The Balladeers


A Balladeer: a singer of ballads.   Or in our case, it is the male chorus made up of residents in our independent living facility. I have not been in a chorus or choir since I was ten, particularly as my voice started changing around fourteen.  But I love singing with The Balladeers.  I avoided the group for the first six months of my residence.  One day I was cornered by U.V. who asked me to join.  I said that I couldn’t sing a lick.  He said not to worry, neither could anyone else and so singing wasn’t required.  Reluctantly, I went to a rehearsal, found there were no auditions and was immediately given a song book.  I was in, just like that. I am about to perform in my third spring concert and am amazed how much my singing has improved.  It’s still not good, but it’s better

We have a conductor/chorus master.  His name is Bob. He is the former Dean of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.  Nationally ranked and internationally renowned, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) is a preeminent institution for the performing and media arts.  CCM’s educational roots date back to 1867, and a solid, visionary instruction has been at its core since that time.

You can readily appreciate that Bob is in over his head. We are sixteen in number.  About half of us can’t read music and don’t know what all the littler signs and signals mean.  Some of us don’t hear very well and a few don’t know where they are.

Bob stands at the front of the practice room behind a podium.  Our pianist is a woman who has played for the Balladeers for 15 years and she knows where we are most of the time.

“Let’s start with the first song in your book.”

From, the second row, “Which one is that?”

BOB, “The first one!!

The enquirer turns to his neighbor, “Is it the first one in the book?”

“Yeah, I think that’s what he said.”

Can you imagine a first year student at CCM under Bob’s tutelage surviving by asking these questions?

“Okay, the next one we need to work on is Let There BE Peace on Earth which is right behind Oh What A Beautiful Mornin. On this one you have to watch out for the Coda.”

“What’s a Coda?” I was, demonstrating my complete ignorance of musical terms.

“See the word Coda on page 2.  It means on the third line of the second verse, you go to the 2nd verse on page 2.”  I drew an arrow to attach the two lines.  It didn’t make any sense to me, but I at least knew what to do when we got to that point.

Again, “Which one are we on?”

In frustration, Bob goes to the back row and finds it in the book.  Three people move closer to see where the song is located.

I love Bob’s facial expressions.  He has a great smile, an even better grimace and a particularly good pained look.   When Bob says, “that’ll work,” it means anymore effort would just be too painful.

Amazingly when we sing in some concert venue (mostly other independent and assisted living places), we sound pretty good, sometimes very good.  It is a testimony to Bob’s patience and skill as well as the number of times we have practiced.  We have at least 12 rehearsals before the first concert, three or four more before the second and at least 4 before the grand finale, when we perform with the Belles, our ladies singing group. We perform with the Belles twice a year at our home auditorium.  It is a 7 pm concert filled with residents, guests, and our loving children and grandchildren.

At the concert, we were lined up in four short rows instead of the normal two longer rows. By the way, we always sit.  If we stand too long, someone will fall out.  If we scare our audiences, we won’t get any new gigs and we love to perform.  The Belles were arranged similarly to us and right next to us.  Each chorus would sing six songs and then we would sing four together.

Our jokester said, “There are lots of airplanes on the ocean floor, but you never see a submarine in the sky.”  He keeps on trying!

There was a conversation behind me between two of our long time members.  I’ll call them Joe and Herb.

BOB: “We are ready for the first number in our book. It’s A Grand Night for Singing.”

Joe: “I don’t seem to have that one.”

Herb: “I think your book is upside down.”

Joe: “O yeah. I still don’t have it.”

Herb. “I think your book is backward.”

In a rather loud voice, Joe  says: “YEAH, there it is, right where Bob said it would be.”

Bob had been holding his arms in the air while waiting for this conversation to end.   I was about to explode with laughter, which I could no longer hold.  Bob smiled just a bit and off we went.  It was a grand night for singing.  We even did several ballads: Aura Lee and I’ll Be Seeing You. The ladies were excellent and our combined selection of Sentimental Journey was over the top. The concert was absolutely terrific. The 16 of us were dressed in white shirts, black pants and a black bow tie and all of us were beaming except for Bob.  He was simply relieved that another Balladeer season was over and he would have a three-month respite.

Bob graciously accepted kudos from the audience and he reminded us several times that we were going to sing at the NRC with the Belles and we would meet the next day to turn in our music.

“What did he say?”

“We meet tomorrow at 10!!”

“Oh, do we have another concert?”

“Yes. At the NRC.”

“Across the street?”


Bob: “After we get back from the NRC, we will meet in the community room to turn in the music.”

Another round of “who, what when and where.”

This conversation was repeated at least five times with different people involved each time.





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