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‘Swing Era’ sound, community-style, historic setting

Nearly 20 members of the regional community show up to work on some of the 2,000 charts in the band’s repertoire.

June 9, 2011

GREELEY, PA — You might just see your neighbor, wailing on a saxophone or blowing a brass horn up there, on that time-tested stage saturated with a sense of history. Across the wide wooden dance floor, the powerful sound of nearly 20 musicians and several vocalists will take you back to the days when the Swing Era big band sound was all the rage.

With over 2,000 charts in its musical library, the Moonlight on the Poconos Big Band is likely to know your favorite tune, and only too happy to perform it—for free—at its weekly Tuesday evening rehearsal at the Historic Greeley Inn in Greeley, or at one of its upcoming gigs (see sidebar).

From the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to the “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” the band does its best to keep the music loved by many alive. Maybe you’re “In the Mood” for Glen Miller’s classic, or are yearning for some “Summertime.” Either way, it’s likely you’ll be tapping along in no time, particularly when they bust out the Pennsylvania Polka.

The non-profit organization is led by saxophonist Hank Grilk, whose wife Ann Marie is one of the band’s vocalists. Their son, Andy, also plays sax in the band. Hank’s love of big band music hearkens back to the days when he ran the Sound of Swing Big Band in Rhode Island. The Grilks retired to Lakeville and Hank began looking for a local big band opportunity. Finding none, he placed some ads and contacted local music stores to reach potential players. Word got around, and musicians from surrounding communities in Pennsylvania and New York began showing up to sit in on the Greeley sessions.

Skill levels range from average to exceptional, and members range in age from teens to seniors. All of them aim to recreate the big band sound that won hearts from the 1930s to ‘50s. “We’re trying to perform this music the way the original artists intended it to be performed, so the charts we have are taken from the original charts that, for example, Count Basie used,” said Hank.

“This is not easy stuff. Every single person in the band is playing a different part, so every musician is important. There’s opportunity for some people to improvise and do solos. Just feeling it, telling the story through your music, through your horn. That’s the way it was back in the days of the Swing Era.”

Dance the night away

• Catch the band at its weekly rehearsal in the Historic Greeley Inn on Route 590, Greeley, PA ( A hearty buffet prepared by the Inn’s owners, Teodora and Adrian Saveanu, begins at 6 p.m., followed by the rehearsal from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Listen along as the band, filled with members from nearby communities, works out the kinks of various classics and also performs some of their most polished numbers.

• The band has upcoming gigs scheduled for June 14, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Highland Senior Center in Eldred, NY ($10 per person) and at Central Park in Honesdale, PA on July 14, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. (free of charge).