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Band NamePhoto by Jim McGann

Richard Barnes & the Blackbird Society Orchestra
Sunday, October 15, 2023 at 2pm

Community Arts Center
414 Plush Mill Road
Wallingford, PA 19086

Richard Barnes’ Blackbird Society Orchestra is Philadelphia's Premier 1920s Hot Jazz / Dance Orchestra dedicated to the preservation of the music of "The Jazz Age," "The Roaring 20s," "The Gatsby Era”, Flappers, Prohibition, Gangsters, Model A's and the invention of an American art form known as "Jazz!” At this fifth return visit to TSJS, the BSO will once again display its masterful interpretations of this golden musical age and will celebrate the 14th annual Eddie Lang Day. It’s a real treat to see an 11-piece band; the BSO consistently draws our largest audiences. Come early; it's sure to be a sell-out!

Visit the Blackbird Society Orchestra website.



Band Personnel

Richard Barnes – Guitar, Vocals, Leader 
Dennis Hancock - Violin 
Rob Ford – Trumpet 
Alex Gittleman – Trumpet 
Jim Gicking – Trombone 
Jeff Hart – Reeds
Travis Johnson, Reeds
Bill Dibiase – Reeds
Frank McKitty – Reeds
Spencer Kashmanian – Piano 
Bill Quinn – Banjo
Charlie Ford - Bass 
Glenn Cowen - Drums  


Working from bandleader Richard Barnes' collection of original vintage stock charts and arrangements, BSO authentically and accurately recreates many classic jazz recordings that once spun from scratchy 78 RPM records on a Victrola when the world was still in black and white! Barnes discovered the jazz/blues guitarist and vocalist Leon Redbone in 1992, playing regionally with him for a decade. He also spent five years performing obscure 1920s jazz with the Kim Milliner Band. In 1997, Barnes formed BSO with the intention of preserving 1920s jazz in note-for-note re-creations using original stock charts and transcriptions from vintage recordings. Thirteen years later, he launched Eddie Lang Day, an annual music/charity event celebrating the musical contributions of the native Philadelphian and pioneer jazz guitarist (nee Salvatore Massaro), who teamed with his boyhood pal, violinist Joe Venuti, to form one of the all-time legendary duos in jazz history. In October of 2016, Barnes spearheaded the dedication of an exterior wall to Lang by Philly’s Mural Arts Program, and a year later the annual Lang festivities were highlighted by the Philadelphia premiere of the film documentary There’s a Future In the Past, which commemorates bandleader and jazz historian Vince Giordano’s near half-century musical career. Barnes re-created the original 1923-30 Paul Whiteman band library in performances both at TSJS and outdoors in Rose Tree Park near Media in 2017. 

Violinist Dennis Hancock is a full-time general music teacher in Philadelphia, and he enjoys making music accessible to all. He teaches students from kindergarten to 8th grade. Over the years, Dennis has studied under notable Philadelphia Orchestra violinists including Barbara Sonies, Booker Rowe, and Joe Lanza.  In addition to teaching, Dennis has performed at distinguished venues in and around New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kimmel Center (Verizon Hall and Perelman Theater), Sovereign Performing Arts Center, Rutgers Performing Arts Center, Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, Centennial Hall at Haverford School, and the Broadway Theater in Pitman, New Jersey.  Dennis currently performs with the Old York Road Symphony and the Blackbird Society Orchestra.

Trumpeter Rob Ford, who has a Music Education degree from West Chester University, spent over two decades teaching music in Abington and as a private instructor. He has also performed in all styles of music as a freelance player in the Philadelphia area and NE PA for many years. Rob’s current associations include the BSO, Pennsylvania German Brass Band and the Galena Brass. 

Alex Gittelman (second trumpet) is a proud graduate of Haverford High School Class of '05. While at Haverford, Gittelman participated in every musical ensemble, followed by a stint with the Philadelphia Grammy Jazz Band for two years. He then served as the lead trumpeter in the PMEA All-State Jazz Band for another two years, plus the All-Eastern Jazz Band in 2005. Gittelman graduated from the Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University in May 2010 with a Bachelor of Music in Music Education with a Jazz Component. He played with various ensembles at Temple, including the Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Band, Jazz Combos, Wind Symphony, Wind Ensemble, and Marching Band. Gittelman earned his Master of Music Education degree from the University of the Arts in 2016, while serving as an instrumental music teacher in the Pennsbury School District. 

Apart from a seven-year stint in New York in the late 70s with jazz record companies A&M, Artists House, and CTI Records, where he worked with Jim Hall, Art Pepper, Chet Baker, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis among others, trombonist Jim Gicking has lived in the Philadelphia area, also playing guitar in big bands, small groups, and pit orchestras. He fell in love with the music of the 20s and 30s after hearing Marty Grosz on NPR's Fresh Air, and Marty has become a friend and a mentor. 

Clarinetist/alto saxist Jeff Hart studied Music Education at Duquesne University and Jazz Performance at the University of Toledo. He is currently band director at Haverford High School, and he loves all antiques, including his 1914 Victrola phonograph and vintage 78 RPM records. 

Director and arranger for the Ferko String Band for much of the 1970s and 1980s, Bill Dibiase has played baritone sax with the Chester County Concert Band, the Pennsylvania Symphonic Winds, Archie Lane's Big Band, and 22 Park Avenue. Bill holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, of which he is Professor Emeritus at Delaware County Community College.

Spencer Kashmanian has played ragtime and stride piano, sometimes alongside Barnes on guitar, at the re-created speakeasy C. R. Hummingbird to Mars in Wilmington, DE for the past several years.

Self-taught on plectrum/tenor banjo, accordion, piano, and drums, Bill Quinn is a three-decade Mummer veteran, having played banjo in the Fralinger String Band. He is also a former snare drummer for the Camden County Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, with which he performed for President George W. Bush. Bill has been heard at Disney World and during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and he appeared on ABC-TV’s The View with Frankie “Fats” Montana.

Bassist Charlie Ford is the son of trumpeter Rob Ford.

Drummer Glenn Cowen has a degree in percussion from the University of PA and is the Director of Bands at Upper Moreland High School in Willow Grove. He performs with regular BSO fiddler Dr. Michael Salsburg in the country-rock band Hank’s Cadillac.

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