Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain brings ‘30 plucking years’ of talent to Eisenhower Oct. 13

Called “iconoclastic” (England’s Sunday Times), “wonderfully clever” (rock star David Bowie) and “a musicologist’s nightmare” (Music Week), The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain “30 plucking years” anniversary tour will make a stop at Penn State with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Eisenhower Auditorium.

Purchase tickets, which are $42 for an adult, $15 for a University Park student, and $32 for a person 18 and younger. A grant from the University Park Allocation Committee makes Penn State student prices possible.

In 1985, George Hinchliffe and Kitty Lux began performing as a light-hearted comment against the state of the music industry in the United Kingdom. Eventually expanded to an eight-member orchestra, “The Ukes” have been performing together for more than 20 years and, separately, with R&B, punk, blues and avant-garde musicians including Martha Reeves, Brian Eno, The Mekons, Gang of Four, Chuck Berry, John Mayall and others.

The musicians’ collective, music-related experiences have influenced their eclectic repertoire, which includes renditions of classic rock songs such as “Psycho Killer” (Talking Heads) and “Life on Mars” (Bowie); theme songs from the films Shaft (Isaac Hayes) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Ennio Morricone); the classical canon—“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky); and a Russian Cossack-styled rendition of “Leaning on a Lamppost” by George Formby, England’s most famous ukulele player.

The musicians infuse each performance with wit. “We are like the Rolling Stones. We loved each other for the first 20 years, and then we became inured to touring life,” said Hinchliffe in a January interview on the website B-C-ING-U.com. “We try to maim each other on a regular basis, but because we are English, we restrain ourselves.”

Check out a Center for the Performing Arts conversation with orchestra musician Brooke Turner Turner. The podcast includes samples of the ensemble performing “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”—its most-requested song—and “Danse Macabre.”

Read Center for the Performing Arts feature articles about the orchestra and central Pennsylvania ukulele organizations.

The orchestra has performed sold-out concerts worldwide—most notably at Australia’s Sydney Opera House, London’s Royal Albert Hall and New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Festival appearances include Electric Picnic, Glastonbury and The Big Chill. The musicians have appeared on television in performances with troubadour Yusef Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) and boy-band superstar Robbie Williams, and on BBC’s “Electric Proms” with indie band Kaiser Chiefs.

The orchestra also has performed on the album “The Liberty of Norton Folgate” by British ska-rock band Madness and on various DJ remix and rock compilations. The ensemble has released a number of studio, live and compilation albums and DVDs.

Shirley J. Coploff and Nancy S. Gamble sponsor the concert. Allegheny Ukulele Kollective is an engagement partner. Radio station 93.7 THE BUS is the media sponsor.

Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring a visiting artist or artists, takes place in Eisenhower one hour before the concert and is free for ticket holders.

Get more information about the orchestra.

Listen to samples of the orchestra’s music.