'The Nation's Ukulele Orchestra'
BBC News, Radio 4, 23rd September 2014
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  • New Album 'The Keeper' Available for Pre-Order

    The Ukulele Orchestra announce the release of their new album "The Keeper." The album of songs from the Cecil Sharp Songbook is due for release on Sunday 1 May 2016 but you can pre-order your copy now exclusively from our website, four weeks ahead of their live performance of the material at Birmingham Town Hall on Sunday 15 May 2016.

    Cecil James Sharp (1859 - 1924) transcribed folk music, editing and publishing it. This ensured that traditional English music became part of the educational curriculum and kept what might otherwise have been lost. Sharp can thus be regarded as “The Keeper” of traditional music.

    The title track on this album, “The Keeper”, tells the story of a male hunter trying to shoot a female deer. Without Sharp’s judicious editing of the lyrics’ sexual metaphor, publication would not have been possible at the time.

    The songs on this album deal with universal life experiences, and are variously tender, touching, tragic or bleak. They concern love, work, abandonment, war, faith and death in stark simplicity.

    The instrumental tracks are reminiscent of early classical music, and in these ukulele versions probably sound similar to consort versions of these pieces centuries ago.

    In addition to collecting music in England, Sharp was invited to lecture in America on folk music. On these trips he also collected American folk songs. Many of these were variants of the ones he had discovered in England. The English songs had made the journey to America with the original settlers and then continued to develop in America. Much of jazz, pop, rock and country music grew from this material, such as “St James’ Infirmary” and “The House of the Rising Sun”.

    The movement of pop music from one side of the Atlantic to the other is well known. One example derives from “Old Joe Clark” (track 11). British punk singer Ian Dury “borrowed” the melody for his 1977 hit song “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” from Ornette Coleman’s bass player (Charlie Haden), as featured on the 1960 classic “Ramblin’ ”, from the album “Change of the Century”. The Haden family had been a touring country music band in the US, and as a child, Charlie had played the song “Old Joe Clark”. In his free jazz bass solo, recorded with Coleman years later, Haden was quoting the tune from that very country song. The melody as later used by Ian Dury and the Blockheads can be heard in this ukulele version of the original song.

    This album grew from a commission by Town Hall / Symphony Hall, Birmingham. The research for the project took place at Cecil Sharp House in London (the English Folk Dance and Song Society - EFDSS), with help from chief librarian, Malcolm Taylor, MBE. Musicians who kindly contributed opinions on the work in progress included Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span, and Martin Carthy, himself a walking library of folk songs.

    The term “Ukulele Orchestra” was invented in 1984 by this group, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. It has been much imitated, becoming a tradition in relation to the ukulele; a classic contemporary and popular format. Just as Sharp’s work ensured a wider popularity and impact of the folk songs, so the Orchestra’s influence has spread from Britain via international tours, CDs, DVDs and online videos across the world. The eclectic programming, from folk songs and classical music, to rock and pop, suggests a new kind of folk music with an aural tradition which is not merely national but reaches across the planet.

    Pre- order you copy

    Book Tickets to see the show at Birmingham Town Hall

  • Cecil Sharp Songbook at Birmingham Town Hall

    The Ukulele Orchestra will be returning to the Town Hall Birmingham on Sunday 15 May to perform the specially commissioned show of songs from the The Cecil Sharp Songbook. The show is a part Birmingham Town Hall's 'Imagined Isle' Folk Festival.

    In this show the orchestra remembers Cecil James Sharp (1859 - 1924), the collector who travelled extensively in England and America finding songs during the early 20th Century. With his material they bring the key ingredients of folk and pop music into focus.

    The 'folk' songs Sharp found and popularised however have gone on to be huge hits in pop music and film. Without Sharp would we have had Scarborough Fair, The House of the Rising Sun, or even the soundtracks of The Wicker Man and Remember the Titans?

    In this show you'll encounter stomping tracks and tear jerking ballads - the origins of rock and pop music in Britain and America, from English dance music to dust kicking Americana.

    The Orchestra will be releasing their new album 'The Keeper', the live recording of the songs to coincide with the concert.

    The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
    Explores the Cecil Sharp Songbook
    Birmingham Town Hall
    Sunday 15 May, 3pm
    £22 (including £3 commission)
    Box office: 0121 780 3333
    Online Booking

  • 2016 Tour Dates

    We are looking forward to kicking off our 2016 tour dates in the UK this weekend with dates in Newtown, Evesham and Bath. UOGB HQ has been working hard and the complete 2016 tour has nearly been finalised, we have already confirmed dates in the UK, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. We are also working on dates for Finland, France, Poland, The United States and Australia. As soon as concerts go on sale we add them to our website, Facebook and via the app Bandsintown, so do keep checking all our sites as they are being updated weekly.

  • Valentine for a Queen

    Limited Edition CD 'Now ER 64' out now!

    A slow waltz for Ukulele and Piano by George Hinchliffe of The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
    Limited Edition of 64 pressings signed by the composer/performer.

    A heart, a crown, a dance in an enchanted ballroom. 
    A romantic melody. 
    An old fashioned theme. 
    A dance issued to celebrate the 64th year of the Queen’s reign. 

    Buy the CD for the one who rules your heart, and waltz them around the candlelit parlour.

    Strictly limited to 64 CDs so get yours now here

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