Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
|Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain|
Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, 2005
Peter Brooke Turner
Sample of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain playing the main theme of the Film.
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The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (UOGB) is a musical ensemble featuring ukuleles in different registers. They play and sing music from a variety of different genres, all on the ukulele.
Founded in 1985, the orchestra has since performed in many worldwide venues, including New York's Carnegie Hall (2009, 2012), the Sydney Opera House (2012), London's Royal Albert Hall (2008, 2012) and Glastonbury Festival. TV appearances have included: Jools Holland's Hootenanny, BBC Radio 2 Electric Proms, Blue Peter, The Slammer, Richard & Judy, This Morning and Skins.
The band was formed "to challenge people’s expectations of the ukulele," according to Uke Richie Williams. 
A typical UOGB concert comprises songs and instrumentals from a variety of musical genres: regulars include Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" reworked as a swinging jazz number, Ennio Morricone's theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy", "Anarchy in the UK" performed in the style of Simon and Garfunkel, and the theme tune from Shaft. The Orchestra also compose and perform their own pieces, as well as arranging medleys - for example, David Bowie's "Life on Mars?" is melded with "My Way", "For Once in My Life", "Substitute", and more. Comedic elements are incorporated with the musicianship, including up to five members playing a single ukulele and times when the group each goes its own way on a piece of music.
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 style.
Albums include Live in London #1, Live in London #2, Still Live, Precious Little, The Secret of Life, Top Notch and a large back catalogue of recordings. They have released two DVDs, Anarchy in the Ukulele (2005), recorded at the Barbican in London, as well as Prom Night, a DVD of their BBC Proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall recorded in 2008. Their version of "Dy-na-mi-tee" (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", and of "Natural Woman", the latter with (male) lead vocals provided by musical director George Hinchliffe.
The orchestra has toured the USA, Canada, Japan, China, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Norway, Ireland and Great Britain.
Recent years have seen television appearances on programmes such as Jools Holland's Hootenanny and Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway performing alongside Robbie Williams. High praise has been forthcoming from the press for live shows. The orchestra performed at the 50 year anniversary VE day celebrations in Hyde Park (with Cliff Richard and Vera Lynn), before an estimated audience of 170,000.
Often the orchestra will provide advanced notice of an audience participation number. They provide a link to the piece online so that those that wish to participate can prepared.
In 2008, the group performed Dreamspiel, a ukulele opera, composed by George Hinchliffe for the Grimeborn Festival at London's Arcola Theatre. They have also, in 2010 and 2011, performed Ukulelescope where they played music to accompany silent movies from the British Film Institute archives, and recently reworked some arrangements of Cecil Sharp's collected folk tunes for a performance at the Birmingham Town Hall in 2012 – Waly Waly on the Ukulele.
BBC Proms world record
On Tuesday 18 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 was then thought[by whom?] 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. A DVD of the performance, Prom Night, was released the same year.
The orchestra has had varying line-ups over the past two decades, but since 2005 has performed as an octet, with seven ukulele players and one bassist. The members wear traditional orchestra dress for performances, with the men in black tie and the women in smart evening wear.
- 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)
- Uke-Werk – 2013, UOGB (CD)
- Top Notch – 2001, UOGB (CD)
- Anarchy in the Ukulele – 2005, UOGB (DVD)
- Prom Night – Live at the Royal Albert Hall – BBC Proms 2009 – 2009, UOGB (DVD)
- The Ukes Down Under – 2012, Litmus Films (DVD)
- The Ukes In America – 2013, Litmus Films (DVD)
- David Suich
- Peter Brooke Turner
- Hester Goodman
- George Hinchliffe
- Richie Williams
- Kitty Lux
- Will Grove-White
- Jonty Bankes (bass ukulele)
The group has small number of individuals that routinely serve as substitutes:
- Leisa Rea – US Tour 2013
- Andy Hamill
- Guy Bellingham
- Malcolm Duke Marmapantz
- "What is the UOGB". Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
- Official Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain website information
- New York Times Review, 2010
- Sydney Opera House Interview, 2012
- Daily Telegraph Piece, 2008
- Brachfeld, Aaron (24 June 2012). "Interview with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain". Meadowlark Herald. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
- Youngs, Ian (2003-06-23). "Orchestra makes ukulele cult hit". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 2008-06-12.
- "Anarchy in the Ukulele DVD track listing". Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Retrieved 2008-06-14.
- Guardian Unlimited review of appearance at Barbican, 2004
- Telegraph review of appearance at Komedia, Brighton, 2005
- 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' on YouTube, performed at the Barbican
- 'Ride of the Valkyries' on YouTube, performed at the Royal Albert Hall
- Anarchy in the UK on YouTube, performed at the Jazzfestival Bingen am Rhein in June 2009
- Wuthering Heights on YouTube, performed at the Jazzfestival in Bingen am Rhein in June 2009
- Trailer for documentary about the UOGB on YouTube