'The Nation's Ukulele Orchestra'
BBC News, Radio 4, 23rd September 2014
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To Watch the ukulele lockdown videos click here


  • Pre Order The Ukulele Lockdown DVD

    We are delighted to announce that Pre Orders are now open for our Ukulele Lockdown DVD.

    Get your copy of The Ukulele Lockdown DVD here 

    In 2020, unable to meet each other owing to the Covid-19, Coronavirus restrictions, the performers of the Ukulele Orchestra contributed individual clips to group videos. These were posted online every Sunday. Fans demanded that they be made available on DVD.

    Here they are.

    Just as the Orchestra has given pleasure to millions all over the world, via TV appearances, DVDs, CDs and live concerts, they are here developing their unique take on entertainment and popular music in these quirky “pop-videos” produced under the unprecedented conditions of the lockdown.


    Week 1 - Higher and Higher
    Week 2 - Thank You For The Music
    Week 3 - Crazy
    Week 4 - Limehouse Blues
    Week 5 - The Model
    Week 6 - Born This Way
    Week 7 - Shiver Me Timbers
    Week 8 - Silver Machine
    Week 9 - Slave To The Rhythm
    Week 10 - Thunderball
    Week 11 - The Arrival of The Queen Of Sheba
    Week 12 - The Lovecats
    Week 13 - Wuthering Heights
    Bonus - Heroes


    Get your copy of The Ukulele Lockdown DVD here 

    Orders will be shipped around the first week of October.

    Ukulele Lockdown DVD YouTube Card

  • Ukulele Orchestra New Album

    We are delighted to announce the release of our newest album.

    The follow up album to 'The Only Album by the Ukulele Orchestra That You’ll Ever Need Volume 3', 'Volume 9' brings you even more newly recorded but classic tracks by the orchestra recorded in the studio. You’ll hear even more plucking, strumming, picking, chugging, more gritty twangs, more bends, more vocal growls, more of the massive, full-throated roar of the ensemble of ukuleles.

    If you’ve been a fan then you probably will have these songs in live versions on various CDs. But not like this. If you’re new to the orchestra then this is the other place to start. The Only (Other) Album. More famous cover versions, and a couple of oddities. The Only Album You’ll Ever Need. Vol 9.

    This CD is available for pre-order - Dispatch from the first week in July

    Pre Order your copy here!

  • George's May Day Resource List

    It is May Day. There are lots of songs pertinent to this. 

    One is The Padstow May Song, Unite and Unite. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain recorded a version of it. 

    To download the music sheet click here.  

    For a free download of the Padstow May song from soundcloud click here.

    There are versions of the tune in G, and in Bb and in A (the UOGB recording on our album “The Keeper” is in A.)

    Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Birmingham TH 28-6-12 UOGB Live performance of the Keeper Photo Credit - John Bentley

    There are lots of may songs from all over the UK and all over the world. 

    Here’s some information about a couple of them. 

    This gives information about the song and the celebrations, and links to Steeleye Span’s version and lots of other things. Lovely stuff. 

    This is the British Library, information about the song. 

    This is a PDF from the English Folk Dance and Song Society about customs in May. 

    This is information from Cornwall with lyrics for the Night and Day versions of the song. 

    This gives information about the song, some old printed versions of the lyrics and links to video of the music. 

    This gives you the sheet music. In G. 

    And here’s a version of the sheet music. Chords, lyrics and notation. In G. 

    Here’s a link to a book packed full of interesting music. The Padstow song is on page 52. 

    Dave - Mayday Dave - The Home Festival in Eye Photo Credit - Andrew Whittuck

    This is the wikipedia page about the Padstow celebrations. 

    Here’s a page all about MayDay Revels, including the Padstow customs and song. 

    The sheet music is on this page in G (scroll down), and a lot of other information about other related songs. 

    The sheet music from the above page. 

    Information from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the HQ of the English Folk Dance and Song Society available here. 

    Dance and Tune books from Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the HQ of the English Folk Dance and Song Society available here.

    Here is some information on the MayDay song from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the HQ of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

    Here is a link to a great site with lots of free music, in this case 100 English Folk songs collected by Cecil Sharp. 

    A book of songs and ballads etc from Cornwall is available here. 

    If you’re interested in the Hoodeners and the Obby Oss aspect of the May Day celebrations this might be interesting. 

    Here’s a list of records and resources on this topic. 

    Here’s an interesting page which includes the Padstow song in notation in G, and lyrics and lots of other songs and information too. This is the version of the tune which corresponds most to the one the UOGB use on the album The Keeper (UOGB). 

    And while we’re on the topic. I imagine other people will know lots of other songs about or related to Mayday. 

    One of my favourites, says George is Kalenda Maya, especially in the version by Musica Reservata and Jantina Noorman. 

