Grand Union Orchestra mark 30th anniversary by looking towards undream’d shores

Music Untamed - Grand Union Orchestra

Music Untamed - Grand Union Orchestra - Credit: Archant

The Hackney Empire’s credentials may have risen in indie music circles recently after hosting electronic star FKA Twigs to much acclaim, but as a reflection of east London’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, there are few acts that feel more at home there than the Grand Union Orchestra.

One of London’s oldest organisations performing world music, the orchestra is this autumn marking the 30th anniversary of its first show with a new production, Undream’d Shores.

Using 25 of the group’s musicians alongside nearly 100 artists from across London and their own youth orchestra, the show comes to the Empire this weekend..

Tony Haynes, artistic director and one of the orchestra’s four co-founders, is a long-term Hackney resident and says their blend of cultures, such as African, Caribbean, East European and Asian, is perfectly suited to the area’s demographic.

“Hopefully, we get a segment of all those communities coming along to see how it all mixes together and combines,” he says. “Actually, that’s the real point: it’s not really a showcase of different cultures – most of the music is my own anyway and it’s worked up with the musicians – but it’s how all the different traditions can surprisingly overlap.”

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Undream’d Shores, through lyrical and musical exploration, tells a series of stories about how immigrants have come from across the world to live in Britain.

Haynes says: “The title’s haunted me for a while; it was a line of Shakespeare. Undream’d Shores means, in effect, you put out for somewhere you don’t know where you’re going to land up or what’s going to happen when you get there. Half the people in the show are in this position – or their families certainly are.”

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The Grand Union Orchestra play Undream’d Shores at the Hackney Empire on Saturday and Sunday. To book, see

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