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Orchestra swings into town

One of the most recognized names in big band history swings into Hernando County on Sunday.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra will perform original arrangements of classics such as In The Mood, A Sentimental Journey, Tuxedo Junction, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree and Moonlight Serenade at the Hernando High School Performing Arts Center.

Though he is true to the Glenn Miller style, band director Larry O'Brien has his own ideas about how to keep the orchestra's sound fresh.

"I'm a traditionalist, but we're not nitpicking Miller," O'Brien said. "We've instituted some changes we think Glenn probably would have instituted himself were he still here."

The 19-member band includes O'Brien, five saxophone players, four trumpet players, four trombonists, three rhythm musicians and two vocalists.

Before taking the baton in 1988, O'Brien performed with the orchestras of Sammy Kaye, Buddy Morrow, Ralph Marterie and Art Mooney. In 1962, he was the featured trombonist with the Sam Donahue/Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, performing all of the Dorsey solos.

With a repertoire of more than 1,700 compositions, the band includes all of the biggest Glenn Miller hits in its regular program. But there are also arrangements of lesser-known pieces such as The White Cliffs of Dover, Rainbow Rhapsody, Everybody Loves My Baby and That's Sabotage. In addition, the Miller library features arrangements of popular tunes including Over the Rainbow, September Morn and Up Where We Belong, from the movie An Officer and a Gentleman.

Because of his great love for music from the big band era, O'Brien underscores his dedication to maintaining the Miller aura.

"Some of the more modern parts of our repertoire we play in the big band style; some we don't," he said. "What we're trying to do is run this band the way we feel Glenn would have if he were still here."

Although other songs had sold more than 1-million copies, Miller's 1941 recording of Chattanooga Choo Choo received the first gold record ever awarded.

The Miller mystique was only strengthened when, at the height of his popularity in December 1944, the band leader's plane went down over the English Channel on a flight from London to Paris. He was declared dead a year later.

With the blessing of the Miller estate, the Glenn Miller Orchestra reformed in 1956 and still plays nearly 300 dates each year, with exclusive rights to the use of the name.

The fact that crowds still turn out for concerts does not surprise O'Brien.

"It seems that good things just don't ever die," he said. "Rather, they age gracefully and mellow with the years. If anything, I honestly think the authentic Glenn Miller music today is more popular with more people than ever before."

_ Joy Davis-Platt can be reached at (352) 848-1435. Send e-mail to joysptimes.com.

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