NEW MANCHESTER - Although Glenn Miller was lost to mysterious circumstances in 1944, the band that bears his name lives on.
The modern-day Glenn Miller Orchestra will play on April 16 at Oak Glen Middle School as part of the OGMS Culture Club's concert series. "We're kind of fortunate to get them here," said Matt Cashdollar, club adviser and OGMS guidance counselor.
Known for such hits as "In the Mood," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "A String of Pearls," "Moonlight Serenade" and "Tuxedo Junction," the Glenn Miller Orchestra was disbanded in 1942 when Miller enlisted in the Army and formed the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band to entertain Allied troops.
Six months after D-Day, Miller boarded a flight from London to Paris on Dec. 15, 1944, to make preparations for a six-week tour of Europe. The flight went down in inclement weather over the English Channel; Miller's body was never found.
Following the success of the 1954 movie "The Glenn Miller Story," starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson, the Miller Estate authorized the formation of the reconstituted Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1956. It has been touring ever since, playing an average of 300 dates a year.
The April 16 concert marks a return visit for the Glenn Miller Orchestra to the area. In 1998, the orchestra performed at the Westgate Middle School auditorium at the invitation of that school's Culture Club, then under the leadership of Cashdollar.
"It was a really successful night," Cashdollar recalled. "We sold that out in no time."
A review of the concert that ran in the newspaper said, "This was 'real music,' and the students in our schools appeared thoroughly engrossed and expressed their joy (at) being exposed to the quality sound."
Cashdollar said the Westgate Culture Club brought in numerous musical acts while he was there in the 1990s, including the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, the Guy Lombardo Orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, trumpet player Maynard Ferguson, folk singer Tom Paxton and singer-songwriter Richie Havens.
"We brought in all the big-name bands and acts. ... Glenn Miller was the biggest draw. That's a magical name," he said.
One difference between then and now is the capacity of the venue, Cashdollar said. At Westgate, capacity was close to 1,000; at Oak Glen, it's 200.
The 16-member orchestra is currently led by Nick Hilscher and has a repertoire of more than 1,700 songs. The orchestra will be joined by the vocal group, the Moonlight Serenaders.
Tickets for the 7 p.m. show are $21 in advance and $24 at the door. A special group rate of $19 per ticket will be charged for the purchase of 10 or more tickets. Doors will open at 6:45 p.m.
Tickets may be purchased at Oak Glen Middle School during regular school days from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For information, call (304) 374-7474.