    Here’s the track - Raimbaut de Vaqueiras - Kalenda maya

    The vocal starts about a minute in, with a brilliant harsh tone and a raucus voice. This is Jantina Noorman. Now 90 Years old and living in Devon. By all accounts a lovely lady. 

    Here are other readings of the tune, on of the few surviving French Troubadour songs with a melody notated. 

    Kalenda Maya, a celebration of May day, is by the Troubadour Raimbault de Vaqueiras (died 1207)

    Kalenda Maya ( The First of May ) - Raimbault de Vaqueiras in 12th c Provence. There is no indication of time signature or tempo so here it is in 4/4, then 6/8 and back again. This is Neil Brook on a hurdy gurdy. Marvellous. 

    Kalenda Maya - Raimbaut de Vaqueiras, Martin Best ensemble

    Raimbaut de Vaqueiras: Calenda maia (trubadúrének / Troubadour song, 12th c.)

    This piece of music shows one reading of the rhythm. The rhythms are not specified so various interpretations in 3 time and 4 time are found in performance. 

    Here’s a paper about possible rhythmic interpretations of the notation. 

    UOGB Live performance of the Keeper Photo Credit - John Bentley UOGB Live performance of the Keeper Photo Credit - John Bentley

    Here is some information about Jantina Noorman. 

    Here’s a link to Jantina’s recordings in the USA of songs she knew as a child in Europe. She lived in USA and recorded Dutch folk songs for Folkways

    And two songs from Jantina Noorman’s recordings in the USA for Folkways 

    Jantina Noorman - Wat Mout Ik Met Zo'n Man

    Jantina Noorman - Ain Boer Wol Noar Zien Noaber Tou

    Here is a blog about early music pioneers. This gives more information on Jantina Noorman. 

    For ancient instruments and history you might want to check out The Galpin Society 

    Here’s information about Musica Reservata and how Jantina arrived at her “Balkan” style of singing early music. 

    Quotes below are from this page. 


    "Morrow studied fine art in Dublin before settling in London in the mid 50s where he took a job operating the musical fountains at a Moroccan restaurant in Piccadilly Circus. He sat inside a control booth pulling levers to make the fountains squirt water in time to music.

    It seems that they consulted Bert Lloyd (who among his many interests knew something about Bulgarian music). He turned them on to a singing style which they all thought appropriate for their purposes. Jantina learned and adopted this as one of her “voices”. "


    The Home Festival in Eye Photo Credit - Andrew Whittuck

    Interestingly The UOGB funded the picture research and costs for a book on AL Lloyd

    Book available here - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bert-Life-Times-Lloyd/dp/0745332528

    Bert: The Life and Times of A. L. Lloyd

    By Dave Arthur, Pluto Press

    You can read quite a lot of it on the Amazon preview, (“look inside”). 

    Bert had his finger in many pies, musical, literary, folky and all sorts of other things. 


    Like this: (and this is a quote from the page quoted, I hope drawing attention to it here doesn’t bother anyone….. lots of interesting things on the page and via the links)

    “Another key influence was the folklorist A.L. Lloyd (Bert Lloyd). Morrow certainly knew of Lloyd’s work through his recordings, especially of Bulgarian Music, for Columbia records. Lloyd helped Morrow realize close connections between medieval music and longstanding traditions in folk music communities.

    To pursue this line of reasoning for a moment, there is a picture that accompanied Morrow’s 1978 article ‘Musical Performance and Authenticity’ (in Early Music vol. 6, no. 2) showing a group of bagpipers dancing to gudulka accompaniment (a Bulgarian folk instrument closely related to the medieval rebec) and that photograph was taken by Lloyd himself. It can be compared to another shot from the same event featured on his Columbia album booklet (page 6).

    It was a folk LP that stopped Michael Morrow in his tracks one day. John Sothcott remembered the incident when talking to Christopher Page on Radio 3’s Spirit of the Age series in the early 1990s:

    I remember with the Kalenda Maya piece at the beginning for example – we were working out ways of doing that and we went into the record shop in Hampstead and heard a Romanian pipe player playing some very percussive dance music with a drum and we suddenly realized this was the sort of approach that would suit that Kalenda Maya – or would be one approach that would suit it and didn’t seem to clash with any of what we knew about the performance of this area of music. And I remember that grew that evening from that performance of music and almost exactly as we did on the record it never altered. By I think that time we had Jantina Noorman of course with us who makes a very special sound.

    Speaking also in that interview Jeremy Montagu remembered that Morrow had taken Noorman to meet Lloyd so he could advise her on singing styles. Lloyd was indeed a catalyst for Jantina’s constructed style.

    Listening to Kalenda Maya from its first Musica Reservata recording one can clearly hear the influence of Balkan folk techniques on Jantina Noorman’s singing.

    This, however, was not the way Noorman had always sounded, it was a constructed style arrived at through trial and error. The difference is clearly heard in this recording of Dutch folk songs from the 1950s before she began her long association with Musica Reservata. [See this 2005 article about her, with extracts from an interview.]

