The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
(UOGB) is a musical ensemble featuring ukulele
The ukulele, ; from ; it is a subset of the guitar family of instruments, generally with four nylon or gut strings or four courses of strings....
s in different registers and a bass ukulele (actually an acoustic bass guitar
The acoustic bass guitar is a bass instrument with a hollow wooden body similar to, though usually somewhat larger than a steel-string acoustic guitar...
Founded in 1985
This is a list of notable events in music that took place in the year 1985.-January–March:*January 1 - The newest music video channel, VH-1, debuts on American cable. It is aimed at an older demographic than its sister station, MTV...
, the orchestra has since performed in many worldwide venues, including the Royal Festival Hall
The Royal Festival Hall is a 2,900-seat concert, dance and talks venue within Southbank Centre in London. It is situated on the South Bank of the River Thames, not far from Hungerford Bridge. It is a Grade I listed building - the first post-war building to become so protected...
, Glastonbury Festival
The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, commonly abbreviated to Glastonbury or even Glasto, is a performing arts festival that takes place near Pilton, Somerset, England, best known for its contemporary music, but also for dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret and other arts.The...
and Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....
. The Orchestra has appeared on TV in the UK and elsewhere.
Members were commissioned to write and record music for two editions of The South Bank Show
The South Bank Show was a television arts magazine show, originally made by London Weekend Television , presented by Melvyn Bragg, broadcast on ITV and seen in over 60 countries worldwide — including Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States...
and the orchestra has featured on Tomorrow's World
Tomorrow's World was a long-running BBC television series, showcasing new developments in the world of science and technology. First aired on 7 July 1965 on BBC1, it ran for 38 years until it was cancelled at the beginning of 2003.- Content :...
, Blue Peter
Blue Peter is the world's longest-running children's television show, having first aired in 1958. It is shown on CBBC, both in its BBC One programming block and on the CBBC channel. During its history there have been many presenters, often consisting of two women and two men at a time...
, The Slammer
The Slammer is a Children's Talent show that has been broadcasting on BBC One since 22 September 2006.Set in a fictional prison called HM Slammer, this programme follows a variety show format where “prisoners” compete, by performing to an audience, who decide which act should be released.The show...
, Richard & Judy
Richard & Judy was a British magazine/chat show which was presented by married couple Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan. It originally aired on Channel 4 from 2001 to 2008 but later moved to digital channel Watch in October 2008. It featured the world's most famous stars, along with their Book Club...
and This Morning
This Morning is a British daytime television programme broadcast on ITV. As of September 2011, its main presenters are Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, and Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes, with various other presenters standing in for illness or contributing to sections of the programme.The...
and other shows on UK TV.
Albums include Precious Little
, The Secret of Life
, Top Notch
and a large back catalogue of recordings including a 2005 DVD, Anarchy in the Ukulele
, recorded at the Barbican
A barbican, from medieval Latin barbecana, signifying the "outer fortification of a city or castle," with cognates in the Romance languages A barbican, from medieval Latin barbecana, signifying the "outer fortification of a city or castle," with cognates in the Romance languages A barbican, from...
Their version of "Dy-na-mi-tee
"Dy-Na-Mi-Tee" is Ms. Dynamite's second single from her first album A Little Deeper. It reached number five in the UK Singles Chart in 2002, her highest position reached to date on the chart....
" (with vocals by Hester Goodman), reached #81 in the UK singles charts in 2005. Also featured on the CD single were covers of the instrumental "Wonderful Land
"Wonderful Land" is an instrumental piece which was released as a single by The Shadows in 1962. It stayed at #1 in the UK for more weeks than any other single during the whole of the 1960s....
", and of "Natural Woman
" A Natural Woman" is a 1967 single released by American soul singer Aretha Franklin on the Atlantic label. The record was a big hit for Franklin, reaching number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, and became a standard song for her...
", the latter with (male) lead vocals provided by musical director George Hinchliffe.
