Swingin’ In Fredonia

FREDONIA – More than 70 years after its creation, the Glenn Miller Orchestra is still one of the most popular and sought-after big bands in the world. As part of its fall season tour, the orchestra will perform at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m.

With its unique sound, the Glenn Miller Orchestra is considered to be one of the greatest bands of all time. The orchestra was formed in 1938 and has been touring all around the world, in some form, nearly continuously ever since. The 19-member band continues to play many of the original Miller arrangements. The group also performs more modern selections in the big-band style, carefully selecting only those newer tunes that naturally lend themselves to the Miller style and sound. The repertoire, which now exceeds 1,700 compositions, keeps the band popular with young and old alike.

Glenn Miller was one of the most successful of all the dance band leaders in the swing era of the 1930s and ’40s. With a matchless string of hit records, Miller’s band played to sold-out audiences everywhere and his music dominated the airwaves.

Miller disbanded his musical organization at the height of its popularity in 1942, volunteered for the Army and then organized and led the famous Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. The band went to Europe to entertain servicemen; and then on Dec. 15, 1944, Miller took off in a single-engine plane from England to precede his band to France. He was never 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 Miller’s disappearance. Since then, other leaders have followed McKinley including current music director, vocalist Nick Hilscher.

The orchestra’s music, which evokes romance and patriotism, dates from the 1940s, but big band swing is a “young man’s game.” Anyone expecting to see a band of graying old men on the stage is in for a surprise. Most of the musicians in the Glenn Miller Orchestra are still in their 20s; and many of these very talented musicians have trained at some of the most prestigious music schools in the country.

The ensemble consists of five saxophone players, four trumpeters, four trombonists, three rhythm musicians and two vocalists. It is a combination initiated by Miller back in 1938 that would set his band apart from the rest and that still works today. Concertgoers can expect to hear many of the band’s signature songs including “Tuxedo Junction,” “In the Mood,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” “String of Pearls,” “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” and its theme song “Moonlight Serenade.”

“The music was smooth as honey, sharp as a tack and oh so classy,” says one recent reviewer. “From a beautiful opening ‘Moonlight Serenade’ and ‘In the Mood,’ the band jumped into a fast-paced evening of jazz, swing, timeless classics and traditional big band numbers. This proves why it’s still the most sought-after big band around.”

Tickets for the Glenn Miller Orchestra are $27 reserved seating ($25 for Opera House members) and may be purchased in person at the Opera House Box Office or by phone at 679-1891, Tuesday-Friday, 1-5 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online anytime at www.fredopera.org.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra is part of the Spotlight Series of events, which is generously sponsored by DFT Communications. In addition, this event is supported with public funds from NYSCA, a state agency, and the United Arts Appeal of Chautauqua County.

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House is a member-supported not-for-profit organization located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia. A complete schedule of Opera House events is available at www.fredopera.org.