Big Band Boulevard
Program #23 (October 13, 2019 at 6 p.m.)
Big Band and swing tunes with featured bandleader Glenn Miller. Also selections from Count Basie, Erskine Hawkins, and Chick Webb.
Miller’s reign at the top of the popular music charts came relatively late in his career, and he stunned the music world by disbanding his orchestra and enlisting in the army in the fall of 1942. As he wrote on August 12, attempting to persuade officials of his usefulness, he wanted to “put a little more spring into the feet of our marching men and a little more joy into their hearts” as well as to modernize the band. To that end, and to raise millions of dollars for the war effort, he spent October 1942 to December 1944 leading the all-star Army Air Force Band, a 42-piece orchestra with a 19-piece swing band at its core. The band was made up of some of the best players from the classical and jazz fields, and its varied repertoire was well suited to Miller’s own ambitions as a leader and arranger.
When Miller boarded a London-to-Paris military flight on Dec. 15, 1944, he transcended his celebrity status to become a figure of American myth. No trace of the plane was ever discovered, and Miller’s fate has been the topic of much speculation, including theories ranging from bad weather to an accidental hit by British bombers jettisoning their payloads over the English Channel. Miller’s death came as a shock to his fans throughout the world, as well as to American servicemen who ranked Miller with Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters as the war’s greatest morale boosters.