Glamor and glitz akin to a grand Hollywood gala set the scene September 25 outside Mitchell Auditorium. Flashy lights, loud music, paparazzi and party balloons welcomed an onslaught of the formally dressed as they walked up the red carpet, “in the mood” and ready to take “a sentimental journey”--a retro trip of music and memories with the most sought-after big band on the touring circuit today.
The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra took to the Mitchell Auditorium stage Wed. September 25, checking off one of the many nightly engagements scheduled for a lengthy U.S. tour, including stops in New Jersey, New York and North Carolina along the way.
Originally formed in 1937 under the direction of Alton Glenn Miller, the Glenn Miller Orchestra became one of the most successful recording artists from 1938-1942, releasing an extensive line of records including “Moonlight Serenade,” “Doin’ the Jive” and “When Icky Morgan Plays the Organ.” These records include some of the most recognizable swing hits such as “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Tuxedo Junction” and “Pennsylvania 6-5000.”
The Glenn Miller Orchestra hit the big screen 1941, appearing in “Sun Valley Serenade” with Milton Berle and in “Orchestra Wives” the following year with Jackie Gleason. Now 66 years after the disappearance of their original leader, the band is still the most sought-after big band act worldwide.
So what brought this big band swing extravaganza to Scholastica? The college scene would be seemingly more appropriate for, or at least certainly more receptive to, indie-rock gurus like “Death Cab for Cutie,” “The Jesus Lizard” or “Xiu Xiu”--not so much the musical group responsible for songs that underscored the World War II; however, this is not the band’s first visit to the CSS campus.
According to LeAnn Jopke, Mitchell Auditorium’s assistant administrator, The Glenn Miller Orchestra performed on the Mitchell stage in 2007 for a nearly sold-out house and it only made sense to bring them back for a return engagement.
The house was certainly packed for this performance, but not many students were in attendance. Instead, the seats were filled with people from the surrounding community who by their appearance must’ve been reliving the era from which the songs were made famous.
“Students from the music department are required to attend,” Jopke said, “but a lot of students really like the big band sound.”
When asked if they’d be attending the concert, many students returned perplexed looks, as they were unfamiliar with the group. “Yeah…” Meghan Paul, a senior majoring in communications said, “I don’t know who that is.”
Alex Leblanc, a sophomore music major, said he was planning on attending the concert as he is, "required to see something like nine concerts this year.”
When looking at the Mitchell Auditorium’s schedule of upcoming events it becomes apparent that the projected target audience is not necessarily student laden. “Buckets and Tap Shoes” and with Katie McMahon’s “Celtic Christmas” are both scheduled to perform this semester.
According to Dave Bauman, a CSS academic advisor, the college is attempting to be a larger part of the community. “With the Mitchell, Scholastica is really trying to be more about the surrounding community rather than just a college venue,” Bauman, academic said. “It’s an attempt to get away from the appearance of being this mysterious entity that is apart from, rather than a part of, the surrounding area.”
If this performance is any indication, St. Scholastica is well on its way to achieving just that.
The stage was filled with red tuxedos as the orchestra performed many of their big band favorites as well as a number of standards made famous by other artists. A particular highlight was when vocalist, Kate Rafferty, a long legged brunette adorned in a red dress reminiscent of “Jessica Rabbit,” took to the stage and performed, “What a Difference a Day Made.” The song was originally recorded by Mexican composer María Grever, and it was a definite crowd pleaser.
The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra will continue their busy tour with planned stops in Illinois, Missouri and Pennsylvania, expanding on their world-wide fame as they head to Japan in 2011.