Swing Band Vocal String Orchestra
USO Swing Band gets you in the mood to let the good times roll again! Dance away with the USO 20 piece swing band featuring a string quartet, vocal duo, a 4 piece live band and a 9 piece horn section, performing favourite swing classics including Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole. The Swing Band Vocal String Orchestra consist of musicians of an amazing pedigree, who between them have performed and recorded most of the major artists of our time. Artists some of the players currently work with include Professor Green, Incognito and The Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.
The USO Swing Band Vocal String Orchestra can also play an instrumental set to warm up the crowd, featuring classics from films, musicals and the golden age of song, from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, to George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Songs by modern day swingers such as Robbie Williams and Michael Buble also make an appearance in this all-star line up.
Exclusive repertoire and versatile sound with classic and beautiful service, followed by an uplifting and fun reception.
Standard Length of Performance:
Big Swing Band: 90 minute Set
Our Artist Spotlight feature is where we focus on one of our performers, giving you the chance to find out more about the people behind the performances, and offering an insight into the world of entertainment bookings. Here’s our Artist Spotlight on USO – Swing Band Vocal String Orchestra:
USO is run by Musical Director Stephen and Manager Natasha, with support from their Events and Marketing Assistant, Nikki. Stephen started up the orchestra in 1993 as a vehicle for his unique string arrangements, providing orchestral backing for recording sessions, TV, and live shows for top recording artists, including Soul II Soul, Kyle Minogue, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Grace Jones and many more. The group quickly gained recognition for their work, and were invited by Oasis to arrange the strings for their second studio album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, and perform at the launch for the album. Soon after, Mariah Carey invited USO to perform for her Christmas party, and so the group made the natural transition into performing live for events.
So what training is involved in working with some of the leading musicians in the UK music Industry? USO’s Musical Director Stephen studied both the violin and the piano at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and Manager Natasha gained an MA/LBB and undertook an internship at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington Dc. During her internship she was lucky enough to work on the largest annual cultural event in the US capital, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, something she classes as an invaluable experience. “If you are just starting out, do consider work experience. I personally benefited immeasurably from my own internship working on one of the biggest festivals in the world.”
Natasha also impresses the importance of hard work and a passion for working with people. “Don’t do it unless you are ok with late nights and a lot of sleep deprivation!” she jokes. “Do do it if you work hard, have a positive attitude, and understand the importance of relationships, with both clients and musicians. We try to exceed our clients’ expectations on every event, whilst also keeping our musicians happy so that they have that ‘USO vibe’ that we pride ourselves on. It ensures that all of our musicians can give their best for our clients while on stage.”
Anybody who has worked or is looking to work as a professional musician knows that the hours can be long, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to compromise your social life or personal relationships in order to get ahead. Natasha believes that working to such a busy schedule only increases the need for close relationships within the group and within the industry as a whole, “I think in this industry you have to love you job, as it is going to take up most of your time. In terms of social life, it is fortuitous that we have become close friends with many of the musicians and also some of the regular clients we work with. It sounds corny, but as we are regularly on tour with the musicians, spending hours together in various green rooms, we have become a bit of an extended family and everyone looks out for one another”, she explains. But the rewards for working so hard are bigger too. “I think it differs from other jobs in that the hours are longer but the highs can be higher. There can’t be many jobs more satisfying than performing for a live audience and giving them the best night of their lives.”
USO receive glowing feedback from our clients; their ability to provide a variety of fresh and innovative urban musicians is second to none, covering everything from swing bands to DJ sets, and is one of their unique selling points. “Contraband understand our unique USP, which is the ability to provide many different styles of music for one event, making us the first band of choice for many event organisers particularly when travelleing is an issue.” Another valuable asset is their flexibility in the size of the group that they can provide, from 2 to 20 musicians. This is something that they have particularly developed over the recession, finding that they had to be more resourceful to ensure they were still able to offer excellence to their clients, who were working to smaller budgets but still wanted to be able to provide high quality musicians to their events. This has included creating a little version of their Big Band, making it more economical to transport for international event (one of the reasons the group is so popular for overseas especially Europe).
With so many events under their belt, naturally we wanted to find out what their favourite events for Contraband have been!
“There have been many highlights, including a chill out set in Zermatt (in winter, yes it was very chilly!); a 16-piece swing band at The Swan at The Globe; performances at some of the most prestigious venues in the UK, including Chewton Glen, as well as some of London’s, most iconic landmarks, such as the Oxo Tower; performing at the dizzy heights of Sushi Samba on the 39th floor of the Heron Tower and playing in sunny Monaco just a few weeks ago.”
Alongside their corporate work, USO regularly performs alongside major recording artists, both in the studio and on tour. This means that they never have to look far for inspiration. “We are blessed to be constantly surrounded by music as we work regularly recording strings for some of the coolest names in the music industry – Groove Armada, Maxi Priest, Nightmares on Wax, Nitin Sawhney and Robert Miles, to name a few. We’re also fortunate enough in our live event work to support many of the artists we admire, so have the opportunity to see them live. Recently this has included Bryan Ferry, Beverley Knight, The Noisttes and Cee Lo Green. One of our favourite new artists is Laura Mvula, who we just supported at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Many of our own musicians also perform regularly with big name artists so we are sometimes lucky enough to be invited along. Our vocalist Sarah Jane Skeete is Robbie Williams’ backing singer, so we went to see him (supported by Olly Murs) at Wembley last week, he is an amazing showman. Similarly, our percussionist Davide was performing at the fantastic new Love Supreme Festival last weekend, so we saw the SUPERB Gregory Porter – words just can’t describe the talent and presence of this man.”
