On April 1, 1951 the BBC formed the Northern Variety Orchestra
Music was used in many radio productions in Manchester well before the NVO was formed.
Much of the music was specially composed and arranged by the accomplished conductor Ray Martin, and he can be credited with forming the first full orchestra playing light music at the BBC in Manchester.
His orchestra was the catalyst for the BBC to set up the Northern Variety Orchestra on the first of April 1951, using many local musicians.
Ray Martin was invited to be its conductor, but due to him living in London, and other time pressures, he sadly declined the offer - it would have been a very different story had he accepted.
It is generally assumed that Ray Martin never conducted the NVO - this is incorrect, because he conducted at least two programmes in April 1951.
Shortly after this Vilèm Tausky became the permanent conductor, with Alyn Ainsworth as his assistant.
It is generally agreed that this potent combination of conductors shaped the direction of the band and instilled in them that “second best” would not do, making them in many people’s eyes the best big band the BBC ever had.
Johnny Roadhouse when asked what single thing made the band so good, he simply replied, Alyn Ainsworth - a great tribute to a wonderful conductor and arranger from an exceptional musician.
In 1956, the BBC disbanded the NVO strings and the Northern Dance Orchestra ( the NDO ) was born.
The BBC Northern Dance Orchestra In its heyday rivalled the Ted Heath Orchestra for being the best in the land. They were one of the finest accompaniment units.
Eartha Kitt has recorded a glowing tribute to them in this role, as well as many other artists who have ever experienced their immaculate vocal backings - (see “soloists” page)
Syd Lawrence was a member for many years and always talked about how good the NDO were, and how they inspired him to form his own orchestra. (When Syd died, his band was taken over by trombonist Chris Dean, and it still flourishes today.) Syd did many wonderful arrangements for the NDO before he left.
The Orchestra, under its inspirational MD, Alyn Ainsworth, quickly established an enviable reputation as an ensemble to be reckoned with, in an enormous range of BBC programmes.
It quickly became, in the view of many both inside and outside broadcasting, arguably the finest ensemble of its kind in the United Kingdom.
However, it was the advent of the radio show "Make Way For Music" which made the NDO a household name, with announcer Roger Moffat, together with vocalists Sheila Buxton and Roberto Cardinale.
Barney Colehan took "Make Way For Music" lock stock and barrel on to Television, and from the moment Roger Moffat made his opening announcement: "Ladies and Gentlemen, whoever you are, wherever you are, Make Way For Music" - the programme became a "must watch" icon.