Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

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Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.jpg
Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, 2005
Background information
OriginLondon, England
Years active1985–present
MembersDave Suich
Peter Brooke Turner
Hester Goodman
George Hinchliffe
Richie Williams
Will Grove-White
Jonty Bankes
Ben Rouse
Leisa Rea[1]
Past membersKitty Lux (1985-2017)

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 musical genres, all on the ukulele.


Founded in 1985,[2] the orchestra has since performed in many venues worldwide, including New York's Carnegie Hall[3] (2009, 2012), the Sydney Opera House[4] (2012), London's Royal Albert Hall[5] (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.[6]

Repertoire range[edit]

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.[7][8]


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 2009. 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 US, 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.[9] High praise has been forthcoming from the press for live shows.[10][11] The orchestra performed at the 50th 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 come prepared.

Other projects[edit]

In 2008, the group performed Dreamspiel, a ukulele opera, composed by George Hinchliffe and Michelle Carter 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. In 2012, Waly Waly on the Ukulele reworked arrangements of Cecil Sharp's collected folk tunes for performances at the Birmingham Town Hall and Cecil Sharp House in London. (Recordings from these shows were released in 2016 as the CD The Keeper.) In 2013 they issued a special collaboration with Ibiza Air for their Cover of the Song Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down). They released an EP with 4 Remixes in different styles like Tech house and Chill-out. In 2014, to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of The Great War, the orchestra presented When This Lousy War is Over which reflected a range of attitudes from the time; patriotic, pacifist and feminist, and drew from gipsy music, music hall, soldiers' songs and even a song from the then radical avante-garde Cabaret Voltaire in neutral Switzerland.[12]

BBC Proms world record[edit]

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 eight ukulele players including one who plays bass ukulele. The members wear traditional orchestra dress for performances, with the men in black tie and the women in smart evening wear. Kitty Lux, co-founder with George Hinchcliff,[13] died on 16 July 2017.[14]


Studio albums[edit]

  • 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)
  • (Ever Such) Pretty Girls – 2015, UOGB (CD)

Live albums[edit]

  • Live in London #1 – 2008, UOGB (CD)
  • Live in London #2 – 2009, UOGB (CD)
  • Still Live – 2011, UOGB (CD)
  • Uke-Werk – 2013, UOGB (CD)
  • The Keeper – 2016, UOGB (CD)


  • Top Notch – 2001, UOGB (CD)
  • Bang Bang(My Baby Shot Me Down) EP - The Ukulele Orchestra Vs Ibiza Air – 2013, 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)

Current members[edit]

  • David Suich
  • Peter Brooke Turner
  • Hester Goodman
  • George Hinchliffe
  • Richie Williams
  • Will Grove-White
  • Jonty Bankes (bass ukulele)
  • Leisa Rea (joined 2006)
  • Ben Rouse (joined 2015)

The group has a small number of individuals who regularly serve as substitutes:

  • Dave Bowie (original member, now bass dep)
  • Nick Browning (deps on various instruments and also plays in the Ukes & Lutes side project with founder member George Hinchcliffe).

Past members[edit]

  • Kitty Lux (1985-2017)


  1. ^ "The Ukulele Orchestra Players". The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  2. ^ "History of The Ukes". The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  3. ^ Kozinn, Allan (16 December 2010). "Exotic Timbres in the Darkness". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  4. ^ Syke, Lloyd Bradford (11 March 2012). "Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain". Australian Stage. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  5. ^ Hewett, Ivan (12 August 2009). "The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - interview for the BBC Proms 2009". The Daily Telegraph. London: TMG. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  6. ^ Brachfeld, Aaron (24 June 2012). "Interview with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain". Meadowlark Herald. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  7. ^ Youngs, Ian (23 June 2003). "Orchestra makes ukulele cult hit". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 12 June 2008.
  8. ^ "Anarchy in the Ukulele (DVD)". The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Robbie Plucks Up The Courage..." Official Ant & Dec. 7 April 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  10. ^ Walters, John L. (10 February 2004). "Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Barbican, London". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  11. ^ Green, Thomas H. (12 May 2005). "Nirvana meets George Formby". The Daily Telegraph. London: TMG. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Hewitt, Ivan (12 August 2009). "The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - interview for the BBC Proms 2009". The Telegraph.
  14. ^ Laing, Dave (25 July 2017). "Kitty Lux obituary". The Guardian.

External links[edit]

Video clips[edit]