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Review: Glenn Miller Orchestra brings memories alive at UC

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Glenn Miller Orchestra entertained and delighted Sunday afternoon at the University of Charleston with a show that was a fun Lindey Hop down memory lane.

Georgia-born bandleader Nick Hilscher, the latest in a long line of bandleaders of the 60-year-old musical outfit, led the band through some of the original Glenn Miller hits of the 1930s and 1940s, as well as the stray song popular from the time.

They did well-known songs like "Moonlight Serenade" and "In the Mood," which needed no real introduction. They still turn up from time to time on television and in movies, if not on FM radio. Others, he named. These were hits in their day which have grown more obscure with the passage of time, but that seemed intimately familiar to the mostly gray-haired crowd who oohed and ahhed as they were announced.

These songs still hold a lot of good memories and part of a world that is altogether alien to the one we find ourselves in now.

This incarnation of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, largely populated by young musicians in their 20s and 30s, played with a lot of heart and style. They sounded terrific and did great justice to the music belonging to the soundtrack of "The Greatest Generation."

Community music got a good crowd for their show at UC. Geary Auditorium wasn't filled to capacity, but hovered somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 percent, which is good box office for a lot of shows that come to Charleston.

A surprising number of veterans came out, too.

It's not unusual for artists performing for community music to recognize the men and women who've served in the armed forces, but when Hilscher asked for any and all veterans to stand to be honored, it appeared that perhaps a quarter of the men in attendance slowly got to their feet.

Despite the quality of the music and the quantity of people in attendance, it was impossible not to notice that the youngest people in the room were the musicians, none of whom had even been born when Miller played his last note in 1944. Most of them hadn't been around when this particular orchestra was established at the request of the Miller estate in the mid 1950s.

The musicians had all been recruited in the generations that followed, brought in to replace others who'd left the band, and their youthful energy made the music sound timeless.

Near the end of the program, Hilscher asked the crowd how many people in the audience were on Facebook.

Only a couple of hands tentatively edged up. The vast majority of the crowd looked on; oblivious or uninterested in the social media site popular with the younger generation.

Hilscher smiled. He'd seen this before and said he could have made a few jokes about that, but declined. Instead, he mentioned that he, the band and singer, Julia Rich, all had CDs out front.


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