The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
A concert by the Ukulele Orchestra is a funny, virtuosic, twanging, awesome, foot-stomping obituary of rock-n-roll and melodious light entertainment featuring only the “bonsai guitar” and a menagerie of voices in a collision of post-punk performance and toe-tapping oldies. There are no drums, pianos, backing tracks or banjos, no pitch shifters or electronic trickery. Only an astonishing revelation of the rich palette of orchestration afforded by ukuleles and singing (and a bit of whistling). Going from Tchaikovsky to Nirvana via Otis Redding and Spaghetti Western soundtracks, the Orchestra takes us on “a world tour with only hand luggage” and gives the listener “One Plucking Thing After Another”.
Using instruments small and large, in high and low registers, whether playing intricate melodies, simple tunes, or complex chords, and sitting in chamber group format dressed in formal evening wear, the Orchestra uses the limitations of the instrument to create a musical freedom as it reveals unsuspected musical insights. 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 which takes itself too seriously is revealed to be hilarious. You may never think about music in the same way once you’ve been exposed to the Ukes’ depraved musicology.
Here’s the history: 1985. First gig in London. Rapturous reception. More gigs leading to playing Olympia, London, WOMAD, touring Japan. recording the first album, licensing to CBS, SONY, and other labels worldwide. New Year on Jools Holland’s ‘Hootenanny.’ Festivals, Big Chill, Glastonbury, Electric Picnic. Touring the world: Britain, Canada, Spain, Monaco, Austria, Luxembourg, Holland, Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, Poland, Denmark, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Svalbard, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, China, France, Ireland. Typical juxtaposition in the gig diary: Friday: Sixpenny Handley Village Hall, Monday: Hiroshima The BBC Electric Proms with the Kaiser Chiefs. Guest appearance on Madness album 'The Liberty of Norton Folgate' The BBC Proms, at The Royal Albert Hall, Sold out faster than any other late night prom ever. Sold out The Royal Albert Hall, again. Sold out Carnegie Hall. Twice. Sold out Sydney Opera House. TV with Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens). CDs Ministry of Sound compilations. Remixes by several Ibiza DJs. Ant & Dec Saturday Night Takeaway performing with Robbie Williams. Independent Ukulele Orchestra CD and DVD production. Litmus Films documentary coverage of the Ukulele Orchestra World Tour.
More about the players in the Ukulele Orchestra and band history can be found on their website www.ukuleleorchestra.com