The Glenn Miller Orchestra – A Nostalgic Trip Down Memory Lane
If you like a little bit of history, then you’ll no doubt be aware that this year marks the 80th anniversary of the WWII D-Day landings. And if like a little bit of nostalgia, you may also be aware this would have been the 120th birthday of the legendary big band leader, Glenn Miller.
Born in Iowa, in March 1904, Glenn Miller began to play the trombone from an early age, and set up the infamous big band/swing outfit, The Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1938. They enjoyed huge success with massive wartime hits such as ‘Chatenooga Choo Choo’ and ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000’ but unfortunately, Miller went missing in action at the end of 1944, just as the war was starting to come to a close.
Fast forward a few decades, and through an arrangement with Glenn Miller Productions in the USA, veteran band leader Ray McVay has put together an incredible UK line up of musicians and singers (and guest dancers) that really bring the iconic sounds of the original band back to life.
Born in the late 1930s in Glasgow, Ray is clearly still enjoying being the kingpin in this hugely talented line up, and he takes great pride in what they all bring to our senses.
He entered the stage to the Glenn Miller’s ‘signature’ tune – ‘Moonlight Serenade’ – and then went on to announce (and conduct) hit after hit.
‘Little Brown Jug’, ‘Tuxedo Junction’ and ‘String of Pearls’ all had the crowd toe-tapping and quietly joining in, and they were thrilled when female vocalist, Catherine Sykes, joined the band onstage and took the mic to deliver an emotional tribute to Dame Vera Lynn. ‘I’ll be Seeing You’, ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ and of course, ‘We’ll Meet Again’ were all delightful and it was clear that many of the audience were moved by this beautiful moment.
Two other guest singers, Mark Porter and John James soon joined the band onstage to perform yet more hits. Mark delivered an impeccable version of the classic Vera Lynn hit – ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’ and John followed up with an equally poignant rendition of the old Nat King Cole melody ‘Almost Like Being in Love’.
I must also mention the quartet of swing dancers that added some extra sparkle with their excellent mix of Lindy hop, jive, tap and boogie woogie. They really lit up the stage to ‘Sing Sing Sing’ with a fast and acrobatic display of their talents, hitting each drumbeat with perfect timing.
Perhaps the finest part of the show was a tribute to the wonderful ‘Rat Pack’ of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Junior. The hits all stacked up after each other – ‘That’s Amoré’, ‘My Way’, ‘That’s Life’ and my personal favourite, ‘Mr Bojangles’.
It would be impossible to pick out a single band member that didn’t give their all through the entire performance but I must just mention the impeccable time-keeping and backbone of this band, who for me, was drummer Bob Cleall. His outstanding rendition of ‘Sing Sing Sing’ was quite hypnotic . If you think you don’t know the tune, please ask your friend ‘Alexa’ to play it (or look on YouTube) and I defy you not to start tapping your feet!
This wonderful trip down memory lane came to a rousing conclusion with the whole ensemble taking to the stage to jive us home to the big band classic ‘In the Mood’. After almost two and a half hours of being hugely entertained – I’m quite sure that we all left Ipswich Regent in a very good one!