'The Nation's Ukulele Orchestra'
BBC News, Radio 4, 23rd September 2014
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  • PRESS RELEASE: 'When This Lousy War is Over'

    'When This Lousy War is Over'

    remembering World War One in music and song

    This is a new commission to commemorate 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 premiere at Town Hall Birmingham on Remembrance Sunday, 9th of November and again at the Palace Theatre in London for its West End debut on Monday the 10th November, the evening before Armistice Day. A European tour is currently being planned.

    The Orchestra is delighted to be working once again with Town Hall and Symphony Hall Birmingham in presenting this new work.

    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.

    Commissioned by Town Hall/Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

    Premier: Remembrance Sunday 9th November 2014
    Birmingham Town Hall 3 pm and 7:00 pm
    Box Office: 0121 345 0600
    All Tickets £19.50
    afternoon tickets 
    evening tickets

    London West End Debut the following day Monday 10th November 2014
    The Palace Theatre 7:30 pm
    Cambridge Circus
    Shaftesbury Avenue
    Box Office: 0844 482 9676
    Tickets from £12.50

  • 'When This Lousy War is Over' to be performed in London on Nov 10!

    We are very pleased to announce that the newly commissioned show 'When This Lousy War is Over' will be getting it's West End debut on November 10 2014 at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue.

    The new show by The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, commissioned by Birmingham Town Hall, explores the music of WW1. When war makes life so unutterably hard sometimes all you can do is laugh, and sing… and play the ukulele. Hear songs and music from around the world rub shoulders with pacifist, political songs and ‘old time’ tunes in this entertaining and thought-provoking show.

    Birmingham Town Hall
    Remembrance Sunday 9th November 2014 at 3pm and 7:30pm
    Box Office: 0121 345 0600
    Online Sales
    All Tickets £19.50 plus booking fee

    Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue,  London
    Monday 10th November 2014 at 7:30 pm
    Box Office: 0844 482 9676
    Online Sales
    Ticket Prices from £12.50 plus booking fee

  • The Ukes of GB are Touring China

    The Ukes of GB will be embarking on their first tour of China on Oct 2 2014. Touring with the support of the British Council, the Ukes of GB will be running workshops across the country and performing in some of the countries most prestigious venues, including visiting Shanghai as guests of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and appearing in Beijing as part of the Beijing International Arts Festival. The Tour dates are:

    Oct 5 2014 Sha Tin Town Hall, Hong Kong
    Oct 7 2014 Chongqing Tiandi
    Oct 9 2014 Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
    Oct 12 2014 The Orange, Taikoo Li

    Full Details on the gig page of our website

  • Pre-Order the Book 'Get Plucky With The Ukulele'

    By Will Grove White, with a foreword by George Hinchliffe.

    'Get Plucky With The Ukulele' explores the whys, the hows and the whos of ukulele. Designed to get you playing the uke without the tiresome bother of having to study too much, this light-hearted book includes tips on how to choose the right ukulele for you; how to hold, tune and play the thing; tunes to learn; a 'plucking hell' of warnings for ukulele players; and the truth behind the hushed-up ukulele habits of Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and Neil Armstrong, to name just a few. Packed full of interviews, rare and wonderful photos, and beautiful illustrations, it's a must for pluckers young and old.

    The book is available for pre-order now from our online store

    "Get Plucky with the Ukulele" is released on Oct 6 2014. We are waiting for copies of the book to arrive hot of the press. We will ship to you as soon as we receive them.


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