No one is really certain of the date that it all began.
But the agreed upon fact is that it has come together in the last couple years.
It is the story of a half dozen Kirkland business owners, a handful of computer techie-types, a C.P.A., and three government employees; all of whom share an enthusiasm for wine, which most likely is what brought each of them to the Grape Choice, the wine store/tasting bar near Marina Park in downtown Kirkland in the first place.
Over time they’ve sipped wine, become friends and discovered another shared passion: music. Making it, not listening to it, that is. And that’s what moved their ‘chance’ meetings to ‘scheduled’ gatherings and prompted the addition of a variety of musical instruments: a violin, a few ukuleles, some spoons a wash board, kazoos, a cowbell, tambourines, even a Spanish guiro (pronounced ‘we-row’).
And it wasn’t long before Kirkland’s newest homegrown eclectic musical group was born: Marilyn and The G Strings.
The somewhat evocative name is a play on words: a nod to both Marilyn Monroe and to Marilyn Pedersen the group’s violinist. The G Strings, you can again think Marilyn Monroe, but in reality the G string is the top string, the tuning string, on a ukulele.
Kirkland resident Marilyn Pedersen is by day the Legislative Assistant for State Representative Ross Hunter and one of the group’s founding members. She is recognized in the area for her violin performances at her church and in classical string quartets, but says the genesis for this musical adventure was back in 2008 when she and three other Grape Choice patrons –agreed to entertain at a private New Year’s Eve party.
While work commitments took the lead vocalist from that performance across the country, the remaining threesome continued to tinker with music and it wasn’t long before a few other patrons became interested in what they were doing. “When ukuleles’ started appearing, it kind of morphed into a ukulele band’, she said.
Group member Dane Stack, a City of Bellevue employee and an officer in the military reserves, is a ukulele-player in the group. He laughs when he recalls suggesting their motto be: ‘wine drinkers with a ukulele problem’.
Marti Bartlett, who has sung with the Seattle Women’s Choir, and her husband, Chuck Bartlett, (owners of Dooley’s Dog House in Kirkland), can’t recall an exact date for when they got involved in the group. Their beagle, Dooley, attends the group’s sessions and often joins in the vocalizing.
While it may have begun as a casual sort of sing-a-long, the almost-dozen core members of the group are taking this musical enterprise seriously. They can be heard practicing twice weekly, Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons, in a backroom at the wine bar where the group was founded.
In recent months practices have evolved into rehearsals and rehearsals into performances at fund-raisers and private parties. They’ve auctioned the group – performances, that is, to the highest bidders – to help raise money for Kirkland’s Fourth of July fireworks and for the Kirkland Performance Center. They’ll be performing – and be an auction item -- at Dooley’s 4th Annual Wine Tasting and Silent Auction, Aug. 11th at the Grape Choice.
Watching the group perform recently at a private birthday party, members of the audience could be heard exclaiming, with just a hint of surprise in their voices, “They are good! They are really good!”
During a recent rehearsal the group paused for a few minutes to introduce themselves dissolving into laughter as each said his or her ‘stage’ name. . . “Cruisin’ Susan”, “Sherry Baby”, “Jennifer Juniper” . . . but then it was back to work.
The giggles subsided, the next number began…
The group members credit their fellow member and director Tim DeHan, for bringing them to where they are today. DeHan, who works at Microsoft and owns a Kirkland computer business, has performed in professional music groups.
“We do need percussion on the intro. . .” DeHan says, during a rehearsal, stopping the song mid-lyric, “In this one, unlike the other two, we all need to be a bit closer on what we are doing.”
The song begins again. . .
Marilyn and The G Strings musicians are: Tim DeHan and Susan Stearns, Marilyn and Steve Pedersen, Marti and Chuck Bartlett, Jennifer Deak, Sherry Calvert, Dane Stack, Mike Metteer, John McQueen, Peggy Gimbernat, Chris Weise, and Cliff Reeves.
The group’s summer performance schedule is:
Wednesday, August 10: George’s Place – 7 pm – 9pm
Thursday, August 11: Dooley’s 4th Annual Wine Tasting and Silent Auction, 6:30 pm– 9:30 pm at the Grape Choice, 7 Lakeshore Plaza. $20 suggested donation per person covers wine, beer, soda, appetizers and a silent auction bid number. All proceeds will be shared between KDOG and Pasado’s Safe Haven.
Sunday, August 28: The Grape Choice, 7 Lakeshore Plaza, 2 pm – 4 pm.
Kirkland freelance writer Jackie Smith, shares a passion for travel with her husband, Joel. She writes a travel blog, www.travelnwrite.com in which she shares their tales and tips. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.