In the mode

The soundtrack of years gone by comes to life with the Glenn Miller Orchestra for Europe.

Glenn Miller Orchestra 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Glenn Miller Orchestra 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For fans of swing and big band music, Glenn Miller remains a legendary name. But thanks to the efforts of The Glenn Miller Orchestra for Europe, that legend continues to live and breathe.
One of the giants of American music, the musician, arranger and band leader helped to define an era in US history, providing the soundtrack to the Allied war efforts in World War II with such signature tunes as “In the Mood,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “Moonlight Serenade.”
When the 40-year-old Miller’s plane tragically went down over the English Channel on December 15, 1944, while traveling to entertain US troops in France, the music world lost a true original.
But his music has been kept alive, in part due to the efforts of Wil Salden, a native of The Netherlands who, since 1985, has been playing Miller’s music under the moniker of The Glenn Miller Orchestra for Europe.
A long-time fan of swing music, the 60-year-old pianist studied at the prestigious music conservatory in Maastricht, and in the late 1970s began a multi-year search to find the precise musicians to build his orchestra.
“For me, Glenn Miller is the epitome of swing and big band music, and it was my desire to present on stage the same style and perfection that the Glenn Miller Orchestra possessed,” said Salden.
Some 3,450 concerts before nearly four million people later, Salden is celebrating the 20th anniversary since being appointed the director of the orchestra in 1990 by undertaking an extensive tour that finds him and the big band arriving for two shows in Israel – on November 5 at the Haifa Auditorium and the following evening at Heichal Hatarbut in Tel Aviv.
“I was able to acquire original sheet music with the Glenn Miller arrangements. However, not every original was preserved. Long research was necessary, and some pieces had to be reconstructed note by note and arranged in Glenn Miller style,” said Salden, describing the painstaking effort he undertook to ensure that the music the orchestra played would be as authentic as possible.
That authenticity is embedded in everything from the band’s dapper appearance to its musical makeup, based on two alto saxophones, two tenor saxophones and a clarinet – and, even more importantly, how those instruments interact to create the Miller sound.
“With us, as with Glenn Miller, the clarinet plays the lead and is accompanied an octave lower by the second tenor saxophone. The accompaniment, played by two alto saxophones and the first tenor saxophone, stays within the octave between the clarinet and the second tenor saxophone. Since the lead clarinet dominates the alto saxophone, the saxophone section seems half an octave higher. In this way, it is possible to play the patterns below the saxophone section,” explained Salden.
The big band also takes on other music from the era that bore a definitive Miller stamp.
“Before Glenn Miller founded his own orchestra, he played with Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. The work of these world-famous musicians left an imprint on him, and we play arrangements from Dorsey, Goodman and Count Basie to show the musical wealth of Glenn Miller’s time in the 1940s,” said Salden.
But it’s Miller himself who will be the focus of the orchestra’s faithful renditions at their shows here, with Salden and his troupe spending countless hours “unlearning” the musical trends of the last 60 years in their effort to replicate the sound of Miller and his orchestra.
“Even though the development of music during the last decades influenced the training and performance styles of the musicians, we emphasize a perfect interpretation of the original sounds,” said Salden. “Miller left behind a musical legacy of gigantic dimensions.”
But be forewarned. Attending one of the shows may lead you to reenact V-J day and go kiss a sailor.