Was that a ukulele I heard in Frick Park? No, a cavaquinho

I had just run into Frick Park past the blue slide playground entrance when I thought I heard someone playing a ukulele! I looked around and saw a guy sitting on a park bench. I thought of approaching him, but decided not to interrupt my run, and kept going.

Here’s what Frick Park looked today on a trail, with some fallen leaves. Bizarre that it’s still summer temperatures right now though.

Frick Park trail with fallen leaves

When I came back around out of the trails, I saw the guy again and he was packing up to leave, so I approached him.

It turned out to be Ben, to whom I had lent a trumpet two years ago (since returned)! I asked him if the instrument in his case was a ukulele. He said no. I asked if it was a guitar. He said no. It was a cavaquinho, the Portuguese ancestor of the Hawaiian ukulele! He pulled it out of the case and let me check it out. It’s tuned differently from the ukulele:

Ben's cavaquinho

I had heard of this instrument, from reading something about the history of the ukulele (in particular, I had looked at Cool Hand Uke’s booklet on ukulele history recently). Also, Handerson (who is from Brazil) had asked me if I knew where to buy a cavaquinho. Ben said he was looking for other cavaquinho players in Pittsburgh, so I sent him Handerson’s contact information.

So no, I was not just hallucinating post-ukulele-gig when I thought I heard a ukulele in Frick Park.

You never know what or who you might encounter in the park on a nice day.

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