Glenn Miller Orchestra ready for Egyptian show
The Glenn Miller Orchestra has seen its share of shows. Originally founded by its late bandleader Glenn Miller in 1938, the group has played almost continuously since, pausing only for a five-year stretch between 1951 and 1956, and according to current bandleader and trombonist Larry O’Brien, the band isn’t slowing down.
"We’re always on tour," he said. "We work 300 dates a year."
The schedule means the group spends 48 weeks performing each year.
"We’ve been doing that since we reformed in 1956," O’Brien said.
This weekend, the group will take its show to the Egyptian Theatre for two performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. April 30, presented by the Egyptian Theatre Company.
O’Brien said the show would offer the best of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. A pioneer in the swing era, the band penned numerous hits and some of the more distinctive big-band tunes from the 1930s and ’40s; the group’s set lists reflect that era.
"We do all the records that people are familiar with," said O’Brien.
Some of the group’s most prominent songs include "In the Mood," "Moonlight Serenade" and "Pennsylvania 6-5000," among many others, but O’Brien said that no set song would appear in every show.
"We alternate," he explained. "We can’t do all the hits every night."
The group also includes tunes from others, from Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey to the occasional Frank Sinatra song. O’Brien explained that while the orchestra’s focus remains on Miller, a variety of styles fit with the group’s format.
"I have two very fine vocalists, and I would not shackle them to just one kind of tune," he said.
Regardless of what kind of songs the orchestra plays, O’Brien said fans shouldn’t expect a normal, run-of-the-mill big-band concert. While many groups use a swing-orchestra arrangement, playing the same classic songs, O’Brien promised that the Glenn Miller Orchestra would set itself apart.
"We play them like we’re playing them for the first time," O’Brien said. "If we don’t play [them] better than anyone else in the world, then we’re not doing our job."
The band remains almost exactly the same as it was in Miller’s time. The only difference is an additional trombone in the current lineup, O’Brien’s, and the lack of a guitar player.
In total, the group includes O’Brien, male and female vocalists, five saxophonists, four trombone players (aside from O’Brien) a pianist, a drummer and a stand-up bass player. The group first originated when Miller set out to make a new sound in 1938, continuing, with success, through the start of the Second World War, when Miller joined the United States Army to lead the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band until a plane on which Miller was flying disappeared over France in December of 1944.
The band continued through 1951 under the direction of lead saxophonist Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, and after disbanding, reformed in 1956, again under the direction of McKinley. Since 1956, O’Brien is the group’s seventh leader.
"It’s something I take very seriously," he said. "I’m trying to carry on his (Miller’s) music and trying to do it with the same talent and expertise and passion that he did."
He said the band carries on the Miller tradition.
The band’s shows offer different attractions for different people. Older listeners will hear something that will remind them of their youth, he noted, while younger fans will get a view of the hit music from an earlier era.
Either audience will get to hear some swinging tunes.
"If people want to hear the old-fashioned big band the way it used to be, and the way it should be today, you should come see the Glenn Miller Orchestra," said O’Brien.
The Glenn Miller Orchestra will play at the Egyptian Theatre at 2 and 7:30 p.m., April 30. Tickets for the shows range from $12-$27 and are available from the Egyptian Theatre box office at 649-9371 or http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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