Old records brought to life


THE big band sound of the 1940s is coming to Queenstown.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra will perform at the Memorial Centre next Wednesday – recreating the music of the jazz legend whose flight mysteriously disappeared over the English Channel during World War II on his way to entertain Allied forces.

Based in Los Angeles, the American ensemble includes 17 musicians, two solo vocalists – including Wendy Smith-Brune – a musical trio and Broadway swing dancers.

Musical director Rick Gerber says it will be a sentimental journey to honour the Anzac centenary.

It will be a colourful and flamboyant evening filled with the nostalgia of the ‘30s and ‘40s.

He explains the tunes are played the way they were written. There’s no modernisation and no additional rock and roll beat.

“We play them the way they were intended – the genuine, original Glenn Miller arrangements with top-notch professional musicians.

“Somebody may have listened to their favourite hits like Chattanooga Choo Choo or A String of Pearls a thousand times on record but we play them very accurately. It’s like the old records come to life.”

Gerber reckons there is something mystical about the classics. He says Kiwi audiences are particularly appreciative of good music and always clap, whistle and sing along as soon as they start performing. 

Soloist Smith-Brune describes Miller’s hits as timeless. She’s performed with the orchestra for 15 years and says she feels fortunate to work with such a special group.

Smith-Brune has a wealth of musical experience. She started off as a flautist but decided she’d try out her ‘little voice’ in an audition for singer Ray Charles. 

To her surprise he hired her and it ultimately led to more success – something she’s modest about.

“I’m not a diva or any of those things – that’s not me. I take it a moment at a time and I don’t really think about it as being ultra-successful. I just look at it as being a person that has been very fortunate to continue to work.” 

She puts it down to being prepared, bringing your A-game and being a good person.

This is the orchestra’s second New Zealand tour – but its first Queenstown performance.

Smith-Brune says NZ is her favourite place in the world. So what can the audience expect?

“I will do my very best to send the audience on a journey of great music from Glenn Miller and look forward to meeting the fans after the show.”

She’ll be joined on stage by singer Mark Kopitzke and The Swing Kittens.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra plays Queenstown Memorial Centre next Wednesday, November 4, 7.30pm. Tickets $90/$80