'The Nation's Ukulele Orchestra'
BBC News, Radio 4, 23rd September 2014
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  • CD release of WW1 Commemorative Show

    The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will be releasing a CD of their show 'When This Lousy War is Over'. The CD 'Lousy War' will be available to purchase at their performance of the show at Lichfield Cathedral on Wednesday 6 July 2016 and will then be released for sale on their website, Amazon and iTunes.

    The CD 'Lousy War' Features music from the period of the First World War. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain was commissioned in 2013 by Symphony Hall/Town Hall Birmingham to prepare a programme for the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1. The premier took place on Remembrance Sunday 9th November 2014 at Birmingham Town Hall, with further performances at The Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London and elsewhere. This is a CD of that Programme.

    Over twenty-seven countries were involved in World War 1. Combatants and participants came from Africa, Russia, China, Japan, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as from Europe. The album contains music from some of these countries and shows the truly global nature of the conflict.

  • 'When This Lousy War is Over' at Lichfield Festival

    'When This Lousy War is Over'
    Remembering World War One in music and song

    Lichfield Festival has asked the Orchestra to perform the show originally commissioned by Birmingham Symphony Hall And Town Hall, that commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of The Great War. It is a funny, musically rewarding, touching, irreverent and thought provoking concert for all ages, giving us songs, history and a window on the world through some unusual selections from the music of the time.

    'When This Lousy War Is Over' will be performed at Lichfield Cathedral on Wednesday 6 July 2016.

    The title 'When This Lousy War Is Over' is taken from a soldiers’ parody from the trenches, sung to the hymn tune 'What A Friend We Have In Jesus', where the lyrics reflect ruefully on military life. The title was chosen to reflect a common yet unofficial response to the conflict, perhaps in keeping with the lighthearted character associated with the ukulele and the Orchestra. This flags up an irreverent spirit, the ukulele as 'the people's instrument', and cheerfulness amid tragedy and adversity. The premiere will include the composer George Butterworth's setting of 'The Banks of Green Willow', in remembrance of those who, like him, lost their lives in the conflict.

    The concert consists of music and songs from the period which show many different facets of the Great War, including music from several of the countries involved

    This genuinely was a World War; the full list totals over one hundred countries involved in the conflict, from Africa, America, Asia, Australasia and Europe.

    To take one little known example, 140,000 members of the Chinese Labour Corps were active on the Western Front and suffered huge losses. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has recently returned from a successful tour of China which allowed the performers to study and play four- stringed Chinese instruments (the Liuqin and the Ruan) which are similar to the ukulele, and so 'When This Lousy War Is Over' will also include a Chinese composition.

    The music chosen reflects a range of attitudes from the time; patriotic, pacifist and feminist, and will draw from gipsy music, music hall, soldiers' songs and even a song from the then radical avante-garde Cabaret Voltaire in neutral Switzerland.

    There are several overt ukulele connections in the show; the instrument initially came to prominence at the Panama – Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, after which the first craze for the ukulele developed leading to an explosion of Hawaiian themed songs.

    One of the most successful recording artists in Britain during the years of World War One was George Formby Senior, the father of his now better known son, also known as George Formby. The son (who most people still associate with the ukulele) found success at first as an imitator of his father’s act. In 'When This Lousy War Is Over', the Orchestra will be strumming the song “Plink Plonk” by George Formby Senior.

    In our multicultural society music from all over the world is of increasing relevance and the history of our music can illuminate our history.

    This inspirational show includes stomping marches, early jazz, poignant ballads, catchy instrumental melodies and even a touch of Hawaiian music. It reveals that 'the instrument of the people', the ukulele, has a place in making this music live again as we remember both comradeship and sorrow.

    The programme features The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain's trademark humour, originality and passion. The musical pieces will be framed by a narrative, with stories taken from original war diaries and memoirs written by relatives of the Orchestra. One grandparent told an unusual first hand account of an incident that took place at the 'Christmas Truce' in No-Man’s-Land. Other songs have been passed down by family members, who had sung them at the time of the conflict. This is a personal show. Although the war took place a century ago its reverberations and consequences are still with us all.

    Lichfield Festival
    Lichfield Cathedral
    Performance starts at 7.30pm
    Box Office: 01543 412121

  • Chris Evans Breakfast Show Appearance

    We were the not so mystery mystery guests on the BBC Radio 2 Chris Evans Breakfast show this morning. George, Peter and Leisa chatted with Chris about the right term for a ukulele player, playing a nano uke, the rise of the instrument and the correct song to play on ukulele in a music store! You can now listen again on the BBC iplayer from 02:10:00 for the next 29 days.

  • By Royal Invitation

    On the 21st April 2016, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain performed at a private 90th birthday party for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The event, which was closed to the press, was attended by immediate members of the royal family, and took place at Windsor Castle. The Orchestra is proud to have played by request for the longest reigning monarch in British history.

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