Comedy, singing, occasional whistling, and the sounds of an assortment of ukuleles converge in a performance by the eclectic Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 16.

The performance is presented by the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech and will be held in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Moss Arts Center’s Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall. 

The orchestra is an original musical ensemble featuring ukuleles of various sizes and registers, accompanied only by the voices of the performers. For this performance, the group will explore the music of American folk and blues, heavy metal, bebop and jazz, punk, reggae, and electronic dance. Chinese melodies gathered from their 2014 tour of China will also be part of the performance.

The orchestra is known for playing versions of famous rock songs and film themes, sometimes changing them to surprise the audience. The ensemble might change a rock song into a jazz piece, or combine several songs from different genres into one.

Because the music is played only on ukuleles in different sizes, the sounds of the instruments are not typical for most of the music played. The arrangements of the music are specially made—often by the director and founder, George Hinchliffe, or by other members of the group—with a focus on bringing out the spirit of the music and being faithful to the musical notes. 

The performance by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will feature songs sung by each member of the orchestra, giving the audience the opportunity to get to know each person on stage. The orchestra is comprised of performers with very different musical backgrounds, experiences, and performing styles. The ukulele is what brings them all together.

Formed in 1985 just for fun, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain's first show was an instant success. The current ensemble has been playing together for more than 20 years and has made many international concerts and festival appearances, including sell-outs at Carnegie Hall in New York, The Royal Albert Hall in London, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

The orchestra has recorded and released records, CDs, and DVDs on its own independent label, as well as with CBS, Sony, Discethnique, Longman, Volume, Tachyon, and The Ministry of Sound. Original compositions and songs by the group have been used in television, film, and radio plays, and have been performed by other musicians. They have worked with the British Film Institute, providing music for silent films, and have collaborated with Madness, Robbie Williams, Ant & Dec, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Stefan Raab, Rainer Hersch, and a full symphony orchestra while performing at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

In addition to theatres and concert halls, the orchestra has performed at rock festivals including Glastonbury, The Big Chill, WOMAD, and The Electric Picnic, as well as for 170,000 people in Hyde Park.

Beginning at 6 p.m. on Oct. 16, the Center for the Arts welcomes the Belview Elementary School Ukulele Club for a special pre-show performance in the Moss Arts Center Cube. Led by teacher Natalie Gibbs, the club is made up of fourth and fifth grade students who practice weekly after school. The group's goal is for students to make music together in a positive environment and develop the ability to accompany themselves on instruments, encouraging them to become lifelong musicians. The club plays a selection of popular and folk tunes and receives support from the Montgomery County Education Foundation.

Also, at 6:30 p.m. the Star City Ukulele Circle of Roanoke will be in the Grand Lobby, sharing information about their activities and providing opportunities for visitors to play various ukuleles.

Tickets

Tickets are $20-45 for general public and $10 for students and youth 18 years old and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300 during box office hours.

Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Virginia Tech faculty and staff possessing a valid Virginia Tech parking permit can enter and exit the garage free of charge. Limited street parking is also available. Parking on Alumni Mall is free on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Kacy McAllister at 540-231-5300 or email kmcallis@vt.edu during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to the event.

The Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech presents renowned artists from around the globe and from close to home, with a special focus on experiences that expand cultural awareness and deepen understanding. The Center for the Arts and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, with which the Center for the Arts is uniquely partnered, are housed in the Moss Arts Center. The Moss Arts Center is a 147,000-square-foot facility that includes the Street and Davis Performance Hall and its 1,274-seat Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre; visual art galleries; the four-story, experimental venue the Cube; and research studios.