Review: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Ipswich Regent - Wednesday October 19

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - Credit: Archant

If ever a group could surprise an audience and defy expectations surrounding its name, then the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain is surely that group.

Dressed in dinner jackets and bow ties the group may be, but that’s where the associations as a traditional orchestra end.

Playing a mix of pop, rock, disco and soundtrack classics on ukuleles alongside more recent chart-toppers, the Ukulele Orchestra is an engaging octet of talented players who don’t take themselves too seriously.

From quips about the pitfalls of buying a punk rock ukulele album, to digs at each of the band members, the orchestra has honed the art of engaging its audiences over the last 31 years, culminating in its Ipswich Regent show this week.

And the set was remarkable too. It’s not often you hear the likes of Nine to Five, Valerie, Diamonds are Forever and the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly together, but the orchestra seamlessly weaves from one genre to the next in the inimitable style it has perfected – even squeezing a farmyard animal breakdown into one of its songs.

And while the likes of Smells Like Teen Spirit, Thunderball and an extraordinary sea-shanty version of The Who’s Pinball Wizard have been favourites of the set for years, it is perhaps the more recent additions of Get Lucky and Pharrell Williams’ Happy that went down the best.

But behind the jokes and the laughs is actually a seriously talented bunch of musicians who not only are at ease on ukes of various sizes (just ask soprano player Will Grove-White who performed some scorching funk music on a uke only marginally bigger than a mobile phone) but can all sing and can harmonise.

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The performance at the Regent on Wednesday was no doubt a revelation for many who had not seen them before, and an affirmation of what a truly unique orchestra it is.

The enthusiasm is infectious, made evident just from seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces as the auditorium emptied. Same time next year please.