The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain are heading to Tunbridge Wells’ Assembly Hall this Saturday with a concert showcasing 30 years of their inimitable feelgood toe-tappers. We catch up with them on the road…
What has the orchestra been up to recently?
We’ve been reflecting on our 30-year anniversary, which has seen us play Sydney Opera House, The Royal Albert Hall, and in front of 170,000 people at Hyde Park in London.
What’s the secret of your three decades of success?
We have a great band and we all get along – more or less. We have a lot of fun and so do our audience. We also take care of business; we manage ourselves and our own record company and we look out for each other.
What do you think is different about your concerts?
Music is all about play. If you’re working hard, it ain’t playful, and music should be. Beethoven, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks and The Rolling Stones, they’re all playful. We try to keep things lighthearted, amusing, thought provoking and entertaining. If it isn’t moving you, getting you fired up, making you laugh, cry, or feel something, then it’s not worth much. We perform a shopping trolley dash through musical culture playing everything from Nirvana and The Clash to Lady Gaga and Pharrell Williams.
Have you made playing the ukulele more popular?
Some people say we’ve made it look easy and so they want to buy a ukulele after seeing our show. Others say we have showed that the ukulele can play real music. There’s that old adage of you learn three chords and start a band, but we say ‘Three chords – why so many?’
What can the ukulele do that other instruments cannot?
It’s an instrument that is like a little dog; friendly and makes a high-pitched noise. It’s fun but too much of it can get irritating. We often get repeated standing ovations, so let’s hope it continues. The audience usually has a good time when they come to see the orchestra.
What is the most difficult thing about performing with a ukulele?
A gig with a solo ukulele gives certain problems as there are no bass notes, but as we’re an orchestra we have bass, baritone, tenor, concert, soprano and all the other registers.
How do your personalities and sense of humour influence the group’s playing?
We always try to get on with the audience and to make the show as entertaining as possible. Humour comes about because we interrupt each other and we all have different perspectives. We’re like the Dirty Dozen, the Wild Bunch, a legendary league of superheroes who acknowledge that they’re not so super, but have flaws, foibles and characteristics which set them apart from each other.
What makes your live performances so special?
We bring a great variety of music, genre and style. And the songs come thick and fast.
What can audience members expect from your performances?
We turn up on stage with a ukulele each. There’s no flamboyant production, fireworks or hoopla, but we tear the house down, raise the roof and get the audience pepped up. Once we start, it’s like a magic carpet ride and we and the audience just have to hang on for dear life.
THE UKULELE ORCHESTRA OF GREAT BRITAIN
performs at the Assembly Hall on Saturday June 11 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £24 or £21 each for groups of 15 or more. A telephone booking fee of £1.75 applies or £1.50 online. For more information visit: www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s new album is available to buy now from their website: www.UkuleleOrchestra.com