The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain is a group of all-singing, all-strumming Ukelele players, using instruments bought with loose change, which believes that all genres of music are available for reinterpretation, as long as they are played on the Ukelele.
The Orchestra was formed in 1985 as a bit of fun, but the first gig was an instant sell-out, and they've been performing ever since. By 1988 they had released an LP, appeared on BBC TV, played at WOMAD & recorded a BBC Radio 1 session. More recently, they have performed sell-out show as the Sydney Opera House (2012), The Royal Albert Hall (2009, 2012) & New York's Carnegie Hall (2010, 2012).
The current ensemble has been playing together for over 20 years, and has become something of a national institution!
Over the last 29 years, the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain has spawned hundreds of imitators, and you can now find Ukelele Groups in nearly every major city, indeed, the Orchestra are often blamed for the current Ukelele revival which is sweeping the globe!
A concert by the Ukelele Orchestra is a funny, virtuosic, twanging, awesome, foot-stomping obituary of rock n roll & melodious light entertainment featuring only the "bonsai guitar" & a menagerie of voices in a collision of post punk performance & 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 ukeleles & singing (and a bit of whistling). Audiences have a good time with the Ukelele Orchestra. Going from Tchaikovsky to Nirvana via Otis Redding & Spaghetti Western soundtracks, the Orchestra takes us on "a world tour with only hand luggage" & gives the listener "One Plucking Thing After Another".
The Ukelele Orchestra's music has been used in films, plays, and commercials; while film clips of the Orchestra's live concerts & TV appearances on websites such as YouTube have been watched millions of times. Collaborators have included Madness, David Arnold, The British Film Institute, The Ministry of Sound, Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) & The Kaiser Chiefs.
Using instruments small & large, in high & low registers, whether playing intricate melodies, simple tunes, or complex chords, & 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 & vacuity of popular & highbrow music are highlighted, the pompous & 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!