Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ukulele and Yo-Yo performers put on a show

By Kate Evans

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Remember back in the day when the coolest kid on your block impressed everyone by “walking the dog” with a Yo-Yo? This trick isn’t just for kids, and Yo-Yo professionals prove how artistic the toy can actually be.

Sunday, Feb. 13 at the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton, a series of successful ukulele and Yo-Yo performers are putting on what sounds like a unique and entertaining show that will be filled with surprises.

 Jim and Liz Beloff, Greg Hawkes, Tripping Lily, Ruth Ungar and Joel Eckhaus are the scheduled ukulele performers.

Jim and Liz Beloff are a married couple who founded Flea Market Music, Inc. after discovering a ukulele at the Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea Market in 1992. Their music company published a series of “Jumpin’ Jim’s” ukulele songbooks which are sold worldwide. The Beloff’s live by their company’s motto: “Uke can change the world!”

Greg Hawkes, keyboardist and co-founder of the band, The Cars, has more recently been busy producing instrumental ukulele covers of Beatles songs. Working with producer Perry Geyer, the two released “The Beatles Uke” in 2008, which is a cover of Hawkes’ favorite Beatles hits.

Tripping Lily, a quartet consisting of brothers Demetrius and Alex Becrelis, Monica Rizzio and Laird Boles, combine a series of instruments including ukulele, guitar, fiddle, mandolin and stringed bass. The band’s popular song “Alone” was featured on Showtime’s series “The Big C” last October.

Ruth Ungar of the string band, The Mammals, usually performs with husband and band-mate Mike Merenda. The duo sings and plays the fiddle, banjo, guitar and, of course, the ukulele. Ruth and her husband’s soft but lyrically-strong musical ability portray their journey of perseverance and success.

Joel Eckhaus founded Earnest Instruments in 1976 shortly after he began building instruments in ‘73. In addition to the ukulele, Eckhaus also plays the mandolin, tenor guitar, banjo and musical saw. Eckhaus was a founding member of the “Arm and Hammer String Band,” and studied ukulele and banjo with Roy Smeck of the “Wizard of the Strings.”

Sunday’s show will also feature Yo-Yo performances by John and Rebecca Higby and Eric Koloski.

The Beloff’s aren’t the only power-couple in the lineup. The Higbys are responsible for spicing up classic Yo-Yo tricks such as “Walk the Dog” and “Rock the Baby.” The Higbys’ incorporation of humor into their energetic act earned them an appearance on David Letterman. The duo has performed around the world and currently holds a Guinness World Record and a 2008 Yo-Yo World Champion title.

Eric Koloski, a member of Team YoYoJam, is the Massachusetts State Yo-Yo champion and placed third in the Single A divison for the 2006 World Yo-Yo Contest. Koloski was also a finalist on “America’s Got Talent.”

Additional performances by the A2Z Yo-Yo Team and the A E I O Ukes will be sure to spice up the show. The A2Z Yo-Yo Team is Northampton’s very own Science and Learning Store’s Yo-Yo team. The A E I O Ukes, or Another Elegant Instant Orchestra of Ukuleles, is directed by Joe Blumenthal of Downtown Sounds.

This compilation of talent hits the stage at 2 p.m. this Sunday. Tickets can be purchased for $15 at the door or $12 in advance. The Academy of Music Theatre is scheduled to open at 12:30 p.m. for sales and doors will open at 1:30 p.m. for the show. Tickets are also available at Food for Thought Books in Amherst, Cooper’s Corner in Florence, State Street Fruit Store in Northampton, and Guild Art Centre in Northampton.

Kate Evans can be reached at [email protected]

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