The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain will perfom April 12 in Jackson Hall. Courtesy photo

The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain will perfom April 12 in Jackson Hall. Courtesy photo


‘One plucking thing after another’ by Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain

By From page A9 | April 02, 2013

That’s the ticket

Who: Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain

When: 8 p.m. Friday, April 12

Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis

Tickets: $25-$75 general, $12.50-$37.50 students; www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787

Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” performed by an ensemble of British musicians on ukeleles?

And The Who’s thunderous “Pinball Wizard,” from the rock opera “Tommy”? And a tongue-in-cheek version of the musical theme from the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”?

These are among the specialties of the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, which visits the Mondavi Center at 8 p.m. Friday, April 12, for a concert that likely will prove to be among the more unusual to be heard locally during the current concert season.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain is a group of all-singing, all-strumming ukulele players, using instruments “bought with loose change, which believes that all genres of music are available for reinterpretation, as long as they are played on the ukulele,” according to the group’s website.

In addition to the music mentioned above, they freely adapt tunes made famous by Tchaikovsky, Nirvana, Otis Redding and others, taking the audience on “a world tour with only hand luggage” while entertaining their listeners with “one plucking thing after another.”

Using ukeleles small and large, the group performs dressed in formal evening wear. Both the beauty and vacuity of popular and highbrow music are highlighted, the pompous and the trivial, the moving and the amusing. Puckish humor and real musicianship go hand in hand.

The Ukelele Orchestra was formed in 1985 as a bit of fun, but the first gig drew a sold-out audience. By 1988 they had released an LP, appeared on BBC TV, played at WOMAD festival (an international event launched by rocker Peter Gabriel), and recorded a BBC Radio 1 session.

The current ensemble has been playing together for more than 20 years, and has established themselves as something of a national institution. They have performed sold-out shows at the Sydney Opera House (2012), The Royal Albert Hall (2008) and New York’s Carnegie Hall (2010).

Tickets are $25-$75 general, $12.50-$37.50 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.

Jeff Hudson

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