King Of Swing Lives On

In The Mood: Bosque Arts Center Troubadour Series presents iconic 1940s sound with the World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra in Frazier Performance Hall Feb. 17

CLIFTON – More than any musical ensemble, Bandleader Glenn Miller and his Big Band Orchestra inspired the World War II generation and boosted morale with many, many number one hit chart songs. There isn’t a WWII movie without the iconic swing music he made mainstream, like “In The Mood” and “Moonlight Serenade.” And then there’s the fun “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.”

Keeping the King of Swing’s legacy alive, the Bosque Arts Center Troubadour Series presents the World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra Feb. 17 at the Frazier Performance Hall at 7 p.m. Tickets at $50 or $75 for the concert are now on sale through the BAC website and office. Visit Bosqueartscenter.org or call 254 675-3724.

Miller, a highly successful bandleader, arranger, composer and trombonist, was most popular in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Then in 1942, Miller enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to lead the Army Air Force Band at Yale which was a Cadet training area at the time. Miller proceeded to collect as many first-rate musicians as possible; some were from his group, many came from other bands. He also added a string section, getting many players from the country’s best symphony orchestras.

The outfit, officially known as the 418th Army Air Forces Band, was activated on March 20, 1943 with permanent station at Yale. The band managed to combine traditional military duties – playing at retreat parades and at review formations on the Yale Green – with performing at dances, open houses, parties, and luncheons, and on radio, over which Miller’s musicians broadcasted I Sustain the Wings, a series designed to boost Air Force recruitment.

In less than one year, the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band engaged in over 800 performances. Of these, 500 were broadcasts heard by millions. There were more than 300 personal appearances including concerts and dances, with a gross attendance of over 600,000. But Glenn was not to participate in the final six months of these activities.

In the Fall of 1944, the band was scheduled to be sent on a six-week tour of Europe and would be stationed in Paris during that time. Miller decided to go ahead, in order to make the proper arrangements for the group’s arrival. But on that fateful Dec. 15, Miller boarded a transport plane to Paris, never to arrive. It is assumed the low-flying plane – either to avoid bad weather or enemy aircraft – crashed in the British Channel.

To many listeners, jazz and swing were the same. But most fans found swing easier on the ear and more suitable for dancing because of the rhythm. The WWII movies and memories of couples jitterbugging to the swing tunes are etched in our memories.

Swing has appealed to many people through all the different music genres since the '30s. It even had a quirky revival in the 1990s with swing music infiltrating the Olympics, the Super Bowl, and even a U.S. presidential inauguration.

In 1954, Miller was the subject of a partly fictionalized film biography, The Glenn Miller Story, starring James Stewart which kept his musical legacy and memory alive. Additionally in 2003, Miller posthumously received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Miller had no pretensions of being too artistic to be popular, and gave his audience what they wanted. But he was quoted saying, “A band ought to have a sound all of its own. It ought to have a personality.”

It is said that Miller could never remember precisely the moment he decided to emphasize his new reed section sound. But it was during this disheartening interim that he realized the unique sound — produced by the clarinet holding the melodic line while the tenor sax plays the same note, and supported harmonically by three other saxophones — just might be the individual and easily recognizable style that would set his band apart from all the rest.

Miller's original recordings continue to sell millions of copies, and the Glenn Miller Band is delighted to play them over and over, for their audiences to enjoy. It is now more than 75 years since Glenn Miller first succeeded with the Orchestra, which still bears his name until this day. Except for a few years following his disappearance, Glenn’s orchestra and music have been heard around the world continuously since 1938.

With its unique jazz sound, the Glenn Miller Orchestra is considered to be one of the greatest bands of all time. The present Glenn Miller Orchestra was formed in 1956 and has been touring worldwide ever since – the longest touring big band.

Touring around the world as well as across the United States, this orchestra tours 48 weeks out of the year. Currently under the musical direction of saxophonist Erik Stabnau, the orchestra is accompanied by female vocalist Jenny Swoish.

A Western New York native, Stabnau learned to play the saxophone, flute, and clarinet in a variety of disciplines before developing an interest in the large ensembles of Ellington, Basie, Dorsey, Miller and others. He was thrilled with the opportunity to join the Glenn Miller Orchestra in June 2017 on tenor saxophone, playing the music and solos that Tex Beneke first made famous in the 1930s and 40s.

As a member of the band, Stabnau has performed across the US in 48 states and abroad in Canada and Japan and now is honored to step in front of the orchestra as its music director.

In his book “Glenn Miller & His Orchestra,” George Simon wrote this about the famous bandleader.

“His favorite author was Damon Runyon. His favorite book was the Bible. Spencer Tracy and Olivia de Havilland were his favorite movie actor and actress. His big loves were trout fishing, playing baseball, listening to good music, sleep and money. His pet hates were bad swing, early-morning telephone calls (he liked to sleep from 4 a.m. to noon), and the phrase ‘goodbye now’.

"His favorite quotation, one he stated, was not from the Bible, nor from Runyon, but from Duke Ellington was ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing If it Ain’t Got that Swing!’

Photos courtesy of BOSQUE ARTS CENTER & the GLENN MILLER ORCHESTRA

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