When my mom told me last week that she wanted to attend a Glenn Miller concert, I was a bit taken aback. "Ummm . . . didn't he go missing in action, like, 70 years ago? Did they finally find him?"
"No, I'm talking about the Glenn Miller Orchestra. I'm pretty sure none of the original members are with them, but they play all that great music, and they're coming to Honolulu. Do you want to go?"
"Sure! When is the concert?"
"Mom, that's Monday!"
And that was the start of our latest escapade: a spur-of-the-moment getaway. Not exactly Thelma and Louise, but it did feel deliciously naughty, running off for a big city overnighter. We've had some great mother-daughter adventures over the years, but this was the first one that wasn't planned weeks, or even months, in advance.
It took nearly three hours online to book our show tickets, our flights and our hotel room. We actually got a pretty good deal, considering it was a holiday weekend. In between attempts, I did some research on the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
The original group, the one that was actually led by Glenn Miller, was formed in 1938 and quickly became America's favorite big band. In 1942, the enthusiastically patriotic Miller enlisted and soon after, the Glenn Miller
Army Air Force Band was raising troops' morale overseas. Then on Dec. 15, 1944, on his way to a gig in Paris, Miller was declared missing in action when his transport plane disappeared over the English Channel. No trace of the aircraft or its crew and passengers has ever been found. Through the Miller Estate, the original civilian band lived on, with Tex Beneke at the helm, but by 1950, the estate and Beneke had parted ways. The Miller Estate authorized a new Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1956, and the 17-piece band, plus two vocalists, has been preserving the music and memories ever since.
On Monday night, the Blaisdell Concert Hall was filled to capacity with snappily dressed city folk. The snappiest by far was a silver-haired gentleman wearing a fedora and spats along with his black dress shirt and gray trousers with white suspenders. He reminded Mom and me of Jazz Belknap, former news editor of The Maui News and a most dapper man about town from the 1940s to the '60s. As soon as the show started, Mr. Spats and his young female companion carved out their own dance floor, between the front row and the stage. The ushers allowed them two dances before making them return to their seats.
When the band played "String of Pearls," I was reminded of another old-time Maui character. Webb Beggs' Big Band Bash was a weekly radio program that featured music of the 1930s and '40s. As Webb's engineer in the mid-'70s, I cued up and played all of his scratchy old records, including his theme song, the above-mentioned "String of Pearls." Webb was amused by my love for big band music, and he made a point of teaching me something each time we did a show together.
As the band ran through all the big hits - "In the Mood," "American Patrol," "Little Brown Jug" . . . I know Mom was savoring her own memories, perhaps of dancing with Daddy to the Molina Brothers Orchestra. We didn't speak during the concert, except to join the musicians at calling out "Pennsylvania 6-5000!" at the appropriate times.
At intermission, we compared notes. We agreed that, while the orchestra and soloists were superb, the concert would have been better played at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. The Blaisdell is a beautiful venue, but its acoustics are far inferior to our Castle Theater. And the MACC's technicians would have done so much more for the show than the folks who ran sound and lights that night. But maybe it's just Maui pride, because the other concertgoers didn't seem to notice.
There was one area in which the Blaisdell excelled - restroom management. As soon as the first half ended, two female attendants assumed their stations at the ladies room. One monitored the rapidly growing line outside, organizing it into a long, winding single-file snake. The other directed traffic inside, lining us up against the wall and summoning each of us in turn. I must admit, it was the most orderly and civilized public restroom I've ever experienced.
When the show closed with "Moonlight Serenade," I opened the souvenir program and this Glenn Miller quote leapt out at me:
"America means freedom and there's no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music."
It was a marvelous way to wrap up a Memorial Day weekend. And, I dare say, there's no experience quite so special as a mother-daughter adventure.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.