The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain is a touring musical group that has been delighting audiences, selling out performances, and receiving standing ovations since 1985. This all-singing, all-strumming ensemble uses only a fistful of ukuleles and maintains that all genres of music are open to reconsideration and reinterpretation.
The premise sounds astoundingly simple: instruments, voices, no gimmicks, no light show. Yet the New York Times wrote that the musicians “extract more than seems humanly possible from so small and so modest an instrument” and millions have enthused over the fact that the orchestra routinely brings down the house with a its lively, touching, and emotive shows, performances threaded with humor and wit that inexplicably draw audiences into a world joyously free of the idea of conflicting musical genres and obliterating the line between a “serious” concerts and infectious entertainment.
As soon as the performers walk on stage, audiences feel that they are in safe hands, at home with friends who are totally in command of the art, craft, and magic of live performance. Sitting in chamber group format and dressed in formal evening wear (regardless of the time of day or the venue, whether at the Glastonbury Festival or Carnegie Hall), the musicians use the limitations of their instrument to create a sense of total musical freedom capable of revealing unsuspected musical insights.
At this point, the audience may well sit back, all prior assumptions forgotten, and allow the orchestra, which has single-handedly transformed the ukulele world, to give what the Independent has called “the best musical entertainment in the country.”
The orchestra’s first concert, intended as a one-off bit of fun was an instant sell out and led to national television and radio performances, album recordings and international tours. Since then, the orchestra has become what the Observer called “a much- loved institution,” giving thousands of concerts all over the world. Tours have included all of Great Britain, across Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, China, the United States, Canada, and even the North Pole. In 2016, the orchestra also enjoyed the honor of performing, by invitation of the Prince of Wales, at the private 90th birthday party of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle.
CDs and DVDs of the Ukulele Orchestra’s performances are available on the group’s own independent label.