The Glenn Miller Orchestra keeps its popularityyear after year and decade after decade because the songs it plays are timeless.
“Reason No. 1, is when Glenn Miller stood in front of his orchestra it was the No. 1 band in the country,” said Glenn Miller Orchestra music director Nick Hilscher. “They had more top 10 hits than Elvis or The Beatles ended up having. They were very popular.”
Eastern Idaho will have the opportunity to hear the band perform those hits at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available online at blackfootpac.com or by calling 208-317-5508.
Hilscher said the orchestra will perform all the big hits and more.
“Those who want to come and hear ‘A String of Pearls’ are not going to be disappointed,” he said. “We do our theme song, ‘Moonlight Serenade,’ ‘Tuxedo Junction,’ ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000,’ ‘Little Brown Jug,’ ‘Glenn Miller’s American Patrol,’ ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo,’ our very first gold record, and of course ‘In the Mood.’ Those are major hits that we never leave out.”
Hilscher said another contributor to the band’s popularity is playing live music in front of so many people across the nation.
“We never phone it in, we come to a venue and every gig is quite important,” he said. “For me, it’s a joy to play music anywhere, this specific style is really my passion.”
“The fact that the Glenn Miller Orchestra has been performing and touring for 48 weeks every year since 1956, but really going back to 1946, just right after WWII, is a reason,” he said. “The fact that this band is still getting on the bus and touring from town to town to town and doing this music live in front of people, I think that that’s maybe the main reason why the band still has the popularity that it does.”
Hilscher said the band plays about 200 shows each year, most in the fall and early winter. He has been music director since 2012. The orchestra consists of harmonizing saxophones, trombones, trumpets and a rhythm section consisting of a piano, bass and drums.
“It has a certain vibrato and a certain sound to it that is the Glenn Miller sound specifically,” Hilscher said.
The group also features vocals by Hilscher and Hanna Truckenbrod.
Hilscher said that while most shows are done in the states, the band looks forward to touring Japan each year.
“Everyone looks forward to a foreign tour but especially going to Japan,” he said. “It’s a unique culture, and they are so very appreciative of American music and American jazz and the swing era as well.”
The Glenn Miller Orchestra started visiting Japan and doing tours of Japan in 1964.
“The fan base is probably the next generation from the WWII era people,” Hilscher said. “It’s probably the kids who were going to the U.S. bases and getting chewing gum from the troops and getting exposed to what our troops stationed there were listening too.”
The orchestra is not all tradition and older tunes. Occasionally, they try newer music in the Glenn Miller style.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Hilscher said. “We commissioned an arranger to write a new arrangement on the ‘Theme to Downton Abbey’ because that’s coming out pretty soon in theaters. I’ve seen every episode, and I’m kind of into it.”