Grab Your Ukes

UCSB Hosts Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
Courtesy Photo

If you’re anything like me, you tend to associate the ukulele with one of the following: that obnoxious guy who lived above you in college and/or the island-vibe cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from 50 First Dates.

Don’t judge.

In other words, if you’re anything like me, you’re long overdue for some new uke reference points. That’s where the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain comes in. Composed of eight singing and strumming members, the Orchestra touts itself as the best of its kind. (And yes, there are others.) Better yet, they’ve got the street cred to prove it. The group has been championed by everyone from David Bowie to Brian Eno and performed everywhere from the Sydney Opera House to Carnegie Hall. This Tuesday, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain makes its Santa Barbara debut at UCSB’s Campbell Hall by way of Arts & Lectures.

Still skeptical? I advise you to grab your closest Internet-browsing device and check it out for yourself. A quick scan will yield hordes of videos of the Ukulele Orchestra in action, shredding through renditions of Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” and Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” to name a few. Set lists include everything from traditional orchestra music to modern rock, pop, and jazz classics, all delivered with a sly nod to the ridiculousness of it all. (Think tuxes, tails, and a whole lot of raised eyebrows and smiles.) If the reviews are to be trusted, audiences across the globe are eating it up — and stomping along. And that’s more than anyone can say for my former neighbor.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain plays UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Tuesday, April 9, at 8 p.m. The group will also hold a free bring-your-own-instrument community workshop on Monday, April 8, at UCSB’s Geiringer Hall at 7 p.m. For tickets and info about both events, call (805) 893-3535 or visit