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I went to see the Glenn Miller Orchestra and it was a dream come true

Vanessa de Largie | Milk Bar Magazine | November 18, 2019

When I was little, my parents used to refer to me as ALF – as in, accidental life form.  This was way before the 1986 American sitcom – ALF a.k.a. (alien life form) entered our living rooms.

My parents were done with child raising after the birth of my four brothers. That was until my mother ‘accidentally’ fell pregnant with me, 21 years after my oldest brother and 12 years after my youngest.  Yet, having parents born in the late 1920s and early 1930s has its advantages.

Most kids born in 1977 (the xennials, that micro-generation wedged between Gen X and Gen Y) are only really familiar with art and popular culture from their own generation whereas I can go back sixty years. I’m one of those annoying people who possesses a treasure chest of useless facts about a bygone era.  It’s a super-power I only get to use at trivia nights.

Another perk of being born to older parents is the appreciation I have for films and music of yesteryear; it is a big part of who I am and certainly colours how I view the world.

When I heard that ATA Allstar Artists were bringing The Glenn Miller Orchestra out from the USA to Australia, I promptly ordered the best ticket I could find at Hamer Hall.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra were my dad’s favourite Big Band and not only was this an opportunity for me to experience the music first-hand, it was a chance to reconnect with my late father – if only spiritually.

When I arrived in my fifties get-up and red lippy, I knew I was in the right place when I saw the sea of blue-rinse hairstyles.  I was the youngest person there by a long shot but it was irrelevant to me.

To think that this band was still going 81 years after the great Glenn Miller put the outfit together was magical to me.  And when I found out that school students as young as 16 and 17 auditioned each year, I was elated – it was confirmed that Glenn Miller would continue to live on.

The legendary rich sounds that blasted from my dad’s record player when I was just a kid were now being amplified in Hamer Hall and finding their way down to me in Row G, Seat 42. The lady to my right was moving in her seat and sobbing through certain songs.  The bloke to my left was as still as a corpse. And I was just caught up in the sexy amalgam of percussion and double brass.

As I sat there for over two hours, I thought of a lot of things:

  • The fact that Glenn Miller severed his band at the height of his fame and #1 hits to join the war effort and serve his country only to never return home again.
  • I thought about my late dad and his affinity to the music and me.

Nick Hilscher, the musical director of The Glenn Miller Orchestra, said the band has a passion for presenting the songs as if they were brand new. As the show finished and the majority of Hamer Hall stood together in a standing ovation, I definitely felt the orchestra had achieved their intention.

It was time to find a bar with Cognac, then catch a cab home.

Glenn Miller Orchestra
Hamer Hall, 100 St Kilda Road, Southbank, 3004
Saturday, 27 October 2019