The Glenn Miller Orchestra will be returning to the Brubeck Theatre on the campus of Wabash Valley College for a 7:30 p.m. performance on Tuesday, May 8.
The legendary Glenn Miller was one of the most successful of all the dance bandleaders back in the Swing era of the 1930’s and 1940’s. His music lives on through the most popular big band in the world today.
The 19-member band, which continues to play many of the original Miller arrangements that keep exciting fans, has been on the road longer and more continuously than any other Big Band ever. They travel over 100,000 miles each year, playing nearly 300 dates.
More than 500,000 people annually attend performances of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. The orchestra has performed in all 50 United States, as well as throughout Europe, Australia, Iceland, New Zealand, Guam, the Philippines, South and Central America.
A matchless string of hit records, the constant impact of radio broadcasts, and the drawing power at theatres, hotels, and dance pavilions built and sustained the momentum of popularity of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. The orchestra has always been very musical, disciplined, and visually entertaining. And it has its own distinctive “sound.” That sound is created by the clarinet holding the melodic line, doubled or coupled with the tenor sax playing the same notes, and the harmonies produced by three other saxophones, while growling trombones and wailing trumpets add their oo-ahs.
Back in the days of the big-band era of the forties, any dance band “worth its salt” had a distinctive theme song. It was the musical signature with which they signed on and signed off at their
engagements and radio broadcasts. The theme of Glenn Miller and his Orchestra was the beautiful Moonlight Serenade, and it is still the signature tune of the orchestra today. Interestingly enough, Glenn Miller originally wrote the music of the song himself as an exercise for a course in arranging. He composed it long before he organized his band, when he was a trombonist and arranger with Ray Noble’s famous band. Today, it is considered a standard in the field of popular music with its popularity as an instrumental continuing undiminished through the years.
Glenn Miller disbanded his musical organization in 1942, at the height of its popularity, volunteered for the Army and then organized and led the famous Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. It went to Europe to entertain servicemen, and then, on December 15, 1944, Major Miller took off in a single-engine plane from England to precede his band to France, never to be seen again. The Army declared him officially dead a year later.
Because of popular demand, the Miller Estate authorized the formation of the present Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1956 under the direction of drummer Ray McKinley, who had become the unofficial leader of the Army Air Force Band after Glenn’s disappearance. Since then, other leaders have followed Ray, including clarinetists Buddy DeFranco and Peanuts Hucko, trombonists Buddy Morrow and Jimmy Henderson, tenor saxophonist Dick Gerhart, trombonist Larry O’Brien, and vocalist Nick Hilscher.
Nick Hilscher underscores his dedication to maintaining the Miller aura: “Some of the more modern part of our repertoire we play in the big-band style. Some we don’t. What we’re trying to do is run this band the way we feel Glen would have if he were still here.” That the Miller sound still lives on is no surprise to Hilscher. “It seems that good things just don’t ever die. Rather, they age gracefully and mellow with the years. If anything, I honestly think the authentic Glenn Miller music today is more popular with more people than ever before.”
In addition to the original band’s arrangements, today’s orchestra is playing more modern selections in the big-band style, carefully selecting only those newer tunes that lend themselves naturally to the Miller style and sound, carefully selected pieces that will stay around. The entire repertoire, which now exceeds 1,700 compositions, keeps the band popular with both young and old.
Most of the band’s shows are sell-outs. It has proven staying power, and its popularity has never seemed to wane. Indeed, the Glenn Miller Orchestra today is still the most sought-after big band in the world just as it was in Glenn’s day.
Wabash Valley College and the Wabash Valley Arts Council are pleased to bring back the Glenn Miller Orchestra, which will include selections from the Glenn Miller Orchestra library, as a part of this year’s Performing Arts Series. Tickets are $12.00 and are available by calling 618-263-5124. Patron Passes will be honored.