Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

by Harry on May 18, 2020

CB’s visit to Madison a couple of years ago coincided with a concert by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, which I had managed to convince my entire family to attend, so he came too. Also in attendance were the only two undergraduates whom I’d convinced to come along. They both said, later, that they only came to humour me, and had assumed it wouldn’t be very good. But during the interval they were both wide-eyed and one said “why doesn’t everybody come to this? Why aren’t they really famous?”.

Both those students graduated this month, having both taken the smaller class referred to here. They, and I, convinced a remarkably large number of their classmates to get tickets for a performance in late March. (I think they were more persuasive than I was: one of them insisted that “Harry Brighouse told me to go to this concert and now I know that I should always do what he tells me to do, and so should you”). The plan was to all go to dinner beforehand, and then attend the concert as a kind of field trip. On the final occasion we all met in person nobody was quite sure whether we’d meet again (maybe that’s not true — I think I knew, because I asked one of the seniors if it was the last time I would see her) but we all knew that the concert was vanishingly unlikely, and in subsequent zoom class sessions several people said, several times, that was one of the things they regretted.

I know that plenty of people deserve more attention than my students (though — while all of them are healthy, several of them have been through awful things this semester). But when I noticed that the UOGB was producing some wonderful lockdown performances on youtube, I thought I’d just contact them and ask if they’d consider dedicating something to my students, just to cheer them up. In my letter I gave them ample opportunity to decline — indeed, I deliberately wrote the letter so that it would be easy to ignore. But after a couple of weeks their manager got back to me saying she’d talked to several members and that although they never do request they were considering doing something. Then last week she told me that something would be posted online on Sunday and I should watch it. It did seem slightly awkwardly phrased and cryptic, but I just thanked her and prepared to watch it and send the link to my students. And its not exactly what I had expected. I got a text from a student after the video went live saying: “Hi wait I can’t believe you had already emailed the orchestra!!! I emailed them last week to give you a shoutout in the video! you were one step ahead of me!”



Dr. Hilarius 05.18.20 at 5:30 am

You sound like a wonderful teacher. What a wonderful story.


John Hayter 05.18.20 at 8:03 am

That was really uplifting, both the story and the performance.


bad Jim 05.18.20 at 8:46 am

Amazing, well worth a listen, and rather entertaining to watch.


Tom Hurka 05.18.20 at 12:11 pm

Fabulous! As it happens, we had tickets for their scheduled Toronto show in early April. Hadn’t heard of them but my sister got us tickets because our father used to play the ukelele when we were growing up. He also introduced me to George Formby, whose movies, by the way, were on television when I was growing up.


Stephen T Johnson 05.18.20 at 1:43 pm

That’s so awesome. Cheers


Alan White 05.18.20 at 3:44 pm

How wonderful for everyone on both sides of the lectern. You cheered me up Harry!


oldster 05.18.20 at 5:54 pm

For those of you not familiar with their oeuvre, I offer this as the highest example of their art:

(Isaac Hayes’ theme song for “Shaft,” with additional lyrics.)


Ingrid Robeyns 05.18.20 at 8:44 pm

This is a great story, and so awfully nice of the Orchestra that they did make both dedications in this funny way!


NomadUK 05.19.20 at 12:20 am

As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get better than this:-


peterv 05.19.20 at 4:25 pm

Tom Hurka @ #4:

You may well enjoy the UOUK’s arrangement of a famous Formby song:

Comments on this entry are closed.