George Hinchliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
About This Performance
A runaway hit of our 2021-22 season, George Hinchliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain scored with audiences with its unique, energetic blend of arrangements from pop to classical, humor, and, of course, lots and lots of expert strumming. This ensemble of a dozen-plus plucky artists are “the best musical entertainment in the country,” according to the Independent. “Nothing is spoof proof,” added The Times.
To be announced from the stage
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, that’s the one founded by George Hinchliffe and Kitty Lux, has already enjoyed touring in the United States many times. For those who have not yet encountered it, the essential point is that it is an original musical ensemble featuring only ukuleles of various sizes and registers, accompanied by just the natural voices of the performers.
Harsher critics have stated the opinion that the Ukulele Orchestra formed their repertoire based on any music considered inappropriate for the instrument, with a “shopping trolley dash through genres” and musical history. In Europe and America, the Orchestra is best known for playing versions of famous rock songs and film themes, sometimes changing these so that the expectations of the audience are subverted. Sometimes a rock song will be changed into a jazz idiom, or sometimes several songs which are known from different genres are combined in one “soup of contrasts.”
The founding brief for the group was to have fun and “not to lose money.” Incredibly, throughout its thirty year career, the group has succeeded in both not losing money AND incidentally making millions of dollars. It has been seen worldwide by audiences including members of the British Royal Family and other crowned heads of Europe, at the Houses of Parliament in London, and by many millions of television and online viewers.
When The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain began in 1985, the public opinion was that an orchestra consisting entirely of ukuleles in different sizes was a strange concept. This was something that attracted the founders. The Orchestra members at that time had experience of 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 which were prevalent at that time. The idea was to make something fresh and entertaining, both modern and old-fashioned, in a different style which deviated from the current performance fashion. People liked the result.
Today, after many years, the Orchestra finds that wherever they go, people are now playing ukuleles, often in groups. Many of these enthusiasts tell the Orchestra that they were inspired to play the instrument after seeing and hearing this, the original Ukulele Orchestra. And 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 existing before this, the original Ukulele Orchestra.
While it is not normally in the nature of these artists from Britain to “blow their own trumpets,” or in this case to “pluck their own ukuleles,” it is undeniably a fact that The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has become not only a national institution, but also a worldwide phenomenon. Among their many international concerts and festival appearances, they have “Sold Right Out” twice at Carnegie Hall in New York, twice at The Royal Albert Hall in London, and also at Sydney Opera House in Australia.
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 very quickly.
Original compositions and songs by the Orchestra have been used on television on film, and in radio plays, as well as in performance by other musicians. They have collaborated with the British Film Institute in providing music for silent films and also 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. Beatle George Harrison was a well-known fan who established contact and played with the orchestra.