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Glenn Miller swings into Logan

Published: Monday, March 15, 2004

Updated: Monday, August 9, 2010 14:08

One of the oldest bands in the world performed Thursday night in the Ellen Eccles Theatre.

According to a press release, the 19-member Big Band Orchestra has been touring for more than 45 years. It continues to play many of the original Miller arrangements that excite old and new fans. The band's repertoire exceeds 1,700 compositions, including all the original charts from Glenn Miller's original civilian band and the Army Air Force Band.

"This is the orginal," said Lisette Miles, executive director of the Cache Valley Center for the Arts.

The band played more modern selections in big band style, selecting only newer tunes that suit the Miller style and sound.

"Mostly we play the old songs," said bandleader Larry O'Brien. "We manage to insert new ones from time to time, but these are songs that lend themselves to the Miller sound."

However, it's the simple sounds of the originals that present challenges, he said.

"They're like finely machined tools - all the parts fit perfectly," he said.

"Music is sometimes deceiving. It may be simple in that the notes aren't that hard or high or that fast, but I've always been of the opinion that simple music is the hardest to play. It's easy to put up a smoke screen with flashy music, but to play something really simple - together, everybody in tune, blending is quite hard," O'Brien said.

And they're still in tune. The Glenn Miller Orchestra today is still the most sought-after big band in the world, just as it was in the 1930s and '40s. The press release said the performers play nearly 300 days a year, bringing their sounds to more than a half million people around the world.

The first Glenn Miller Orchestra was a failure, but Miller was determined to succeed. He launched his second band - the one that exists today - in March of 1938.

Glenn Miller was one of the most successful dance bandleaders in the Swing era. A string of hit records, the constant impact of radio broadcasts and the drawing power at theaters, hotels, and dance pavilions built and sustained the momentum of his popularity.

Miller disbanded his music organization in 1942 at the height of its popularity, volunteered for the Army and then organized and led the famous Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. The band traveled to Europe to entertain servicemen. On Dec. 15, 1944, Major Miller took off in a single-engine plane from England to precede his band to France, never to be seen again. The U.S. Army declared him officially dead a year later.

Due to his popularity, 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 Glenn's disappearance. Since then, other leaders have followed McKinley, including clarinetists Buddy DeFranco and Peanuts Huncko, tenor saxophonist Dick Gerhart, trombonists Buddy Morrow and Jimmy Henderson and current bandleader Larry O'Brien.

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