Returning for their fifth appearance at MTC, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has become not only a national institution, but also a worldwide phenomenon.
When the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain began in 1985, public opinion was that an orchestra consisting entirely of ukuleles in different sizes was a strange concept. But this was something that attracted the founders, who had experience with many kinds of music and yet, had become tired of the conventions of the music business world, as well as the conventions of performance and genre stereotyping prevalent at that time. The idea was to make something fresh and entertaining, both modern and old-fashioned, in a style which deviated from the current performance fashion. People liked the result.
Today, the Orchestra finds that wherever they go, people are now playing ukuleles, often in groups. Many of these enthusiasts tell the orchestra they were inspired to play after seeing and hearing the original Ukulele Orchestra. Now there are many ukulele orchestras, some acknowledging the pioneering work of the UOGB, others claiming ignorance of this rich history, but none of them existed before this, the original Ukulele Orchestra.
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has been featured in a CNN report in 2012 and on CBS’ “This Morning” in 2013. The Orchestra has been invited by the British Broadcasting Corporation to play live on air for BBC Radio 3 (the classical music channel), as well as for BBC Radio 1 (the rock, Electronic Dance Music and youth music channel) and live on other BBC channels many times. They have taken part in The Electric Proms (in a collaboration with The Kaiser Chiefs), and the BBC Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London (The Proms), where they were the fastest selling late-night prom in history, selling many thousands of tickets for the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London.
Original compositions and songs by the Orchestra have been used on television, in film and in radio plays, as well as in performances by other musicians. The orchestra has collaborated with the British Film Institute in providing music for silent films and musically with Madness, Robbie Williams, Ant & Dec, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Stefan Raab, Rainer Hersch and a full symphony orchestra performing at the Royal Festival Hall in London. George Harrison was a well-known fan who established contact and played with the orchestra.
In addition to performing at theatres and concert halls, the orchestra has packed the crowds at rock festivals such as Glastonbury, The Big Chill, WOMAD, The Electric Picnic and before 170,000 people in Hyde Park, as well as playing in seven cathedrals in England and Wales. The group has been commissioned to write commemorative concerts, eg. The Cecil Sharp 100 Year Memorial Concert in 2012, and the 100-Year World War One Memorial Concert in 2014 for Birmingham Town Hall.