Review: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, King’s Hall Ilkley, Friday 26th October 2018

The “Ukes” show “When this Lousy War is Over” held the King’s Hall audience in thrall with its historical and musical insight of the First World War. We listened to patriotic marches, ballads, pacifist and feminist songs, gypsy tunes, music hall favourites and jazz standards. Several numbers were amusingly sung to the scurrilous lyrics used by the soldiers.

The seven piece band gave lively performances of the ironic Oh! What a Lovely War, and Dame Ethel Smyth’s March of the Women - the Suffragettes’ national anthem. Wild Geese was a poignant song with lyrics by Walter Flex. He was the German equivalent of our own War poet Wilfred Owen. Stille Nacht (Silent Night) touchingly recalled the 1914 Christmas Eve truce in the trenches, and the ensuing football match in No man’s land.

If You Want to Find a General dwelt on the soldiers’ resentment of the social fripperies enjoyed by their (frequently unavailable) officers. Snoopy and the Red Baron referenced the Peanuts cartoon and the dog named after the Canadian pilot who brought down flying ace-of-aces Baron Manfred von Richthofen. It’s a Long Way to Tipperary and Pack up Your Troubles were stunningly performed by the band, separately and then simultaneously.

The two hour-long long concert ended with a fabulous performance of the Dixieland Jazz Band number Tiger Rag. The brilliance and creativity with which these musicians have exploited the once humble ukulele has been acclaimed around the world. As an evening’s entertainment though, When this Lousy War is Over needed a few more upbeat numbers to relieve the gloom. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s concert was presented by the Friends of the King’s Hall.

Geoffrey Mogridge