Cruising for a win? Miss Hennessy hopes so

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 5:45pm
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You may not remember the Elvis Presley movie “Blue Hawaii,” but one of its songs, “Can’t help falling in love,” hit the top of the charts in early 1962. That song — the lyric begins: “Wise men say, only fools rush in...” — may now lead someone else to the top. Megan Hennessy, longtime music teacher at the Block Island School, is using the song as a way to earn a spot on a cruise sponsored by renowned ukelele teachers Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel.

As of press time, Hennessy remained in first place and had received 2,669 votes, about 1,000 votes ahead of her nearest competitor.

There are more than a dozen people now competing in the Ukelele Cruise contest, each singing a song accompanied only by the instrument. (One historical note: the ukelele originated in Portugal.) If Hennessy receives enough votes to place her into the top five, she will be eligible to be chosen by Chee and Maisel to go on the cruise. Hennessy is currently on sabbatical from the Block Island School, and during her time off has been studying, among other places, at Yale University. 

Hennessy, who has a masters degree in music from Boston University, said one of the reasons she got into playing the ukelele — her instrument of choice is guitar — was because of her sister, under what can be described as very sisterly circumstances: 

“My sister was practicing ad nauseum and it was really annoying to me and the dog. The dog would leave the room,” she said. “I would leave the room, but finally I said, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’”

Her sister, Jayme Hennessy, is one of the founding members of the local Ukeladies group, which just came back from a ukelele festival in Florida.

She said one of her motivations for going on the cruise is to learn from the teachers who will also be on the trip. While the names might not be known to the general public (Chee, Maisel, Milo Fultz, and Kalei Gamiao), they are masters of their craft. Hennessy said she started taking classes from Chee and Maisel about eight years ago.

She’s certainly been getting a boost on social media. Her island friends have been sharing the link to the site where visitors can vote at cheemaisel.com, and soon after that Hennessy shot from fifth place to first.

The rules allow people to vote for their favorites once a day (you’ll be blocked if you try to vote more frequently), with the voting ending on Monday, Nov. 19.

The cruise departs from San Fransisco on March 20 and during the next 10 days there will be stops in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Manzanillo, and Puerto Vallarta.

But Hennessy said it won’t be all fun. 

“I will be working very hard with the four teachers,” she said. “I want to bring this experience back to my students.”