    Another key influence for Michael Morrow in the 1950s came when he heard the Bulgarian State Company perform at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. And indeed, Michael Morrow himself mentioned the importance of Balkan voices in unlocking the sound of Medieval Music many times throughout his life. In 1967 he played extracts from two of Lloyd’s Bulgarian recordings on BBC radio to illustrate points about singing. Bulgarian singers, he felt, exemplified the ‘modified shout’ that was produced by singers during the Middle Ages and renaissance as opposed to the ‘modified speech’ that later singers cultivated.

    Furthermore, Morrow was keen to avoid performances in equal temperament because the harmonic idiom of medieval music – particularly drones –demanded a precise intonation. The standards of Bulgarian singers were again drafted in to justify his point.

    To illustrate how Morrow appears to have been influenced by some of the sounds he heard recorded by Lloyd, listen to the strident way the Gudulka is played in Lloyd’s Columbia Records recording of Pushka pukna (if you can get hold of a second-hand recording), then listen to the rebec playing on the opening of this dance from Musica Reservata: La Quarte Estampie Royale (if you can’t find the Columbia album then try listening to Otreyala Mesechina from Folk Music of Bulgaria for a similar but less-pronounced effect).

    These days that feels like a small point, but it is extremely significant that the straightforwardness of the playing was startlingly new in early music in the 60s. Not even the New York Pro Musica ever used quite that sort of ‘bite and attack’.

    In fact, ‘bite and attack’ is the very term used in Musica Reservata biographies to explain how their sound was dictated by instrumental construction. Techniques of bowing and blowing were chosen to ensure rock-solid intonation, and this in turn was felt to set a certain benchmark for style and texture.

    With such realisations about instrumental playing, Morrow then figured that voices, being naturally more flexible, would have been obliged to blend their sound so that it was not incongruent with the instrumental texture. He wasn’t asking singers to imitate the instruments as much as simply to behave like them. And the catalyst for this vocal style was Balkan voices. Here’s how he put it in a pre-concert talk:

    […] vocal tone has always been related to the tone produced by the instruments of the time, and it seems unreasonable to expect musicians of any period to admit serious incongruity between vocal and instrumental colour […]

    So the outline of the Musica Reservata project seems to have been based on instrumental playing. First, the instruments had to be played in such a way as to maintain the most accurate intonation possible, which often meant blowing, or bowing stridently. Then the singers were asked to articulate their musical lines similar to the instruments, and to use a ‘modified shout’ to balance the ensemble. Through Bert Lloyd, Morrow found useful models in Balkan singing that closely matched the qualities he sought. And in Jantina Noorman he found a singer who not only could, but also would, try such singing techniques in early music.

    © Edward Breen 2016 – All rights reserved”


    DSC_7685 The Home Festival in Eye Photo Credit - Andrew Whittuck

    Here is some Music from Mediaeval Paris: Music of the City 

    Music of the City, Praetorius Ensemble and the Purcell Consort of Voices

    Musica Reservata ‎– Music from the Court of Burgundy (Full 1969 Album) 

  • Richie’s Guide to Starting the Ukulele 

    There are four types of instrument commonly used. They are the soprano, the concert, the tenor and the baritone ukulele. I would recommend you begin with a soprano, as it is the most common and seems to have the most available associated literature.

    You can buy from almost any music shop, but if this is difficult for you for whatever reason, don't hesitate to try online. You are ideally looking for a just above the bottom range soprano, with geared tuners, good intonation (this means that it doesn't sound out of tune the further you play up the neck) and looks pretty sturdy.

    There are many brands to choose from and not a lot between them when choosing a starter ukulele, pick something that appeals to you and your price bracket. 


    Tips for starting the Ukulele 

    Step 1: Get yourself a cheapish ukulele (not the cheapest, as they will inevitably let you down) fitted with geared tuners, an electronic tuner and a chord book. A good tip is to get a good set of strings as they can make a real difference to the sound you make and will help keep the ukulele in tune, makes like Aquila, D’Addario and Worth will do the trick.

    Step 2: Learn how to tune your instrument. Most music for the ukulele is in GCEA tuning and George has filmed this little guide to help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYgWfJEwRyU

    Step 3: Learn and play a few simple chords. Don't rush this.

    Step 4: If you haven't returned your instrument to the shop yet and you're still keen, try going online and playing along with the songs on our YouTube channel. Great for building your confidence up in preparation for playing with other musicians.

    Step 5: Play with other ukulele players. They are out there somewhere! Quite apart from the fun aspect, they can provide tips on technique etc, which you can then use or reject as you see fit. For free music sheet downloads and to join in with the orchestra for virtual play along sessions head over to our Ukulele Lockdown page.

    Step 6: Er, that's it.

    Or it would be in an ideal world. There are many paths you can take to your own personal musical nirvana, just remember to enjoy the journey.

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