ANDERSON – Excitement is building as The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra will fill the Paramount Tuesday with jazz music in a style celebrated for thrilling audiences all over the country, not to mention Europe, Australia, Iceland, New Zealand, Guam, the Philippines, and South and Central America.
“Big bands are part of the history of this theatre,” said Ann Hardacre, board member. “Big bands played here when it opened and, for a time, performed every Wednesday. It’s hard to book them because of the expense, but we wanted to do something for our biggest supporters – and they are interested in big bands.”
While the first Glenn Miller Orchestra was a complete economic failure, his second band, which began in 1938, still lives today. A top dance bandleader during the era of swing in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the band enjoyed the success of hit records, drawing power at performances and wild popularity.
Disbanding in 1942 to volunteer for the army, Miller then assembled the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. During a trip to Europe, Major Miller disappeared over the English Channel and was later declared dead.
Interest in the band revived after the release of the movie The Glenn Miller Story featuring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson in 1954. This prompted the Miller Estate to authorize the formation of the band that travels today.
Having toured since 1956, the Glenn Miller Orchestra has had several music directors. Vocalist Nick Hilscher currently leads the 18-member ensemble of five saxophone players, four trumpeters, four trombonists, three rhythm musicians and two vocalists.
“The fans from that generation wanted the band to continue and it really is amazing that seventy years later the band is still extremely popular,” said Hilscher. “I think that the music certainly is the leading element in the equation, but it’s the way in which the Glenn Miller Orchestra has always presented the music that has kept it fresh and exciting all of these years and keeps us popular throughout the world.”
Each year they cover over a hundred thousand miles, working almost every night for 48 weeks in front of more than a half million people.
“Although this entails a LOT of traveling, the fact that I’m performing a live stage show and making music almost every night keeps me going,” said Hilscher. “It really is a wonderful life for those who are ‘made’ for such a thing.”
Opening for the most sought-after big band in the world is the jazz band from Lapel High School.
“We were asked by Ann Hardacre and I jumped at the chance,” said Greg Scott, band director for the school. “To me it is an extreme honor. We’ve always had a close association with the Paramount. We perform during the Festival of the Trees every year and used to stage our spring concert there when we didn’t have an auditorium.”
The jazz band plays during some basketball games, but mostly performs for local clubs and churches. Annually they host a dinner and performance in conjunction with the show choir to raise funds for community concerns.
“In this particular event, the students are going to be able to perform on stage, get a feel for what it’s like to be up there and then immediately watch the most famous big band in the country follow them,” he said. “Because our band is an extracurricular group, we don’t have time to do much jazz improvisation. Watching the Glenn Miller Orchestra will be a great experience for them.”
“I’ve worked in theatres since I was four years old and my husband and I were among the original group of people that decided to start restoring the Paramount,” said Hardacre. “It’s important to keep bringing things to the theatre that make people want to come in the doors.”
The big band series will continue with the Sunset Stomp Band performing under Robin Hopkins’ direction on April 24. The final installment will be the Larry Mechem Band and will feature vocalist Linda Kristy of Las Vegas on May 15.
“(Jazz/swing music is) truly is the music of America,” said Hilscher. “It evolved here and is part of who we are as a nation. Even folks who do not see themselves as fans of jazz have certainly been influenced by it in one form or other. The music of the big band era is ‘happy’ music. It’s dance music. It’s romantic as well. The music of this era has the perfect match of melody, harmony, and rhythm.”