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Glenn Miller Orchestra
About the Event
A legend lives on as the Glenn Miller Orchestra presents seven decades of hits. The 18-member ensemble just celebrated its 65th anniversary in 2021 and continues to play many of the original Miller arrangements alongside more modern selections performed in the distinctive Miller style and sound, where the clarinet holds the melodic line—doubled or coupled with the tenor sax playing the same notes—with harmonies produced by three other saxophones as growling trombones and wailing trumpets add their “oo-ahs.”
The first Glenn Miller Orchestra did not make it at all. It was a total and absolute economic failure. But Miller knew what he wanted, held to that dedication, and relentlessly worked to succeed. He launched his second band—the one that lives on today—in March of 1938. The Glenn Miller Orchestra has been a “hit” ever since.
The legendary Glenn Miller was one of the most successful of all dance bandleaders back in the Swing Era of the 1930s and ’40s. A matchless string of hit records, the constant impact of radio broadcasts, and the drawing power at theaters, hotels, and dance pavilions built and sustained the momentum of popularity.
Miller disbanded his musical organization in 1942 at the height of its popularity to volunteer for the U.S. Army. There, he organized and led the famous Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. It went to Europe to entertain members of the armed forces, performing numerous live and radio shows. On December 15, 1944, Major Miller took off in a single engine plane bound for France and disappeared over the English Channel, never to be seen again. The Army declared him officially dead a year later.
With the release of the 1954 major motion movie The Glenn Miller Story, featuring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson, interest and popular demand led the Miller Estate to authorize the formation of the present Glenn Miller Orchestra. On June 6, 1956, and under the direction of drummer Ray McKinley, who had become the unofficial leader of the Army Air Force Band after Miller’s disappearance, the reformed Glenn Miller Orchestra performed its first concert and has been on the road ever since. Other leaders have followed McKinley, including clarinetists Buddy DeFranco and Peanuts Hucko; trombonists Buddy Morrow, Jimmy Henderson, Larry O’Brien, and Gary Tole; and tenor saxophonist Dick Gerhart. Since January 2012, vocalist Nick Hilscher has led the band.
Back in the big band era, the major dance bands each had a distinctive theme song—a musical signature with which it signed on and signed off. The theme of Glenn Miller and His Orchestra was the beautiful “Moonlight Serenade,” and it is still the signature tune of the Glenn Miller Orchestra today. Interestingly, Miller originally wrote the music of the song himself as an exercise for a course in arranging. Today, it is considered a standard in the field of popular music. And the Glenn Miller Orchestra remains among the most sought-after big bands in the world.