But despite having the opportunity to work alongside such recognised artists, Natasha says that the main inspiration of their work comes from the regular event work they do. “It sounds cheesy, but our most important source of inspiration is from our clients! It is through their suggestions and feedback that we have developed all of our unique ensembles.”
USO uses this inspiration to constantly feed their creative juices, and develop new acts. They’re currently developing their Little Swing Band for a debut at The Savoy next month, which will feature Stefan Booth, the star male lead in the West End hit Chicago in 2012. Alongside this, they’re looking forward to start work on producing their own original album.
¶ Perform the favourite swing classics
¶ Musicians of an amazing pedigree
¶ Will leave your guests amazed
Tell a friend
Here’s what USO – Swing Band Vocal String Orchestra’s clients said:
I absolutely loved the music last night as did our guests. The orchestra were fantastic, the perfect background to the wonderful setting.
USO were great to work with, true professionals and fantastic musicians – my clients were delighted!.
Freese Event Management Ltd
The party we held in Vincy in honour of Lord Weidenfeld’s birthday was a great success, and our guests were amazed by the wonderful music and atmosphere. We really enjoyed hearing you, and we would surely recommend you.
I just want to say a huge thank you – USO’s performance was amazing!
A huge ‘Thank You’ to you and the rest of USO – you were all absolutely fantastic, and we’ve had so many great reports from our guests who all thought you were super! You went over and above all expectations.
The Lawn Tennis Association Wimbledon Ball
I just wanted to email to say a HUGE thank you to you and the USO on the fashion shoot on Wednesday. Thank you for all your help in pulling in a very good-looking group of men. They provided a stunning centrepiece to the shoot. The crew wanted to cry when they started playing in the field at Osterley Park, it was amazing. The director was so pleased, and it was just what she had imagined in her head. I think all the girls want to have them at their weddings to play!
The band were very well received. They were very nice to work with, were presented very well and 100% met the brief. One delegate said that they played the room very well – started off mellow and then worked them into the mood to go out…(you get me!). I even heard one of the delegates chatting about booking them for her wedding!! I thought they were brilliant.
A Little Bird (via Contraband)
USO were great, they were extremely professional and literally just got on with the rehearsals and the gig itself without needing much input from me at all so I was very grateful for that!
Travel Counsellors Ltd (via Contraband)
The event went really well thank you! USO were brilliant you were so right I was really impressed with them. So impressed that I wanted to talk to you about using them for another event. Thank you so much for suggesting them they were absolutely perfect for what we wanted. You are a star!
Euromoney Trading Ltd (via Contraband)
I was more than happy with all of it…..The band were amazing, and Banbury was great too…..Thanks again for everything- I couldn’t have done it without you!!
Incentivise Ltd (via Contraband)
USO – Swing Band Vocal String Orchestra’s Previous Clients:
Gian-Luca Vialli (Chelsea FC) wedding
Alan White (Oasis) wedding
Juliana Ratner (CNN Newsreader) wedding
Peter Andre & Jordan wedding
Cannes Film Festival
‘Nine’ Film Launch
Basel Art Fair
Lord Norman Foster
Gartner Winner’s Circle Gala
USO – Swing Band Vocal String Orchestra’s Repertoire:
USO Swing Band – Set 1
(60 mins instrumental)
American Patrol – Glenn Miller
Bare Necessities – Terry Gilkyson (From ‘The Jungle Book’)
Theme from ‘Pink Panther’ – Henry Mancini
Phantom of the Opera Medley – Andrew Lloyd Weber
James Bond theme (Dr No) – Monty Norman
‘Music from Chicago’ – Medley from the film
Theme from the Avengers – Howard Blake
Birdland – Weather Report
I Loves You Porgy – George Gershwin (Ballad From ‘Porgy & Bess’)
As Time Goes By – Herman Hupfield (Big Band Instrumental ballad
What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
Moonlight Serenade – Glenn Miller
Little Brown Jug – Glenn Miller
Pennsylvania 6500 – Glenn Miller
Theme From ‘Naked Gun’ – Ira Newborn
Theme from ‘Strictly come dancing’ – Dan McGrath / Josh Philips
USO Swing Band – Set 2
(75 mins Vox.)
In The Mood – Glenn Miller (Instrumental)
I’m Feeling Good – Michael Buble (Female Vocal)
You Make Me Feel So Young – Frank Sinatra (Male Vocal)
They Can’t Take That Away from Me – Robbie Williams (M/F Vocal Duet)
A Foggy Day – George Gershwin (Female Vocal)
Fly Me To The Moon – Frank Sinatra (Male Vocal)
Beyond the Sea – Bobby Darin (Male Vocal)
My Funny Valentine – Ella & Louis (M/F Vocal Duet)
When I Fall In Love – Nat King Cole (Female Vocal)
Unforgettable – Nat & Nat King Cole (M/F Vocal Duet)
The Best Is Yet To Come – Frank Sinatra (Female Vocal)
All or Nothing at All – Frank Sinatra (Female Vocal)
The Way You Look Tonight – Frank Sinatra (Female Vocal)
Mack The Knife – Robbie Williams (Female Vocal)
Let’s Face the Music & Dance – Nat King Cole (Male Vocal)
Makin’ Whoppee – Dr John & Rickie Lee Jones (M/F Vocal Duet)
Have You Met Miss Jones – Robbie Williams (Male Vocal)
Baby It’s Cold Outside – Tom + Cerys (M/F Vocal Duet)
Let the Good Times Roll – Ray Charles (M/F Vocal Duet)
You’ve got a friend in me – Randy Newman (M/F Vocal Duet)
Hit the Road Jack – Ray Charles (M/F Vocal Duet)
Video of USO – Swing Band Vocal String Orchestra