Back to the 1940s with the Yale Jazz Ensemble and ‘Rosie’s Riveters’

A Dec. 6 concert honored women at Yale and the 75th anniversary of D-Day with a recreation of a 1943 Glenn Miller concert and a 1940s-era all-woman big band.
Photos by Surbhi Bharadwaj ’20

Almost a thousand people gathered in Woolsey Hall on the evening of Dec. 6 to see Yale Bands’ final performance of the semester. The concert, presented in conjunction with 50WomenAtYale150, celebrated three anniversaries: 50 years of women in Yale College, 150 years of women at Yale, and the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Led by music director Thomas C. Duffy, the band brought the audience back to the 1940s for about two hours, with recreations of performances from that era. The second half of the concert featured reenactments of radio broadcasts Glenn Miller recorded live with the 418th Army Air Forces Band in Woolsey Hall in 1943. Duffy, dressed to look like Miller himself, led his uniform-clad ensemble in some classic Miller tunes, as well short radio plays and vocal numbers, all on a stage decorated to look exactly like Miller’s own.

The first half of the concert featured the recreation of a 1940s-era all-woman big band, which Duffy named Rosie’s Riveters. Modeled on popular all-women big bands of the time, Rosie’s Riveters reflected the wartime inclusion of women in big bands, who were initially hired to fill positions vacated by enlisted men. Rosie’s Riveters performed a set of 1940s holiday favorites in a festive nod to the season. Duffy said the all-woman ensemble was as pertinent now as ever and he hoped it can have a life beyond the Dec. 6 concert. 

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