A big band sound in the tune of nostalgia

Concert association ends season with Glenn Miller tribute

May 25, 2007|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,Special to The Sun

The Anne Arundel Community Concert Association ended its 55th season with nostalgia in a tribute concert to the Glenn Miller Air Force Band.

Brooks Tegler's 16-piece orchestra and the commentary of his father, jazz authority John Tegler of Severna Park, evoked the distinctive patriotism of World War II.

At the start of the program and between sets, show producer John Tegler traced the career of composer, musical arranger, trombonist and band leader Glenn Miller.

After heading one of America's most popular bands, Miller in 1943 at age 40 joined the Army Air Corps, was commissioned as a captain and created his 50-member Army Air Force Band at Yale University.

Made up of former big-band musicians in the military, the USAAF band played across the country, with Miller hosting a weekly radio broadcast, I Sustain the Wings, that entertained and attracted Air Corps recruits.

Eager to serve overseas, Miller took his band to London, where his musicians dodged bombs before moving to Bedford. He conducted more than 800 concerts for servicemen at various bases.

At the May 15 concert at Severna Park High School, much effort went into creating an aura of authenticity with all orchestra members and John Tegler wearing World War II uniforms.

Tegler explained that Brooks had built a replica of the drums owned by drummer Ray McKinley with the AAF band.

These drums and all the music stands bore the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force insignia, as did the musicians' shoulder patches.

The evening started with a blast from the past in a snappy "St. Louis Blues March," Miller's combination of blues and jazz set to a military beat.

Drummer Brooks Tegler and trumpeter Paul duBois brought new life to this music remembered by many in the audience, and intriguing others not yet born during that era.

Other selections included "Long Tall Mama" and "Tuxedo Junction".

Singer Jamie Zemarel, the son of local orchestra leader Zim Zemarel, served as vocalist.

He offered a straightforward "Long Ago" and "Far Away" to recall Johnny Desmond's style.

Later, he sang "Speak Low" with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Ogden Nash from the 1943 musical "One Touch of Venus."

Before intermission, the audience was treated to a mix tunes like "Here We Go Again" and "String of Pearls." Folks in the front row who'd come from a retirement community seemed so caught up in the beat that they were unable to sit still.

In an audience where half of the people were original Miller fans, it's no surprise that these were discriminating listeners.

Happy to hear this music again, most praised Tegler's efforts, but I overheard one woman say that this orchestra hadn't captured Miller's signature smooth sound.

Another couple objected to "the sameness of the music," saying that "almost every tune had a similar beat."

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