Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
... is a group of all-singing, all-strumming ukulele players who use instruments bought
with loose change and share a firm belief that all genres of music are available for
reinterpretation-as long as they are played on the ukulele.
The Ukes are independent, anarchic, funny, and virtuosic. From the first concert in 1985
to the current international tour, they have been turning the world onto the ukulele
instrument through online clips with millions of views, CD and DVD sales in the hundreds of
thousands, and sold-out shows around the world.
The orchestra is celebrated for its rapport with audiences and for eliciting a joyous
feel-good reaction. The basis for the Ukes' concerts is astoundingly simple: eight
performers, eight instruments, eight voices. (No gimmicks, no stage set, no fireworks, no
special effects, no light show, no dancers, no laptops, no samples.) And yet, the orchestra
brings the house down with catchy, emotive, and toe-tapping tunes, along with witty banter
that draws the audience into a joyous world of varied musical genres, serious concert
music, and comedy performance. Zooming from Tchaikovsky to Nirvana via Otis Redding, from
current anthems with 1960s beat instrumentals and dueling banjo-style picking to film
themes and Spaghetti Western soundtracks, everyone has a good time.
Using instruments small and large in high and low registers-whether playing intricate
melodies, simple tunes, or complex chords (up to 32 instrumental notes and eight vocal
notes simultaneously)-the orchestra uses the limitations of the instrument to fuel
unexpected musical creativity and insight. Both the beauty and vacuity of popular and
highbrow music are highlighted, the pompous and the trivial, the moving and the amusing.
Sometimes a foolish song can touch an audience more than high art; sometimes music that
takes itself too seriously is revealed to be hilarious. The musicians have 16-handedly
changed the face of the ukulele world.
The individual performers have varied backgrounds, strong individual voices, and
wide-ranging instrumental abilities, but their different perspectives and expertise
complement each other as they engage with the audience through speech, song, and ukulele
playing. It's an orchestra of eight refugees exiled from other diverse and completely
contrasting musical groups, all paradoxically coexisting on the same stage: It's as if we
are seeing Yogi Bear, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, a street hustler, a noble lord, Peter
Pan, Joan of Arc, and Popeye the Sailor Man on stage together-icons and archetypes,
cartoons and timeless figures. Yet audiences overwhelmingly relate to the human scale of
the Ukes' show, the sheer entertainment value, the enjoyment of music and performance, and
the diverse range of material.
Today, there are thousands of ukulele orchestras, but it all started here with the
original and the best-the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
Please note that the eighth member of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Kitty Lux,
is unable to perform at this evening's concert due to illness.