Yale Bands celebrates three anniversaries at its final concert of 2019

Yale Bands director Prof. Thomas Duffy leads a rehearsal last year.
Yale Bands director Prof. Thomas Duffy leads a rehearsal last year.

Yale Bands, which celebrated its centennial last year, will present its final concert of the semester on Friday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in Woolsey Hall. Presented in conjunction with 50WomenAtYale150, the concert will feature reenactments of 1940s-era performances, including an all-women big band.

The concert also celebrates 75th anniversary of D-Day. To mark the occasion, the Yale Concert Band will recreate a composite version of the six radio broadcasts Glenn Miller recorded with the 418th Army Air Forces Band while stationed at Yale in the spring and summer of 1943.

Called collectively “I Sustain the Wings,” Miller’s Yale broadcasts, recorded live in Woolsey Hall before a large audience, were initially played on WEEI Boston. They were quickly picked up nationally and broadcast by CBS and later NBC. In addition to Miller’s standard swing favorites, these broadcasts, which each ran approximately 35 minutes, included radio plays acted by bandmembers.

Miller eventually received permission to take the 418th AAF Band overseas, where he performed for allied troops, and aided the American propaganda effort in occupied Europe. He recorded programs for radio that were broadcast specifically to German military and prisoners of war per request of the Office of War Information. In these programs he appeared alongside the German announcer Ilse Weinberger, and even tried his hand at rudimentary German phrases.

Director of Bands Thomas Duffy will reenact a version of these broadcasts with the Yale Concert Band. Everything on stage will be taken from something Miller did with his band, although Duffy noted he’s taken artistic license in assembling a composite program of his own design. The performance will feature historically accurate costumes, props, and sound effects. Duffy himself will be costumed to resemble Miller as closely as possible.

Duffy leads the Yale Concert Band in a reenactment of Glenn Miller’s Yale broadcasts in 1994
Duffy leads the Yale Concert Band in a reenactment of Glenn Miller’s Yale broadcasts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994.

Yale Bands presented a similar recreation to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994. The group then joined a national commemoration of the anniversary, before touring England and France the same year and playing in some of the very places Glenn Miller had with his orchestra 50 years before. Duffy referred to that experience as “overwhelming,” and said he is excited to be able to share it again.

The first half of the concert features another 1940s-era reenactment. In honor of 50 years of women in Yale College and 150 years of women at Yale, Duffy has assembled an all-women big band he’s named Rosie’s Riveters. Modeled on the group The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Rosie’s Riveters reflects a wartime trend toward inclusion of women in big bands, an arena then dominated solely by male performers.

Duffy noted that before World War II, “women only ever appeared in the context of a swing band as the pianist or singer.” But women began to be included in the band proper after large numbers of men enlisted in the war effort, leaving vacancies in bands across the country.

Rosie’s Riveters will open the show by recreating a 1940s-era swinging holiday concert, complete with festive tunes and a good dose of nostalgia. Duffy, who recognizes the limitations of a nostalgic view of the past, said he hopes to “weed out [nostalgia’s] negative aspects” by recontextualizing it. In addition, he said, he hopes this all-star band will be able to have a life beyond Friday’s show, and perform again in the spring.

Tickets are $28, $23, and $15 to students with ID. To purchase go to the School of Music’s ticketing website, call 203-432-4158 or visit 470 College St. Any remaining tickets will be sold in the Woolsey Hall rotunda beginning at 5:30 p.m. on the night of the concert. Doors open at 6:45 p.m.

For more information, call 203-432-4111 or go to the Yale Bands website.

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Media Contact

Bess Connolly: elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu, 203-432-1324