Opening Nights Presents Short Strings
For George Hinchliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, life’s adventures go strummingly
George Hinchliffe’s father, a self-employed trucker who owned his own rig, was owed money by a customer whose business was struggling.
The customer, as a way of trying to settle up, “suggested that my dad visit his warehouse and load his truck with anything of value he might find there,” Hinchliffe said. “He did and he came home with sheets of stainless steel, a model steam engine and a ukulele without strings.”
Father and son would visit a music store where the instrument was made playable, and the shop owner gave Hinchliffe a brief lesson.
The year was 1960. Hinchliffe has been playing the ukulele ever since.
In 1985, Hinchliffe, soon joined by Dave Suich and Richie Williams, who remain with the band to this day, established what he pretentiously named the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
In so doing, Hinchliffe was mindful of a story, “The King of Montana,” that he had read in a Tales of Wells Fargo comic book. An eccentric gentleman and a boy travel about the Old West and succeed in foiling robbers, leaving the child in a self-congratulatory mood.
“That was a good thing we did,” he says to his guardian. “Who cares if you call yourself the King of Montana? Nobody else wants to.”
Today, Hinchliffe is ukulele royalty. His success has spawned the formation of ukulele orchestras in cities throughout the world.
On March 22, George Hinchliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will perform at the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall in Tallahassee as part of the FSU Opening Nights series.
The orchestra will start the audience off with some “toe-tapping music” and then move on to genres that may include country, jazz, classical, folk, pop, rock, even grunge.
“We are not ukulele evangelists,” Hinchliffe said. “We’re about music and entertainment and having a good time.”
He recalled a “notoriously miserable old man who attended one of our shows with his family and was seen to smile and chortle during the performance.”
Afterwards, he was asked, “Granddad, did you enjoy yourself?”
“It was all right,” he said, “if you like to laugh.”
See the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain live
George Hinchliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will perform at the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall on Sunday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets, ranging in price from $25 to $40, are available at OpeningNights.fsu.edu or call (850) 644-7670.
For information on all Opening Nights Events, visit openingnights.fsu.edu/events
Opening Nights at FSU
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