The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, Music in the Glenn Miller Mood, Fairfield Hall, Croydon - 1970 003
Pages 2 and 3 of a programme for a performance of 'Music In The Glen Miller Mood' by the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, at Fairfield Hall, Croydon, 1970. Syd Lawrence's career and performances of Glenn Miller's music is profiled on page 2, with a photograph of Lawrence on page 3.
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One of the most fascinating and fantastic successes in the world of music must be the meteoric rise to fame of the Syd Lawrence Orchestra. Syd has captured the imagination of the public in such a short space of time with his uncannily authentic recreation of the great Glenn Miller Orchestra with its distinctive sax sound blended with the clarinet lead and the precision controlled brass.
His first interest in music was as a boy cornet-player in a brass band, but his interest very soon changed to dance music. The war years found Syd in the RAF and a posting overseas, where he spent three years with the Middle East Command Dance Orchestra. During this period he gained his first arranging experience.
After being demobbed, Syd Lawrence continued his career back home with name bands such as Teddy Foster, Nat Temple, Ken Mackintosh, Cyril Stapleton and Geraldo. During this period he also enjoyed a spell as leader of his own jazz sextet.
It was in 1954 that he went to the then Northern Variety Orchestra, later to be re-titled the NDO, with whom he found roots, staying for 15 years, a term broken only by the huge commercial success of his 'hobby', the Miller-styled orchestra he formed in late 1967. Taking four key men and using other Manchester musicians he had known over a period of years Lawrence began rehearsals in a room over a pub in Didsbury.
What happened afterwards is almost common knowledge. The crowds grew, and after three successive moves to bigger premises they were forced to take to the concert halls for their shows. In mid 1969 Lawrence resigned from the NDO and formed his 18 piece orchestra and began building an extensive library of arrangements. Working from original 1939-42 recordings, he diligently and faithfully reproduced the Miller sound, winning immediate praise from the Glenn Miller Society, ever conscious of high standard of quality.
Appearances on TV, sell-out concerts at London's Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall and the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, and a best-selling album "Syd Lawrence with the Glenn Miller Sound", for Fontana Special, established the band on a national level.
Forty-seven-year-old Lawrence first became interested in the Miller sound in 1940. "Here was an excellent band playing marvellous arrangements which not only made a great hit with the general public, but also appealed to musicians," he explains. "This in itself was and still is unique .
It has been said that the main reason for the band's success is that they are serving up nostalgia for an age group which has been neglected for the past two decades. But the appeal of the Lawrence band is far wider: an increasing number of young people are coming to hear this unique big band sound as a contrast to their daily diet of pop. And they are liking it.
Since the band made its debut in 1968, much has happened. There have been regular BBC radio spots, a Saturday Spectacular on Granada TV, special features on two series of Yorkshire TV's Les Dawson show "Sez Les", a Syd Lawrence Band Show in colour for YTV and many more packed concerts throughout the country.
On the recording front, the band has been busy also. Following the great success ofthe'r Fontana
LP came a recent Philips double-album "More Miller And Other Big Band Magic in which Syd
devotes one LP to Miller Material he didn't get around to on the first LP, and the other to tunes made famous by Miller's contemporaries. Included are great hit numbers of the bands of Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Les Brown, Count Basie, Charlie Barnet, Woody Herman and Gene Krupa. Future plans include an LP featuring the present day hits of Lennon/McCartney, Burt Bacharach and Henry Mancim. Syd is delighted with the prospect of demonstrating a new facet of the band's ability, but affirms that there is no chance of his deserting the Miller style in these musical scores.
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