sweet sounds : the glenn miller orchestra!

10 July 2013

glenn miller band, circa 1939

i think my love for the glenn miller orchestra can be traced back to a cassette tape that was on heavy rotation in my childhood - jive bunny and the mastermixers: the album. to this day, i love me a good mashup, and track number six was glenn miller medley (though glenn miller's in the mood is the back bone to jive bunny's swing the mood, which actually hit number 1 on the billboard charts in the uk). when i was in high school, we played in the mood in band class, and a couple years later i acquired a 20th century masters collection of the glenn miller orchestra, and found that the familiar music was already very close to my heart. 

as the soundtrack to my love of all things of the WWII era, glenn miller's songs are some of the 'most-played' in my itunes library - and my personal favourite record i've ever purchased was their 1939 carnegie hall recording. when my mom told me that the current glenn miller orchestra would be visiting the winspear centre this summer, i knew that i simply had to get tickets. 

the original glenn miller orchestra was active from 1939-1942, when miller joined the american war effort. miller led a marching band in the air force from 1942-1944, until he went missing in action in december of 1944. a 'ghost band' re-formed in 1946 and toured for four years under the leadership of tex beneke, a sax player from glenn miller's original band. the current ensemble has been touring since 1956, and currently tours for forty-eight weeks per year. you can read much more about glenn miller and his orchestra here and here. or, check out the 1954 film, the glenn miller story, starring jimmy stewart and june allyson.

the glenn miller orchestra at the winspear centre - july 4, 2013

the show was fabulous. i was especially excited that they had a female vocalist with them, with a crystal-clear voice that suited the style perfectly. during some songs, three of the musicians joined the conductor and female vocalist to sing in harmony for songs like i got a gal (in kalamazoo), chattanooga choo choo and don't sit under the apple tree. it was a sold out show, and although i was expecting a few more people around my age bracket (most of the crowd was over 50), the audience was well engaged in the music and most everyone shouted pennsylvania 6-5000! when the time came. 

when he wasn't singing the male vocal lead, the conductor of the band shared history and facts about the orchestra between songs, and i was super stoked when he started spouting facts about the sun valley serenade soundtrack album - i just bought that album while at an antique shop in saskatchewan! i learned that the album had sold 1.2 million copies when it was first released in 1941, becoming the first gold record of all time. the first single from the soundtrack was chattanooga choo choo, which, if i could pick one, would be in close contention for my all-time favourite glenn miller song. 

each musician had a huge stack of yellowed sheet music on their stand which, we found out during the concert, was partially original sheet music, from as early as 1939, and included over 240 songs - nearly the complete glenn miller catalog. these little details, and the fun that all the musicians clearly had with the music, made for a captivating show that definitely did the music justice.

my partner in all things swing - erin! 

now for those of you who have yet to be acquianted to the classic glenn miller tunes, some of the most recognizable melodies are little brown jug, or in the mood, and don't sit under the apple tree is particularly charming (though the andrews sisters' version is probably more popular). to get you started on your glenn miller journey, here's a clip from sun valley serenade that is bound to steal your heart...

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