Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 24, 2009

"In the Mood"

Writing a column requires a person to be a bit of a storyteller. But many things cannot be captured as a series of events that may be neatly described. So I have struggled with what to write about last Saturday night.

I could say that Mom, husband Art and I attended a musical show at K-State's McCain Auditorium on a day the weatherman said would be dark and rainy, but instead was bright and cheery.

I might mention that the audience was considerably older on average than most and there were only a few empty seats scattered here and there.

Or perhaps I could explain how it all began right here in the Midwest with a man who rose to be as well-known and as popular as the President, but came from humble beginnings. He was born in Iowa, grew up in Nebraska and Missouri and attended college in Colorado.

Then there would be the mystery: how he took off from an airfield in Britain bound for Paris and vanished, leaving no clues as to what happened, despite repeated attempts to resolve that mystery over the past 65 years.

But all of those things would miss the point, all of those are only peripheral to something that isn't so much a story as it is a connection, a connection generated by this man, the music style he created and the events of the time it will be forever linked with.

Yet those words are also inadequate. While the audience was indeed older than most, many - like Art and me - are too young to recall anything from this period.

Looking around the auditorium, I saw a larger-than-usual number of unfamiliar faces. At intermission, I heard a woman in the row in front of us ask the man beside her if he was enjoying himself. "Oh my, yes," he replied. She asked if he were from Manhattan. He said he wasn't, having driven up that day from Gardner, Kansas.

Music has the power to touch us in ways that words cannot. Sometimes a song or style is linked to a particular time and, when that time has passed, interest in the music passes as well. Other music, such as classical music, seems to transcend time and remains engaging and entertaining without feeling as if it is connected with any particular period.

But Glenn Miller was able to do something quite unusual. His unique style is immediately recognizable and it transports the listener back to his time - the time when World War II was starting.

The audience Saturday night clapped and sang along to the band's familiar tunes - "Moonlight Serenade," "Little Brown Jug," "Tuxedo Junction," "Pennsylvania 6-5000," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "Kalamazoo" and "In the Mood."

Today there are many nostalgia groups attempting to recapture a time long gone. But their music is one-dimensional and their audience is not interested in them playing anything but the hits that made them famous. But when director Larry O'Brien had the Miller band play songs that came along long after Miller was dead, they were embraced by the audience. His skill in recreating the Miller style is all the more remarkable considering that other than O'Brien, not a single band member is old enough to have heard Miller himself.

Perhaps the most important thing I can say is that people left with big smiles and commented about what a great night it had been.

"I could listen to that music every day," one man said as he walked away from the auditorium. His partner agreed.

Not a bad trick to pull off by a Midwestern boy who disappeared 65 years ago this coming December.

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