The last of America’s touring big bands, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, will swing into Cameron for a Sunday afternoon concert at the Performing Arts Center. Sixteen musicians and three vocalists will perform original musical arrangements and compositions from both the civilian and Army Air Force Band’s libraries as well as more modern selections molded in the distinctive Miller style.
It was Miller’s second band, founded in 1938, that produced the matchless string of hit records: “In The Mood,” “A String Of Pearls,” “Moonlight Serenade,” and the first gold record ever awarded, for “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” The constant impact of radio broadcasts, gigs at theaters, hotels and dance pavilions built and sustained his success.
The band was at its height of popularity in 1942, when Miller disbanded to volunteer in the Army. His famous Army Air Force Band journeyed to Europe to entertain servicemen, performing near-continuous live and radio shows. On Dec. 15, 1944, Maj. Miller’s single-engine plane disappeared over the English Channel, and the Army officially declared him dead one year later. Jimmy Stewart starred in 1954’s box office smash: “The Glenn Miller Story,” and two years later, the reconstituted band, directed by drummer Ray McKinley, performed its first concert.
They’ve been on the road ever since, covering more than 100,000 miles each year with 300 playing dates, performing for an “in person” audience that totals more than a half-million annually.
The signature Miller sound is created by the clarinet playing the melodic line, doubled by tenor sax an octave below, harmonies produced by the other three saxes, growling trombones and wailing trumpets.
The current iteration of the Glenn Miller Orchestra is led by singer Nick Hilscher, who said he was “knocked out” by the group at an early age. “That band could swing — it changed my life when I was 11. I’d never heard anything like that kind of music.”