Posts Tagged ‘Monkey Puzzle’

Bandstand in Norwich England is a Tribute to Swing Era Great

Monkey Puzzle Tree and Bandstand

Monkey Puzzle Tree and Victorian Bandstand in Norwich, England where Glenn Miller performed on August 18, 1944. Photo: Eric Ortner

Recently, we had the opportunity to attend a wedding near Norwich, England. While there we stumbled upon a very interesting park called Chapelfield Gardens. In the center of this quant park stands a nicely appointed Victorian era bandstand.

At the time, I was primarily captivated by a young Monkey Puzzle tree growing near the pavilion. Later, I discovered that the bandstand behind it was of great interest to those with an appreciation for Big Band and Swing Music. You see it was there on Friday, August 18, 1944 that Glenn Miller and members of his band put on what seems to be an impromptu performance for the residents of Norwich.

Official U.S. Military records indicate that the set took place sometime after 9 p.m. Glenn Miller and the American Band of the AEF were the entertainment at a 100th mission celebration in a B-24 base in Attlebridge until 9 p.m.  They then made the short ten mile trip to the bandstand in the center of Norwich. It seems following the performance in Chapelfield Gardens, they moved onto play a set at Samson and Hercules Ballroom downtown.  Samson and Hercules was a popular haunt for enlisted men during World War II and the building it was in still stands today. The band then returned to Attlebridge where they stayed the night due to inclement weather.

These performances in Norwich were only two sets out of six that took place on August 18th. It is also interesting to note that Miller received the promotion to Major the day prior. Apparently the band gave Major Miller a promotion party and they stayed up late as a result. Therefore, they must have been pretty exhausted by the end of their set at Samson and Hercules.

Glenn Miller played around 800 sets in England between July 8th and his disappearance on December 15th 1944. It was common for this group to work grueling 18 hour days. It’s very difficult to fathom modern American pop-stars maintaining a schedule that packed.

Although the Norwich bandstand performance took place more than sixty-five years ago, Glenn Miller’s sophisticated sounds seem to be enduring the test of time. Glenn Miller Orchestra’s songs are still performed routinely today by events musicians. Songs like In the Mood, Moonlight Serenade, Tuxedo Junction, String of Pearls, Pensylvania 6-5000, and American Patrol can make for great atmosphere at any formal event. This is especially true for cocktail hours and wedding receptions. The next time you hear them, be sure to remember that the composer/bandleader was a dedicated patriot in addition to a talented performance artist.

Source

The Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band
Sustineo Alas / I Sustain the Wind

Volume One by Edward F. Polic 1989