THE Fringe had another sell-out with this one-night-only gig from York’s “Titans of tweed”, the city’s amazing ukulele orchestra.

Fans of the 13-strong ensemble will know to expect the unexpected from a date with York’s Ukes – and the Fringe concert did not disappoint.

In the first 60-minute half, the audience played musical bingo. Each member had a square card with a single word from a song title in the grid and a pencil to tick them off in turn. It was a hoot, introducing an element of “Name That Tune” into the proceedings. It added some anticipation too. Would “Happy” be the Pharrell Williams hit, or even Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday? In the end, it was neither, turning out to be Happy Hour by The Housemartins.

After the interval, the “special guest” was revealed as Theatre Royal panto legend Martin Barrass, who bounded across the front of the stage to collect a bag of beach balls and throw them into the audience, Wagon Wheels style, as the Ukes nuked out a version of Great Balls Of Fire (along with plenty of innuendo concerning the size if Martin’s beach toys!).

York Press:

Guest of honour Martin Barrass, pictured during the beach ball-throwing rendition of Great Balls Of Fire

The music is great fun too, from the Beatles mash-up of Back In The USSR and Get Back, to Call Me by Blondie (sung by the Ukes' own blondie, Jasmine Richardson), and Britpop classics from Blur, Pulp and Oasis (Champagne Supernova being a particular delight).

Stephen Hawksworth, a teacher by day and MC of the band at night,  took it in turns with the excellent Kyle Frazer to lead the vocals. Stephen is also the musical arranger and does a sterling job. Who knew the humble ukulele could sound so rich and varied and be all a band could need to perform such a mix of songs as Kaiser Chiefs' I Predict A Riot, Toto’s Africa and Kings Of Leon's Sex On Fire?

The layers of melody on Crowded House’s Weather With You flowed like waves of loveliness; just one of the many highlights from a super night in the Spiegeltent.

The Ukes will be performing at Selby Arts Festival on Thursday and at Woodthorpe’s Family Fun Day on August 12. Catch them if you can.

See Martin Barrass and The Grand Old Uke of York in action at