Miller’s legacy orchestra to visit

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 22, 2000

If grandma is standing at the kitchen sink, gently swaying back and forth to the rhythm of some silent melody, never mind.

Saturday, April 22, 2000

If grandma is standing at the kitchen sink, gently swaying back and forth to the rhythm of some silent melody, never mind.

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If grandpa is in the garage, tapping his fingers on the work bench to something that sounds like "Pardon me, boys. Is that the ….?" let him be.

If all of a sudden, you walk into a room at your grandparents home and discover them dancing, just come back another time.

Only grandparents of today’s Generation X members will understand.

Glenn Miller is coming to Austin. Nothing else matters.

The Austin Artist Series will host its last feature attraction of the 1999-2000 season Wednesday evening.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra led by Larry O’Brien will perform, beginning 7:30 p.m. in Knowlton Auditorium at Austin High School.

The only problem is this: only Austin Artist Series members, season-ticket-holders, can attend.

When it comes to Glen Miller and his music, there is both mystery and magic. That’s because, in part, while the Baby Boomer generation has their own day the music died in February 1959 in a plane crash at Clear Lake, Iowa, their parents and grandparents remember another day the music almost died.

Glenn Miller disappeared December 15, 1944, when the popular band leader’s plan went down over the English Channel on a flight from London to Paris.

He was at the height of his popularity at the time.

Just prior to entering the U.S. Army, Miller disbanded his orchestra to serve his country, during World War II. He formed the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band to entertain the troops.

Not long before he enlisted, he nosed-out Tommy Dorsey as the "Best Sweet Band" in the Downbeat magazine poll.

His recordings of "In The Mood," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "A String of Pearls," "Moonlight Serenade" and "Tuxedo Junction" were all major hit records.

Miller played to sell-out crowds and his music constantly dominated the radio airways.

It was a magical time of big band or swing music and Austin’s Terp Ballroom was one of many dance halls which were meccas for music fans, who also enjoyed dancing.

The story is well-known to another generation and was popularized in a movie by Jimmy Stewart.

Miller, a Major in the Army Air Force at the time, took off in an ancient, single engine plane to preceed his band to Paris.

The weather was foreboding and a war was in progress. On the ground before taking off, the flight officer remembered the last words Miller said.

The band leader was nervous and asked his pilot, "Maybe, we ought to call this off?" the legend has it. Before the pilot could answer, the flight officer ribbed Miller about his fear of flying, "Do you want to live forever?"

The man couldn’t, but his music could and its unique sound is as fresh today as it was over a half century ago.

The Miller Estate formed the present Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1956, following strong popular demand aroused as a result of Jimmy Stewart’s on-target portrayal of Miller in the box office smash movie with June Allyson.

Today, O’Brien and the orchestra members play an average of 300 dates a year around the world to millions of fans.

Anyone who drives by Austin High School Wednesday night and hears an auditorium full of people shouting en masse "Pennsylvania 6-5000," don’t be startled.

It is only one of 1,700 compositions in the orchestra’s repertoire.

The day Glenn Miller’s music dies is yet to come.