Originally created 08/23/96

Dancing melodies

In 12 years with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Larry O'Brien is still surprised at how few dance dates they perform.

For every three concerts, there's one dance, said the band's director in a phone interview from Hanover, N.H., meaning most people stay seated when they hear romantic slow songs like the orchestra's theme song, Moonlight Serenade.

"It's romantic music that's fun to dance to. I couldn't wait to dance with a girl when I heard these songs," he said.

Unless seats are quickly removed in the Imperial Theatre or the manager allows dancing in the aisles, Augusta swing music fans will have to stay in their seats when the 17-member big band performs tonight.

That won't hinder the band's enthusiasm when they play Mr. Miller's well-loved swing-era tunes.

The Glenn Miller sound is unique: The clarinet holds the melodic line, doubled or coupled with the tenor saxophone playing the same notes. Other saxophones produce harmonies while growling trombones and wailing trumpets add their oo-ahs.

It all sounds just like it did 50 years ago and that's how Mr. O'Brien wants it.

"The best way we can pay tribute (to Mr. Miller) is to play his music as accurately, correctly and with as much enthusiasm as we can muster," Mr. O'Brien said.

Mr. Miller died Dec. 15, 1944, when his plane crashed into the English Channel while on a flight from London to Paris. Ten years later, The Glenn Miller Story, starring Jimmy Stewart as the famous bandleader renewed interest in the star's music. That stirred the Miller estate to re-form the Glenn Miller Orchestra two years later.

They've been on the road ever since, performing some 300 dates a year across the world.

The group has 17 musicians and two vocalists. Trying to authentically play the music is the focus, since the band knows people are just happy to hear Mr. Miller's tunes.

"We'll get a standing ovation just for showing up," Mr. O'Brien said.

In concert

Who: Glenn Miller Orchestra
When: 8 tonight
Where: Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.
How much: $12-$21


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