The Glenn Miller Orchestra celebrates one of the most renowned big band orchestra leaders of the 1940s.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
When Nick Hilscher was 11, he saw The Glenn Miller Story starring Jimmy Stewart and his path in life changed forever.
“I just fell in love with that style and period of music,” he says. “I already loved to sing and perform in the living room.”
Miller’s story intrigued the young performer: The prominent orchestra leader of 1930s and 40s big band swing – whose signature sound consists of four saxophones playing harmony alongside one lead clarinet providing melody – sold millions of recordings before mysteriously disappearing in 1944 on a plane en route to Paris from Great Britain.
At 21, Hilscher won the part of male vocalist in the Glenn Miller Orchestra – a conglomeration of 16 instrumentalists and a male and female vocalist that have been delivering Miller retrospectives worldwide since 1956.
The orchestra’s performance tonight at the Pacific Grove Performing Arts Center will feature Hilscher, now 35, as both a vocalist and orchestra director, dual roles he’s had now for a year.
One of the director’s duties involves constructing each night’s setlist. With so many hit tunes in Miller’s repertoire, the task can be daunting. But Hilscher says the classics like “Moonlight Serenade,” “A String of Pearls” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo” are included in every show. More than 70 years after many of these songs were written, they still permeate the air with romance.
In contrast to Hilscher’s dynamic pipes, Julia Rich, the group’s female vocalist, brings a delicate softness on tunes like “Just Friends” that evokes the feeling of a calm after a storm.
“A band ought to have a sound all of its own,” Miller himself once said. “It ought to have a personality.”
Hilscher and the current incarnation of the orchestra certainly seemed to listen – as have audiences across the country.
GLENN MILLER ORCHESTRA performs at 7pm Thursday, Nov. 1, Performing Arts Center, 835 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove. $25. 855-237-3362, www.performingartscenterpg.org