The orchestra has toured Canada, Japan, USA, New Zealand and several countries in Europe.
Recent years have seen television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...
appearances on programmes such as Jools Holland
Julian Miles "Jools" Holland OBE, DL is an English pianist, bandleader, singer, composer, and television presenter. He was a founder of the band Squeeze and his work has involved him with many artists including Sting, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, The Who, David Gilmour and Bono.Holland is a...
Hootenanny is an Appalachian colloquialism that was used in early twentieth century America to refer to things whose names were forgotten or unknown. In this usage it was synonymous with thingamajig or whatchamacallit, as in "hand me that hootenanny." Hootenanny was also an old country word for...
. High praise has been forthcoming from the press for live shows. In 2008, the group performed in Dreamspiel
composed by George Hinchliffe for the Grimeborn Festival
Grimeborn is an annual musical theatre and opera festival which coincides with the world famous Glyndebourne Opera Festival. Founded by Arcola Theatre’s artistic director Mehmet Ergen in 2007, the festival is held at Arcola Theatre in Dalston, East London...
at London's Arcola Theatre
Arcola Theatre is a studio theatre in Dalston, in the London Borough of Hackney. The theatre's ambition is to create and present high-quality theatre with a social and political relevance to its multicultural local community as well as a wider audience....
. The orchestra performed at the 50 year anniversary VE day celebrations in Hyde Park
Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in central London, United Kingdom, and one of the Royal Parks of London, famous for its Speakers' Corner.The park is divided in two by the Serpentine...
(with Cliff Richard
Sir Cliff Richard, OBE is a British pop singer, musician, performer, actor, and philanthropist who has sold over an estimated 250 million records worldwide....
and Vera Lynn
Dame Vera Lynn, DBE is an English singer-songwriter and actress whose musical recordings and performances were enormously popular during World War II. During the war she toured Egypt, India and Burma, giving outdoor concerts for the troops...
), before an estimated audience of 170,000.
On Tuesday the 18th of August, 2009 the UOGB performed in a late night prom in the BBC Proms 2009 Season at the Royal Albert Hall. The performance was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and received much critical acclaim. As well as this, the concert hosted what is thought to be the world record for the largest number of ukulele players playing with each other at once, at least 992 players participated in a version of Beethoven's Ode to Joy
"Ode to Joy" is an ode written in 1785 by the German poet, playwright and historian Friedrich Schiller, enthusiastically celebrating the brotherhood and unity of all mankind...
. A DVD of the performance - Prom Night
- is available via the UOGB website.
The UOGB have also appeared in the UK television show Skins
Skins is a BAFTA award-winning British teen drama that follows a group of teenagers in Bristol, South West England, through the two years of college. The controversial plot line explores issues such as dysfunctional families, mental illness , adolescent sexuality, substance abuse and death...
The orchestra has had varying line-ups over the past two decades, but is currently performing as an octet, with seven ukulele players and one bassist. The members wear traditional orchestra dress for performances, with the men in black tie
Black tie is a dress code for evening events and social functions. For a man, the main component is a usually black jacket, known as a dinner jacket or tuxedo...
and the women in smart evening wear.
A typical UOGB gig comprises songs and instrumentals from all kinds of musical backgrounds: regulars include Kate Bush
Kate Bush is an English singer-songwriter, musician and record producer. Her eclectic musical style and idiosyncratic vocal style have made her one of the United Kingdom's most successful solo female performers of the past 30 years.In 1978, at the age of 19, Bush topped the UK Singles Chart...
's "Wuthering Heights
"Wuthering Heights" is a song by Kate Bush released as her debut single in January 1978. It became a No.1 hit in the UK singles chart and remains her biggest-selling single. The song appears on her 1978 debut album, The Kick Inside. The B-side of the single was another song by Bush named "Kite" -...
