In December 2000 head of the USO Greg Francis was asked to provide ideas to re-introduce the Big Bands to the world famous Blackpool Tower ballroom. Amongst the ideas Greg had were his personal hopes to re-form the Blackpool Tower Orchestra. In remembering the great days of the big bands at the Tower Ballroom, he was particularly impressed by the Tower Orchestra when under the direction of Charlie Barlow. Greg's own musical tastes lent a big hand here also since, he is a big fan of the music of Bert Kaempfert and James Last. This has helped to set the style of the band, and as a musical arranger and orchestrator himself (a dying art amongst bandleaders these days) Greg has been able to write exactly the right type of music which ensures that the dancers are happy and the musicians enjoy playing the the parts. The band relies upon a good amount of humour from within the band, and Greg encourages the young musicians to relax and enjoy themselves on stage, and so they do - to the obvious delight of the dancers.

The Greg Francis Orchestra and singers was thus 'drafted in' to perform as the Blackpool Tower Big Band. It is capable of playing a wide mixture of music (even 1940's styles) from mainly the 1950's sounds of Ted Heath through the popular sounds of Bert Kaempfert, Henry Mancini and many more, and not forgetting the popular sounds of James Last. The orchestra plays the widest range of James Last music, right from his first releases up to his later 'party style' music. All of the music played is primarily arranged for dancing, be it modern ballroom or sequence. Better still, it's all at the correct tempo for dancing - as it should be.

The Greg Francis Orchestra and Singers first appeared on BBC Radio 2 during the early to mid 1980's. They featured regularly for over 5 years on such shows as 'The Jimmy Young Show' 'The Ray Moore Show' 'You and the Night and the Music' and the 'Early Show'. The orchestra has played an important part in the accompaniment of singers.

During it's first year at Blackpool it provided 'backing' for the tribute to Frank Sinatra (Tony Benedict) the tribute to Doris Day (Lynn Kennedy) featuring the sweet vocal sounds of Lynn Kennedy, and a tribute to Matt Monro (Robert Young). During 2001 and 2002, the orchestra were resident for 4 of the 7 nights at Blackpool Tower ballroom. On these nights they played music for dancing and accompaniment for both the Doris Day tribute and the Frank Sinatra tribute.

Greg Francis has also adopted the American idea of using 'playback' and the use of this means that it is possible to present a much bigger sound - all of those beautiful string sounds are now heard along with the live musicians on stage. The 'Tower Big Band' returned for the 2003 and 2004 seasons at the Tower Ballroom, being replaced in 2005 by a small band of 6 musicians led by a local school teacher.

The Greg Francis Orchestra and Singers is available if you need a top rate orchestra for dancing, ballroom/sequence, whatever, or to accompany your own vocalist(s) or show, and for touring 'out of season' - plus a conductor who has worked with the BBC Orchestras, the German Radio Orchestras, and has a wealth of experience both in the UK/Europe and America as conductor/film music orchestrator, then call us here at the USO.

Greg Francis himself is often available as Conductor/Musical Director for any proposed shows, including a library of music parts for 'big band' or especially reduced for 8/9 piece band. Please refer to 'Arrangement Hire' for a full listing of music arrangements available, including 'Concert Orchestra' (standard size is 84 piece).

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