Music was on the timetable at a Norwich theatre as the sounds of about 600 ukuleles could be heard being enthusiastically strummed by Norfolk school children.

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The excited young musicians from schools across the county had a great time playing with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at Norwich Theatre Royal yesterday afternoon ahead of the orchestra’s performance last night.

My Dog Has Fleas, H.E.L.L.O, A Sailor Went To Sea and Old McDonald were among the tunes that were played by the pupils with a festive grand finale of Jingle Bells.

Fifteen schools took part in the special class that gave their pupils the chance to be inspired and learn from some of the country’s top ukulele players who have played across the globe at venues including the Royal Albert Hall and Sydney Opera House.

Among the schools was Hillside Avenue Primary, in Thorpe St Andrew.

Sam Barwick, a teacher at the school, said: “It was fantastic. The children were really excited. They cannot quite believe that so many people play the ukulele!

“They have been practising lots for the event. It was a nice Christmas treat on the last day of term.”

Nine-year-old Hillside pupil Emily Dallas is a big fan of playing the ukulele.

She said: “You can have lots of fun with the ukulele and learn lots of songs. My favourite song is The Lion Sleeps Tonight. It was great to be able to play with lots of different schools.”

Fellow pupil Joel Marsh, eight, has a ukelele from Australia which was one of his Christmas presents last year.

He said the ukulele was his favourite instrument, after the guitar. He said: “I like the ukulele because it is like a small guitar. My favourite song to play is Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer because it has lots of difficult chords to play.”

He added: “It was exciting playing with lots of other people from different schools to see how they are doing.”

Six-year-olds Dylan Crawley, Thomas Small and Kieran Poundall were among the pupils from Hethersett Woodside School taking part.

Dylan said: “I’ve been playing the ukulele since September. I like it because it is fun to play with my friends.

“My Dog Has Fleas is my favourite song because it is a funny song.”

West Earlham Junior Pupils also joined in the ukulele fun.

Jon Biddle, a year six teacher at the school, said: “It was very exciting for the children.

“They have only been learning to play for a term but this was a really good chance to see professional musicians and to join in with them.”

West Earlham pupil Segovia Lucas, 11, said she liked the ukulele because the instrument was used in the theme tune of her favourite programme SpongeBob, while fellow pupil Olivia Richardson, 11, said: “I find the ukulele tricky but a fun instrument. I enjoy just strumming the chords. I like the way it sounds.”

Jason Raper, Norwich Theatre Royal’s education manager, said the event had been a fantastic opportunity for schools to share their love of the instrument and learn from arguably some of the country’s finest ukulele musicians.

He said: “Ukulele playing is growing in popularity all the time and, judging by the fierce demand for tickets for this schools event, it is something lots of students and teachers want to enjoy.”

He said the event fitted in with the theatre’s role as an educational charity providing extra learning opportunities linked to shows, and it has worked closely with Norfolk Music Services, the Norwich Ukulele Society, and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain to organise the event.

Cringleford Primary School and Sparhawk First School in Sprowston also took part in the event as well as a number of schools from other parts of the county.

Are you involved in an event involving local schools? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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