby to senior citizens – some of them years younger than himself – as the group tours care homes in the Huddersfield area.
The band, formed in 2013 by Jean Eskrett, started with about 10 members, but now has 40 and the number is still rising.
Group leader Dominic Beresford, who also plays in wedding band rockmyreception.co.uk, said: “We get together every Monday afternoon and have amassed a repertoire of over 100 songs ranging from the music hall days, wartime classics and 60s rock and roll.
“We thought it would be a good idea to bring these songs to an audience who would appreciate them. We have played in over 20 care homes in the area and our diary for this year is getting very busy indeed.
“We play for an hour and it is a humbling experience to see the enjoyment on the faces of the residents. We’ve had dementia sufferers singing along, remembering every line of a song. The staff are also amazing and encourage the more able residents to dance along to us.”
Leonard, whose wife Nora died four years ago, aged 79, decided to take up the ukulele after hearing the band on local radio. He received one-to-one tuition to learn basic chords and is now a regular at the band’s practice sessions at Shelley Village Hall as well as taking part in concerts. He performed with the band at Holmfirth Folk Festival and also plays at Denby Dale Folk Club.
Leonard said playing the ukulele put smile on his face if we ever felt down. “It’s absolutely marvellous,” he said. “At the age of 88 you think your life is over, but it isn’t. After my wife died I was on my own and got fed up at times. This has altered my life completely.”
Leonard urged other people to come along to the band’s practice sessions and get involved. “It’s a lovely little instrument and so easy to play,” he said. “It’s like painting by numbers. Up until I joined the group I’d never played an instrument in my life. I wish more people would take it up!”
To join or book Shelley Over 60s Ukulele Band contact David Firth on 07891704009 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org