Great patriotic Americans and great American music have one thing in common... they stand the test of time and will always be remembered. On a seasonable Sunday afternoon November 6th 2016, The current Glenn Miller Orchestra performed at the newly renovated Patchogue Theater on Long Island. The original trombonist and bandleader Glenn Miller led one of the most popular dance bands in America from 1939 through 1942. They drew very big crowds at their performances and produced a very large output of recordings. His band achieved great notoriety and was on top of their game during the tumultuous years of World War 2. At this time Glenn decided to stop the successful band to do the right thing and serve his country. He enlisted in the Air Force and was assigned to start a new band of servicemen so that they could entertain the troops. The Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band was again top notch. They performed many engagements in the European theater of war and had a few close calls of bombs dropping nearby as they performed. On a damp rainy December 1944 evening, Glenn took off in a small airplane in England to fly over the English Channel to France. Glenn wanted to get a heads up on the next gig's venue and make arrangements for the bands visit. When the band arrived the next day to perform there was a problem, Glenn was nowhere to be found. It is presumed to this day that his plane went down in the channel and he was never seen again. He will always be remembered as an American hero. Over the years key band members had off and on continued the Glenn Miller legacy with leaders such as Tex Beneke and Ray Mckinley, leading "ghost bands". The 2016 authorized United Stated Glenn Miller Orchestra is now led by Nick Hilscher. It was this polished unit that arrived in a tour bus on the side of the beautiful theater in the thriving town of Patchogue Long Island. As I walked from the back parking lot up to the theater I asked the bus driver "Where does such a large band stay while they are touring?". He said "They all get hotel rooms." I thought to myself "Hmmm, the band must be doing pretty well to support such a big unit as The Glenn Miller Orchestra." When I went inside to meet my fellow musician buddy Frank Patterson... who once played with an Air Force band... I couldn't help but notice how many people were shuffling in. I had gone to see the official U.S. Air Force Band play this same room approximately 10 years ago for a free show. I went by myself because I couldn't get any of my friends to go. I'm glad I did because not only did I enjoy the show, but I supported U.S. Military musicians. The crowd for that show was very thin. People missed out on good American music standards. As we entered the luxurious venue, our seats were on the left side of the theater and it was definitely a mature crowd. The local seniors came out in droves. Although not a sellout, it was definitely more crowded than the recent Blackmore's Night show that I attended. The bandstand had the classic Glenn Miller name on all of the music stands. The orchestra appeared in matching red suits and opened the evening with the signature "Moonlight Serenade", followed by the big Miller favorite "Chattanooga Choo-Choo". A handsome young man "Nick Hilscher" was leading the orchestra in a dark suit and had shinny slicked back black hair. The first set had a nice mixture of hits and lesser known songs from both the civilian band and the Air Force band. They showcased the Miller sound with high clarinet register mixed with saxophones, muted and regular: trumpets and trombones. The lovely female singer Maria Schafer was introduced and entered from stage left to showcase her wonderful natural jazz singing talent. Her perfect pitch and stage presence kept your eyes and ears in one place... on her. She would sing a song or two and then exit and let the band continue. Then a few songs later, come out and mesmerize the crowd again. It was audience participation time during a lively version of Pennsylvania 6-5000, but only the true fans knew to say "O-O-O" on the last verse. Throughout the evening each band member would stand up and come out to the front microphone to take a solo. Nick would be sure to mention their names. There was one great solo after another. During the first intermission the trumpet section quick set up a merchandise table. It was very hard to see the merchandise because of the buying frenzy, as many CD's and tee shirts were sold.
As people returned back to their seats for the second set, the promoter gave away free shows to 5 winners in the name of special people involved with the theater. The nice older woman directly next to us won a pair of tickets (Section H seat 5). Set 2 opened up with a nice tribute to our servicemen/women. The band played the theme songs to each of the armed services, and as each song played, the members in the audience who were in that service stood to an applause. The Glenn Miller Orchestra made a point to salute our veterans. This was followed by the dynamic "Tuxedo Junction" with solo's a plenty. The left side of the stage had the reed section in front and the fine rhythm section in the back. On the right had the signature 4 trombone anchor with the trumpets behind. The band was top notch and featured members from all four corners of the country... including Alaska. They kept you visually entertained as well, with the tossing of the plungers up in the air and the various trombone stances. Nick Hilscher proved to be the perfect bandleader/singer when, if he wasn't executing the Glenn Miller catalog to a tee vocally, his hand signals kept the music flowing and the solo introductions... deservedly so... to the fine talent in the band. Maria Schafer... along with select singing members of the band "The Moonlight Serenader's" kicked out a great version of "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree". After a night of great nostalgic music, The Glenn Miller Orchestra invited the talented students of Suffolk County to join them with the classic "In The Mood". What an opportunity for the local youth... to play with The Glenn Miller Orchestra. The special evening was a win - win for all... young and old. The large crowd left the theater very satisfied.
2016 band members
Kevin Sheehan, Jerod Kaszynski, Cody Leavel, Carl Schultz, Brian Lang, Ashley Hall, Brad Black, Steve Walters, Joe Young IV, George Reinert lll, Derek Kwong, Michael DeSousa, Jason Bennett, Ron Mills, Ryan McDiarmid, Greg Zabel, Andrew Labier.
Review by Robert von Bernewitz for Musicguy247.com
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