PORTLAND —

Believing that all genres of music are available for reinterpretation, as long as they are played on the ukulele, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain formed in 1985 as a bit of fun, but the first gig was an instant sell out, and they’ve been performing ever since.

By 1988 they had released an LP, appeared on BBC TV, played at WOMAD and recorded a BBC Radio 1 session. The current ensemble has been playing together for over 20 years, and has become something of a British institution.

The Orchestra’s concerts are a funny, virtuosic, twanging, foot-stomping obituary of rock-n-roll and melodious pop songs featuring only the “bonsai guitar” and a menagerie of voices. There are no drums, pianos, backing tracks or banjos, no pitch shifters or electronic trickery, only the rich palette of orchestration afforded by ukuleles and singing (and a bit of whistling).

The Orchestra takes audiences from Tchaikovsky to Nirvana via Otis Redding, the Talking Heads and Spaghetti Western soundtracks using the many possibilities of the instrument to reveal unsuspected musical delights.

The Orchestra demonstrates how sometimes a foolish song can touch an audience more than high art and how music which takes itself too seriously is revealed to be hilarious. One may never think about music in the same way once exposed to the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

Tickets range from $32 to $38 for Ovations’ members and $35 to $42 for the general public. To purchase tickets, visit www.portlandovations.org, contact PortTIX at 207-842-0800, or visit the box office window at Merrill Auditorium, Myrtle St.


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