The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain takes itself very seriously. Not really. An orchestra comprised of eight singing ukulele players, the group plays innovative arrangements of everything from the Sex Pistols to Tchaikovsky to the theme from Shaft, exclusively on instruments bought with loose change. And these guys shred. They’re like the Jimi Hendrix Experience of the ukulele. They’re like classical meets post-punk meets the ukulele. Once, they got, like, 992 uke players together to play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in a night of musical camaraderie and epic uking. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has played at Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, and the Royal Albert Hall. They’ve done a uke opera called Dreamspiel. They’ve been on television.
“Using instruments small and large, in high and low registers, whether playing intricate melodies, simple tunes, or complex chords, and sitting in chamber group format dressed in formal evening wear, the Orchestra uses the limitations of the instrument to create a musical freedom as it reveals unsuspected musical insights,” the group’s bio reads.
“Both the beauty and vacuity of popular and highbrow music are highlighted, the pompous and the trivial, the moving and the amusing. Sometimes a foolish song can touch an audience more than high art; sometimes music which takes itself too seriously is revealed to be hilarious. You may never think about music in the same way once you’ve been exposed to the Ukes’ depraved musicology.”
They may not take themselves too seriously—I mean, they’re a group devoted to little baby guitars—but their music is another story. Catch the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain when it stops at the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m. Student and adult tickets range from $21 to $56 and can be purchased at pacslo.org or by calling 756-4TIX (4849). For more on the group, visit ukuleleorchestra.com.
“A concert by the Ukulele Orchestra is a funny, virtuosic, twanging, awesome, foot-stomping obituary of rock-n-roll and melodious light entertainment,” the group writes, “featuring only the ‘bonsai guitar’ and a menagerie of voices in a collision of post-punk performance and toe-tapping oldies.”