What is this about?
These are the first webpages, that are exclusively dedicated to the work of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, affectionately called Ukes by their fans. You will find here news, photos, reports, newspaper articles, multimedia content and much more about this by no means classical orchestra.
The ukulele orchestra has been in existence for over 25 years now and has been captivating their audience with musical intelligence, virtuosity and humour.
Countless live concerts in big and small venues, at music festivals and hundreds of performances on tv and radio put the UOGB on the world's cultural map and earned them a huge fanbase. Not forgetting the internet, which additionately boosted their popularity within the last few years.
The project "UOGB " was originally meant to be a one-off only. In 1985 the Ukulele Orchestra had it's first performance in the Roebuck Pub in London, but a few adverts in local papers and a bit of word of mouth surprisingly made it a sell out. After only two more performances they were invited by the BBC Radio 1 and shortly after that they did their first big music festival, the WOMAD.
They wear formal evening wear in their concerts and no other instrument is used than the ukulele in different registers. They have soprano, tenor, baritone ukuleles and even a bass ukulele1 is always present.
All the musicians of the UOGB are not only ukulele virtuosos, they are highly talented singers too. They alternate with each other at singing, sometimes they chorus, sometimes they use their voices more like instruments, sometimes not at all and sometimes they simply sing against each other.
The latter is possibly their most-admired speciality. They sing different pieces at the same time and they amaze their listeners, when the expected disharmony fails to appear.They announce their probably most famous work of this style as "song about plagiarism". It starts with David Bowie's "Life on Mars and ends with the simultaneous performance of four more famous pop songs, which all use the same chord pattern.
Today they are mostly famous for their re-interpretation of music, that one wouldn't associate with the ukulele at all. Tchaikovsky, Schubert and Sibelius belong to their repertoire just as much as the songs of Kate Bush, Prince, Nirvana or The Sex Pistols. And when sometimes the genre gets swapped, a noisy punk anthem can be transformed into a fluffy sing-along folk song.
One main cause for their success is certainly that they don't take themselves too seriously. "You can't be pompous with a ukulele" they say. But the music, they play is treated with great respect. With immense musical expertise they work out the essence and the beauty of the original composition and they often accomplish a completely new approach to the original material. Limitations and capablities of the small four-stringed instrument are used deliberately to create this completely different perspective.