White Rock Theatre, 15 November 2018
It may not quite be Christmas but the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has started its seasonal tour with an invitation to local enthusiasts to join them in a number of familiar Christmas pieces. Opening with Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride they passed seamlessly through Neapolitan songs, New Romantics and Silver Machine to the point where all could join in Good King Wenceslas. Their tongue-in-cheek approach works exceptionally well with a minor key, Russian arrangement of George Formby’s I’m leaning on a lamp-post coming close on the heels of I’ll be watching you direct from their appearances in China.
After the interval we were all able to join in Jingle Bells before songs by Joni Mitchell and Grace Jones, a spirited rendition of Lime House Blues and a galvanising Highway to Hell. One of their greatest strengths is the egalitarian feel to the event with all eight members taking turns to lead, sing solos and provide the jokes. This was never more obvious than in the glorious ensemble where one player provided a classical underpinning and the other seven sang different songs, all in the same key and remarkably harmonic.
Concluding with We wish you a Merry Christmas they returned to give us David Bowie’s Heroes as a rousing encore. We could happily have asked for a lot more.