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Moonlight Swing Big Band

07/31/2008 05:00PM ● Published by Super Admin

It’s 1942. A tired and lonely Allied soldier stationed in a distant land, strains to hear the music through the static on the radio. Catching the first bars of “In the Mood,” he smiles and his foot starts tapping. For a few precious minutes, home seems a bit closer. That’s what Glenn Miller did for troops during World War II. His music entertained and inspired all who heard it.

People wanting to relive that moment, or experience the music for the first time are in luck. Bandleader Grant Pyle and the 21-piece Moonlight Swing Big Band have been recreating the music of the 1930s and ‘40s for more than a dozen years. This all-volunteer, not-for-profit group works hard to be faithful to the memory of Captain Glenn Miller’s 418th Army Air Forces Training Command Band. Moonlight Swing is known throughout the nation for their authentic musical arrangements, great stage presence and style.

Shirley Pyle, promotions manager for the group, explains, “It is wonderful to hear the sighs and applause from the audience when they play the first few notes of ‘String of Pearls.’ People come up after the performance and tell us about where they were when they first heard a particular song.”
Grant Pyle has two passions: flying and music. As the band’s leader and trombone player for nearly a decade, and as a retired Air Force Brigadier General, he is accomplished at both. He is also very passionate about the look of the band and making sure that the World War II Air Force uniforms are authentic. “I spend a lot of time hunting old Army-Navy stores searching for genuine artifacts and clothing,” he explains.

The band members range from their mid-20s to a young-at-heart 83 year-old, who served in the Navy band during World War II. All members, each an accomplished musician, come from all over northern California. Their “day jobs” are as diverse as their ages: teachers, doctors, lawyers, salesmen, a city planner, a helicopter pilot and others, come together at least once a month to rehearse. “It’s a huge challenge getting everyone together,” Grant says, “but they come because of the love and dedication to the music.”

Although the band showcases the sounds and sights from nearly 70 years ago, it draws a large number of young people to concerts and dances. “Swing dance is really big and kids love to dance to our music,” says Grant.

For those people who saw the original band and danced to Glenn Miller, emotions always run high. “That’s what keeps us going,” Shirley says, “We thought this would be a fun gig for our retirement, but it has turned into an enjoyable full time job.”

“Why do we do it?” repeats Grant, “that’s easy – the music and the people.”

So, for great music and entertainment, catch the “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” “Tuxedo Junction,” or go “Over the Rainbow” and enjoy a “Moonlight Serenade.” See you there!

To check out the band, visit moonlightswing.org.

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