The Mid-North Coast is certainly privileged to have The Glenn Miller Orchestra once again add concerts at the Manning Entertainment Centre (September 15, 7.30pm) and the Glasshouse (September 16, 2.30pm) to its tour schedule.
When this fabulous group of musicians, singers and dancers performed in Port Macquarie in 2012, the Glasshouse audience was in raptures. Not only because of the nostalgic reminder it gave many of their dance hall dates, but for the brilliant musicianship and entertainment the show offered.
It was the tightest band I have ever heard with not a note out of place. The big bold brass sound evoked the emotions of the torrid time during World War II when swing came into its own and provided what little joy could be found at the time.
Naturally the orchestra doesn’t have any original members, but there are a couple in their early 70s, and some in their 60s, with musical director Rick Gerber claiming seniority, but unwilling to state his age.
He says the youngest member is 23 years old and the bass player, drummer and lead trombone have been with the orchestra since day one, when it was formed 16 years ago. Gerber says musicians clamour to be a part of the Los Angeles-based orchestra, but he gets to hear about the best through his network. “It takes the right group of musicians to interpret the music and get that precise sound. It never sounds right if a group of studio musicians just play notes from the page.
The male singer has been on every tour to Australia and New Zealand with the orchestra but the “Andrew Sisters” have a new member. Gerber says there will be a few new songs. “But it’s understood wherever we play the biggest hits are expected, so a good part of the show is predetermined. We’ll be playing some of the lesser known tunes with their authentic original arrangements.”
The orchestra will mix it up with a bit of Frank Sinatra, Bette Midler and Natalie Cole as well.
Gerber says he has no fear that once the Baby Boomer generation is depleted there won’t be an audience for the big band sound. “It’s a strange phenomenon. A new generation is discovering swing and that keeps them coming.”
On September 26, the troupe will be travelling, but it will be 75 years to the day since Glenn Miller’s last concert. “The way it [the music] was written was so good, it’s still packing ‘em in,” Gerber says.
He finds it difficult to name his favourite piece. “It depends on the mood I’m in,” he says – pun intended. “I love the ballads, like Moonlight Serenade, At Last, Skylark, but also the swing like Kalamazoo and I Hear You Screaming. No doubt these will be among the hits you will hear from the 22 people who form the troupe.