The Glenn Miller Orchestra is back out on the road as it has been for over 70 years and will be performing December 14th at the Harris Theater in Chicago. We talked with Erik Stabnau, the Glenn Miller Music Director about the history of the band and why the music is still as exciting in 2021 as it was back in the 1930’s and 40s’.
1. Talk about the history of the band and how it was re-stared after Glenn Miller’s
untimely death during WWII in 1944. Who initially started the band back up to pay
tribute to the music and how has it kept going after all of these years?
There was continued interest in Glenn Miller’s music even after his 1944 disappearance, and in 1956 the Glenn Miller Orchestra was reformed under the direction of Ray McKinley - drummer in Glenn’s band of the Army Air Forces. Ever since it’s reformation the band has kept a rigorous tour schedule typically performing over 200 shows per year across the US and abroad as audiences all over still come to hear the orchestra’s big hits.
2. In Chicago there are several swing bands that still perform regularly at clubs drawing large crowds on a weekly basis with an audience that spans many generations. What is it about Glenn Miller’s music that has stood the test of time?
Even with a relatively short career as bandleader from 1938 - 1944, Glenn Miller was able to record 59 top ten singles and 80 years after its release this music is still frequently heard on the radio, television, and in movies! It remains recognizable to both fans of big band music and those new to the genre and continues to transport audiences back in time with songs that are as nostalgic as they are exciting.
3. During 2020 and the early part of 2021 the COVID-19 pandemic closed venues and festivals across the world making it impossible for people to experience live music. A group like the Glenn Miller Orchestra plays so much during a normal touring year, what were some of the challenges during that time not knowing when live music would return to the world?
The orchestra only played one show in 2020 following the nationwide lockdown in March - quite a departure from the usual tour schedule! The musicians not only faced the universal challenges posed by the pandemic but also faced the uncertainty surrounding the music industry and when it would be possible to perform again. Under normal conditions, the logistics necessary to manage the 18 member orchestra are extensive and this was multiplied during the pandemic, but the office and agents worked tirelessly to prepare for the return of live music.
4. The 2021 version of the band has been getting rave reviews from critics and audience members on this tour. Can you talk about some of the musicians and soloists that people can expect to hear in Chicago?
This show will feature some of the orchestra’s familiar faces along with some new ones too - a fantastic group of musicians! The set list will include instrumentals characterized by the sound of the saxophone, trumpet, and trombone sections and their exciting soloists as well as vocals featuring our talented singer, Jenny Swoish.
5. On this swing through Chicago on December 14th at the Harris Theater, what are some of classic Glenn Miller songs that people can expect to hear that night?
We perform Glenn Miller’s biggest hits at every show! Audiences can expect to hear instrumentals like Moonlight Serenade, In The Mood, A String Of Pearls, Little Brown Jug, Pennsylvania 6-5000, and Tuxedo Junction, and vocals like Chattanooga Choo Choo and Kalamazoo. This December
performance will also include several
Christmas songs as well along with a
tribute to the veterans.
6. Will there be a dance floor at the Harris Theater or is this a listening concert?
Unfortunately there won’t be a dance floor at this concert but the Harris Theater acoustics will make for a fantastic sound!
7. It looks like the Glenn Miller Orchestra is very busy throughout the rest of this year and next. How have audiences reacted to the band after not being able to experience them for about 2 years due to the pandemic?
We’ve seen a great response from audiences since touring has resumed and it seems as though everyone is excited that live music is back! And as enthusiastic as our fans have been I can say with certainty that our musicians are equally excited to have the chance to perform again!
8. Does the band have any new projects planned in the near future?
Our efforts have been focused on preparations to resume full time touring and we are excited to finally have the chance to perform again!
9. When was the last time the band performed in Chicago and why is it such a special place for Glenn Miller’s music?
The orchestra performs around the Chicago suburbs but it has been several years since there was a show Downtown. Chicago has a rich history of great music and musicians and it’s exciting to have the chance to finally perform here!
10. Where should people find out more about the band, purchase merchandise and get an update on performances outside of Chicago?
Keep up with the Glenn Miller Orchestra at our website www.glennmillerorchestra.com and on social media