A NEW craze for playing music is sweeping through a Ryedale village - led by a band of senior citizens.

Under the tuition of a local retired teacher, some 20 pensioners are now practising and playing the ukulele every week in Thornton-le Dale. They have also been involved in two concerts in the village that have already raised more than £2,500 for charity.

Such is the growing popularity of the ukulele lessons that a group from Sight Support, involving blind and partially-sighted people, have also recently taken up the instrument with great success.

John Scoble, who is providing the ukulele lessons, said: “I cannot believe how popular this has become and the enthusiasm of people in the area to either join the group or come along and join in a sing-along session.

John only started learning the ukulele himself five years ago when he read about dementia and how learning a new musical instrument could be an effective way of keeping the mind active and healthy.

He then started to interest others in the idea of learning and staying sharp and approached the Ryedale Lions Club for help with his 'Music in the Community' project. The club made a donation to buy five instruments to help novices give it a try.

In less than a year the band is booming with many people buying their own instruments and passing on their loaned ukuleles to new recruits.

John’s method of teaching the mature students involves reading simple sheet music, playing the tunes and singing such traditional favourites as Daisy Bell, When the Saints Go Marching In, She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain and Amazing Grace. No previous musical knowledge or experience is required.

“I remember as a young child we all gathered round the family piano for a sing-song. It was a wonderful way of enjoying yourself as a family which sadly we don’t do much of nowadays,” said John.

“Our ukulele group is a modern version of that - it’s all about having fun as a group, being part of a team and making music. It certainly stretches people’s concentration, dexterity and mental acuity.”

One group of players living in the Rowntree Trust homes in Roxby Gardens, Thornton-le-Dale, including 94-year-old Alice Collinson, have got so keen on playing the ukulele that they have started extra get-togethers and called themselves the Roxby Rockers.

The latest performance was a birthday party surprise for 103-year-old Monique Bennett, whose daughter Janet, just 75, plays in the Thornton Dale Ukulele Group and Roxby Rockers.

“I heard about the ukulele group at a coffee morning and just wanted to have a go," said Janet.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment playing and getting to know people."

Ryedale Lions Club member Geoff Chaplin, who helped organise the club’s ukulele donation, was so impressed by the band that he too has joined in the fun.

“It’s quite amazing to see what an impact a small donation from the Lions has achieved," he said.

" The band has repaid our investment many times over through the money it has since raised to help others in need,."

Anyone interested in joining the group, which is free and no previous experience is required, can contact John Scoble on 01751 474027.