" reworked as a swinging jazz number, Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy", "Anarchy in the UK" performed in the style of Simon and Garfunkel
Simon & Garfunkel are an American duo consisting of singer-songwriter Paul Simon and singer Art Garfunkel. They formed the group Tom & Jerry in 1957 and had their first success with the minor hit "Hey, Schoolgirl". As Simon & Garfunkel, the duo rose to fame in 1965, largely on the strength of the...
, and the theme tune from Shaft
Shaft is a 1971 American blaxploitation film directed by Gordon Parks, released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. An action film with elements of film noir, Shaft tells the story of a black private detective, John Shaft, who travels through Harlem and to the Italian mob neighborhoods in order to find the...
. The orchestra also compose and perform their own pieces, as well as arranging medleys - for example, David Bowie's "Life on Mars?
"Life on Mars?" is a song by David Bowie first released in 1971 on the album Hunky Dory. The song—which BBC Radio 2 later called "a cross between a Broadway musical and a Salvador Dalí painting"—featured guest piano work by keyboardist Rick Wakeman. When released as a single in 1973,...
" is melded with "My Way
"My Way" is a song popularized by Frank Sinatra. Its lyrics were written by Paul Anka and set to music based on the French song "Comme d'habitude" composed in 1967 by Claude François and Jacques Revaux, with lyrics by Claude François and Gilles Thibault. Anka's English lyrics are unrelated to the...
", "For Once in My Life
"For Once in My Life" is a pop song written by Ron Miller and Orlando Murden for Motown Records' Jobete publishing company in 1967 . The composition was originally recorded by Jean DuShon, while other artists, such as Tony Bennett and The Temptations, recorded slow ballad versions of the song...
", "Substitute", and more.
The group has shied away from featuring the music of George Formby, Britain's most famous ukulele musician; however, in recent years, they have included a version of his song "Leaning on a Lamppost", performed in a Russian Cossack
Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who originally were members of democratic, semi-military communities in what is today Ukraine and Southern Russia inhabiting sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper and Don basins and who played an important role in the...
- The Ukulele Variations - 1988, Disque Ethnique (LP); CBS/Sony Records (CD)
- Hearts of Oak - 1990, CBS/Sony Records (CD)
- A Fist Full of Ukuleles - 1994, Sony Records (CD)
- Pluck - 1998, Tachyon Records (CD)
- The Secret of Life - 2004, Longman Records (CD)
- Miss Dy-na-mi-tee - 2005, Longman Records (CD single)
- Precious Little - 2007, UOGB (CD)
- Christmas with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - 2008, UOGB (CD)
- Live in London #1 - 2008, UOGB (CD)
- Live in London #2 - 2009, UOGB (CD)
- Still Live - 2011, UOGB (CD)
- Anarchy in the Ukulele - 2005, UOGB (DVD)
- Prom Night - Live at the Royal Albert Hall - BBC Proms 2009 - 2009, UOGB (DVD)
- David Suich
- Peter Brooke Turner
- Hester Goodman
- George Hinchliffe
- Richie Williams
- Kitty Lux
- Will Grove-White
- Jonty Bankes ("bass ukulele")
- Teenage Dirtbag at the National Forest Folk Festival in 2009 performed in the National Forest, England
The National Forest is one of England’s most ambitious environmental projects. Across parts of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire, are being transformed, blending ancient woodland with new planting to create a new national forest...
at Moira, Leicestershire
Moira is a former mining village about west of Ashby-de-la-Zouch in North West Leicestershire, England. The village is about miles south of the Derbyshire town of Swadlincote and is close to the county boundary....
- Anarchy in the UK at the Jazzfestival Bingen in June 2009
- Wuthering Heights at the Jazzfestival in Bingen am Rhein
Bingen am Rhein is a town in the Mainz-Bingen district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.The settlement’s original name was Bingium, a Celtic word that may have meant “hole in the rock”, a description of the shoal behind the Mäuseturm, known as the Binger Loch. Bingen was the starting point for the...
- Trailer for documentary about the UOGB