BBC Northern Dance Orchestra
The BBC Northern Dance Orchestra was a big band run by the BBC and formed in 1956 as the successor to the BBC's Northern Variety Orchestra, which had been formed on 1 April 1951. Known to listeners as the NDO, it broadcast on the radio daily, usually from recordings made at the Playhouse Theatre in Hulme, Manchester, and on many trips to halls throughout the UK. Through BBC Transcription Services it gained loyal listeners overseas. Many well-known musicians played with the orchestra over the years, including trumpeter Syd Lawrence, who left the NDO and formed his own very successful big band in 1967, and saxophonist Johnny Roadhouse, one of the band's founding members.
The orchestra's first conductor was Alyn Ainsworth, who had conducted the BBC's Northern Variety Orchestra. Ainsworth also wrote some of the band's arrangements together with Pat Nash and Alan Roper, using a standard big band line-up of five saxophones, a flute, four trombones, four trumpets, occasional solo violin, and a rhythm section of piano, double bass, guitar, drums and percussion.
As well as its national radio broadcasts and contributions to musical links for variety shows in Manchester, the orchestra also appeared regularly on BBC television in shows such as Six-Five Special, All Systems Freeman and Make Way for Music. On the radio, it featured in Pop North, and Here We Go with the NDO. It was occasionally augmented by a string section, leader Norman George, almost bringing it back to its Northern Variety Orchestra Roots – becoming the Augmented Northern Dance Orchestra.
Some members of the NDO played in the pit orchestra for The Good Old Days TV programme, conducted by flautist and arranger Bernard Herrmann, who succeeded Ainsworth as conductor of the NDO.
The band was threatened with closure in 1969, as much of its work was by then being carried out by the London-based BBC Big Band, the successor to the BBC Dance Orchestra and BBC Showband, which functioned as part of the larger BBC Radio Orchestra. A public outcry about the closure of the NDO followed, and the band was retained. But under a shake-up of musical policy, the orchestra was reorganised by the BBC in 1975 as the BBC Northern Radio Orchestra. Under the leadership of Neil Richardson, it continued until the BBC closed many of its in-house orchestras in 1985.
The NDO produced a number of recordings – in 1972 a vinyl LP, BBC Records, REC 133s, a CD called A Legend Reborn, NDO CD 101; both of these are no longer available.
In 2012, a double CD Diamonds: The Best of the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra was produced by three ex-BBC staff to celebrate 60 years of music by the band. It is still available as a very limited edition CD (as of March 2012), and was produced at cost; all those involved gave their time and skills without payment, as a tribute to the orchestra.
See also 
- Garner, Stephen, "Northern Dance Orchestra", Big Bands Database, archived from the original on 31 July 2010, retrieved 6 September 2010
- Moss (1994), pp. 7–9
- Neil "Richardson biography", Radio Cafe, retrieved 9 October 2010
- "Diamonds: The Best of the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra", northerndanceorchestra.org.uk, retrieved 20 July 2012