SyanI - Sy and I and geezer love
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Judy Greig on the soprano ukulele and Sy Kipp on the baritone ukulele form the duet, SyanI. SyanI debuted last Saturday at the Groovy Uke benefit concert.
Something old, something new.
That just about sums up SyanI, a fledgling Lehighton-based ukulele duo, formed of something new two retired oldies-but-goodies who are reblooming their Flower Power 60's coming-of-age musical lifestyle and something old, a 60's came-of-age senior lifestyle that partners, Judy Greig and Sy Kipp, like to call "geezer love."
Judy coined the duet's name SyanI, pronounced Sy-an-I, to reflect their partnership of "Sy" (Kipp), "and "I" (Greig) cute, although a tricky play on words.
SyanI debuted at the Groovy Uke benefit concert for the Carbon County Environmental Education Center on April 21 at the Lehighton Band Hall where they performed three cover songs: Cass Elliot's Dream a Little Dream of Me, the Everly Brothers' Bye Bye Love, and the Shirelles' Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.
Their voices harmonized in parallel with their ukuleles; Judy playing a soprano ukulele, and Sy on a baritone uke. Besides the uke, Judy plays the piano and the djembe drum. She is a member of the Lehigh Valley Drum Circle.
Besides the uke, Sy plays the piano and guitar, but his special interest is in bass instruments.
"Music has been a big part of my life." Sy said. "I started playing piano when I was nine years old, and started playing guitar when I was 13. While serving in the Coast Guard, I learned to play the upright bass. That became my love."
Besides the upright bass, Sy has an acoustic/electric bass guitar and a base ukulele, called a U-Bass.
"It's strung like the upright bass and has polyurethane strings," Sy explained. "When it is amplified, it sounds just like an upright bass. And it's so small."
"He covers all the basses," Judy quipped.
It was music that brought the initially star-crossed lovers together in 1999. Sy was playing bass with the country band, Southern Reign at the Lehighton Grove and Judy had come with her friend Pam to line dance.
Pam introduced Judy to Sy. Perhaps they met once or twice again at another dance. They were each into whatever they were into and that was the last that they saw of one another.
Ten years later, Judy and Sy were both single this time in the age of the Internet. Judy had been searching for Mr. Right on Yahoo Personals, and feeling that she was looking for love in all the wrong places. Then she got an alert on a guy named Sy.
Sy had uploaded his profile to Yahoo Personals just two weeks earlier, and an alert Judy was quick to snag him.
"How many guys have the name Sy?" she said. "I said to myself I know that guy. He used to play in a country band. I knew I had already liked him, because I had already met him."
"I couldn't recall the name of the band," she continued. "So, I e-mailed him asking, 'Didn't you used to play in a country band?'"
"Yes, Southern Reign," Sy responded. "I remembered her from the dance 10 years ago. It was amazing."
Thus began an e-mail romance.
But e-mailing can lead to playing Post Office. Come Christmastime, Judy invited Sy to meet her family.
"The rest is history," Sy said.
They quickly recognized a shared love of music, and Sy inspired Judy to play a stringed instrument. On a lark, they went to Nick Roberti's Ukulele Institute in Jim Thorpe, and fell in love with the ukulele.
"The ukulele is about scaling down and being portable," Sy explained. "Its light and airy sound is returning to the limelight. In the last 10 years, the ukulele has moved from a Hawaiian novelty to a lead instrument.
"We like to laugh together," Sy said. "We don't take ourselves so seriously. We can poke fun at each other. She totally amazed me last year when she turned 65. I asked, 'What are you going to do for your birthday?'"
Judy replied, "I'm going to buzz cut my hair."
She asked Sy to give her a buzz cut and they bought a set of clippers.
"If you are going to buzz cut your hair, I might as well buzz cut mine," Sy, said.
The cutting of each others hair began a ritual.
"Every 5 to 6 weeks, whether we need or not, we take our clippers and buzz cut one another," Sy said.
"It's fun," Judy said. "We have a good time in each other's company. If one of us makes a mistake, we laugh at it."
So, in their new role as senior citizen musicians they plan to play for nursing homes, care facilities, nonprofits, and if things work right, maybe make a little to supplement their retirement.
The goal of SyanI is to put a smile on people's faces. How? By going from the rock 'n' chair to rock 'n' roll.
For information, see: www. syani.com.