Runnin’ Wild: Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Orchestra Play Glenn Miller (1996)
Performed by: The Boston Pops Orchestra, Keith Lockhart, conductor
Guest Artists: John Pizzarelli and The King’s Singers
As Keith Lockhart points out, the Boston Pops is “the ultimate crossover vehicle from the symphonic world.” So what better subject than Glenn Miller for Lockhart’s first RCA Victor collaboration with the orchestra? A musician who, in Lockhart’s words, “crossed over from the other side” – someone older members of the Pops’ audience danced to and younger members continue to discover – Glenn Miller created some of the definitive music of the big band era. Sixteen of his signature tunes are recreated in a manner that will satisfy those who have never jitterbugged as much as those who never stopped. – Liner notes to Runnin’ Wild.
When John Williams stepped down as conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1994 after 14 successful seasons, Keith Lockhart, then 35 years old, was chosen as his replacement. Looking more like a college freshman than music director of one of America’s most famous orchestras, Lockhart has proved to be just as adept and popular as Williams and the late Arthur Fiedler.
1996’s The Boston Pops Orchestra – Runnin’ Wild: Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Orchestra Play Glenn Miller is a collection of songs made famous by Big Band era orchestra leader Glenn Miller, whose civilian and later Army Air Force bands provided audiences with music to dance to (and love to) before and during World War II. Before his mysterious death in December 1944, Miller’s band and featured vocalists gave the world such beloved swing standards as “In The Mood,” “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” “A String of Pearls,” and his signature theme, “Moonlight Serenade.”
Listen to this album, close your eyes, and the Boston Pops Orchestra transports you back to the 1940s, with young men in uniform dancing with either their wives, sweethearts, or USO girls to the fast-paced “Runnin’ Wild”…gently swaying to “A String of Pearls” (featured in the film The Glenn Miller Story)…or sharing that last sweet bit of lovemaking to the slow beat of “Moonlight Serenade.”
|2||A String of Pearls||3:00|
|5||The Nearness of You||3:23|
|6||My Blue Heaven||3:40|
|7||Song of the Volga Boatmen||3:26|
|9||(I’ve Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo||3:10|
|10||Serenade in Blue||3:53|
|11||The Anvil Chorus||3:36|
|12||St. Louis Blues March||2:56|
|13||A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square||4:40|
|15||Little Brown Jug||3:23|
|16||In the Mood||3:40|
Of the 16 selections, “Moonlight Serenade” is the one I am most familiar with, having heard it as incidental music or “source” material in so many World War II movies or documentaries. It’s slow, gentle, romantic yet sensual, and it’s the only “Glenn Miller” song actually written by the bandleader. Originally titled “Now I Lay Me Down to Weep,” it was a big hit in 1939 and was the theme song for both Miller’s and Tex Beneke’s bands. The Pops’ performance of it captures its air of nostalgia perfectly, and the clarinet solo by Thomas Martin is simply fabulous.
Modern standards singer John Pizzarelli and The King’s Singers show their stuff on several tracks, most vividly so in“Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” which was another chart-topping hit for Miller in 1941, the year the U.S. entered World War II. Pizzarelli has a way of channeling the great vocalists of the era, with his easy-to-listen voice and flawless delivery. The King’s Singers are wonderful backup in other songs, including “Serenade in Blue” and “(I’ve Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo.”
As a soloist, Pizzarelli shines in the more romantic (and slower) “The Nearness of You,” a song that might have been on a serviceman’s mind when reading a letter from his wife or girlfriend.
Another sentimental favorite where Pizzarelli performs well is 1940’s “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” a song introduced in Britain and popularized not only by Glenn Miller but also Guy Lombardo and Sammy Kay.
Several genres also get the Glenn Miller treatment, such as opera (Verdi’s “The Anvil Chorus,” from Il Trovatore), vaudeville (“My Blue Heaven”) blues (“The St. Louis Blues March”) and even Russian traditional songs (“Volga Boatmen”).
So if you want to get “In the Mood” and have a good time listening to a fun Boston Pops Orchestra album, Runnin’ Wild is definitely worth getting.