Ipswich: Pluck up the courage to try something different with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

You’ve not heard Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit until you’ve heard it played on a ukulele.

George Formby and his lamppost are out, the likes of Kate Bush, Adele, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson in when the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain come to Ipswich.

“We try to introduce different songs all the time so we’ve got a couple of new rock songs and a bit of a mash up of classical music. We’re looking at an Ozzy Osborne tune which might be fun,” laughs founder member, director and performer George Hinchliffe.

Sixteen-handedly changing the face of the ukulele world since forming 27 years ago, the current line-up - and what they jokingly refer to as their bonsai guitars - are partway through a world tour.

“I think that’s part of what people like about our shows; we try to have fun with the music, each other and the audience.

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“A certain number of ukulele enthusiasts come to our concerts; I think most of the people who come along just want to experience a good show.

“Years ago we played a chamber music festival in Chicago. The organisers brought us in as the last act on the bill; we were the light relief after the complicated beard-stroking music that had been going on.

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“Some of the audience thought it was great, laughing and joining in, some of them were aghast and didn’t understand what was going on; we were playing Born To Be Wild, stuff like that.”

They’re clearly struck a chord with music-lovers. Their current travels are taking them everywhere from the North Pole to Sydney Opera House via Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.

Good job they don’t have to pack much.

Four of the eight-strong line-up have been there from the start, the most recent addition was in 1995; so there’s good chemistry on stage.

“We’ve known each other long enough to tolerate each other’s foibles, you’ve got to get on with each other musically but also be able to tolerate being together for like 20 hours a day,” laughs George, joking he’s the Captain Mainwaring of the bunch, trying to get everything organised while the rest of the anarchic group argue with him.

I’m guessing smashing a ukulele live on stage rock star style wouldn’t really relieve much stress?

“Classical and folk musicians are pretty rock and roll as well sometimes,” he laughs.

If you want to hear the music you love given a new twist or think the ukulele isn’t for you, pluck up the courage to see the orchestra when it rolls up at the Regent on September 8.

For the latest regional, national and international world news follow me on Twitter @WhatsonWayne.

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