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Grand Union Orchestra celebrates 40 years with a month of celebratory events

Ansar Ahmed Ullah:

Grand Union global musicians first hit the road in 1982, under the direction of composer and radical creative director Tony Haynes. They have created an unmatched ensemble style which combines jazz improvisation, lyrical theatre and original songs. They tour to audiences across the UK and internationally, blazing a trail as the first – and still the leading – UK cross-cultural orchestra.

Their Fortieth Anniversary Show at the Hackney Empire on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th May features all the Grand Union’s much-loved star performers singers and musicians from every major global musical tradition on stage together for the first time since lockdown with promising artists from the next generation.

Authentic musical expression and awareness of socio-political events are the core values of the orchestra and are at the very heart of its improvisational, genre-busting repertoire.  Migratory narratives, activism, the rallying musical cry of freedom fighters, independence commemorations and the lived experience of his musical collaborators, have been the abiding themes of Haynes’s highly original works for the orchestra.  Inspiration comes from the traditional folk music, songs and musical forms that draw on the cultural heritage of the musicians and performers including Chinese, African, Indian, Bengali, Latin American, Eastern and Western European.

Grand Union rejoices in working with some of the finest world musicians of this generation Claude Deppa, Yousuf Ali Khan, Louise Elliot, Shanti Jayasinha, Tony Kofi, Zhu Xiao Meng, Lucy Rahman, Byron Wallen, Chris Biscoe, Carlos Fuentes, Andres Lafone, Gerry Hunt, Jason Yarde to name a few.

Grand Union’s 40th-anniversary celebrations will also include performances by the acclaimed Grand Union Youth Orchestra, an off-shoot ensemble of younger aspiring professionals the Re: Generation Band and our newly established and blossoming Shoreditch & Hoxton Community Orchestra. These performances will take place across East London in the many partner venues that The Grand Union has been working with across the decades.

To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Grand Union Orchestra release a Greatest Hits album featuring sixteen remastered dance-inspiring tracks from their extensive back catalogue. “Made By Human Hands” showcases Grand Union Orchestra at their joyful and exhilarating best: bold brass riffs, powerful singers, big band jazz, and top-tier improvisation. From the driving drums, congas, and walking bass that kick off opening track “Love That Day”, it’s clear that this album is built for dancing!