- Town: Ridgewood, New Jersey
- Singing part: Tenor 2
- Role with Orpheus: Past President, currently a member of the Board of Trustees.
- How did you first hear about Orpheus and why did you join?
I learned of Orpheus from a rehearsal notice posted in the Bergen Record by Dan Williams. I knew Dan Williams and his wife Andrea from Ridgewood High School (RHS) Jamboree, a musical revue show presented annually by the parents of RHS students. I figured, “I know Dan, so why not give it a try?”
- How long have you been singing with Orpheus and how long in general?
I have been singing with the Orpheus Club since 1998.
Unlike many of the club members, I did not sing with any choruses in high school or in college. My musical exploits were confined to singing along with the radio and in the shower. In my early 30s, with some cajoling from my wife and neighbors, I joined “Dad’s Night,” a loosey-goosey comedy/musical show fathers performed annually for their children in the Somerville and Hawes grammar schools. Talk about an easy audience! The group of men in Dad’s Night during my time were very musical and the next thing I know I am on stage belting out songs.
When our kids moved on to Ridgewood High School, my wife Dotti and I joined RHS Jamboree, performed by the parents of RHS students to raise money for scholarships. Jamboree was a more polished show, than Dad’s Night, much closer to what we think of as community theater. In Jamboree, I performed in small ensembles and large mixed choruses; I also had several solos. My Dad’s Night and Jamboree experiences helped eliminate any inhibitions I had about standing up in front of a crowd. Amazing what a good costume and a little makeup can do for one’s confidence!
When our daughter graduated RHS in 1994, my onstage career with Jamboree ended and I began working on backstage activities. In 1996, I directed the Jamboree show “Radio Daze.”
I did have a few gigs outside of the Ridgewood school system:
One spring, I performed with a six-person ensemble in a musical at Van Neste Park in Ridgewood’s first Arts Festival. The play’s original script celebrated the history of Ridgewood and some of its revered citizens. One of my characters, to whom I added some comedic behavior, was Dr. William Vroom, who converted his boyhood home on Ridgewood Avenue into a small hospital where he practiced medicine from 1888 to 1963. (He lived to be 100 and saw his last patient at age 97.) The building stands to this day and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I also performed with the Garage Theater Group, an equity theater in Teaneck, in a production of The Music Man. I played Oliver Hicks, a school board member who does not get along with the other members until Harold Hill gets him to sing with the others.
By 1998 I was looking around for something musical or comedic to do. Then along comes the Dan Williams notice in the newspaper at just the right time. From the very first rehearsal I knew I had found a home. Everyone was very welcoming and very helpful in initiating me.
- Share a memory or experience with Orpheus.
Our centennial anniversary concert in May 2009 will always be special to me. Celebrating a club with such a long, rich history was both an honor and a profound responsibility. I believe our performance before an SRO audience in West Side Presbyterian Church was a fitting tribute to the eight founders whose first public performance took place on the front lawn of one of the officers. As we looked back at that humble beginning, we accepted the torch to propel the Orpheus Club into a second century of music making.
- What do you do as a leader of Orpheus and what you have gained from the experience?
As a member of the Orpheus Club’s Board of Trustees, my official role is to support and advise our current leadership team. I am also a past president of the club. I learned many years ago that volunteer organizations usually function with a small cadre of dedicated souls, so I try to help the Orpheus leadership team. For example, I’m a retired IT guy, and being pretty tech-savvy, I have helped automate some of our processes, most recently our scholarship application forms and procedures.
- Can you share a favorite choral composition?
It’s hard to pick a single favorite choral piece. I enjoy choral music from a wide variety of genres including classical, jazz, American folk, rock, ragtime, theater, and doo wop. Among my favorite pieces performed with the Orpheus Club are:
- “At the River” (Aaron Copeland)
- “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen)
- “In Flanders Fields”
- “Men of Harlech” (traditional Welsh military march)
- “Mood Indigo” (Duke Ellington)
- “Va Pensiero” (Giuseppe Verdi)
- “What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?”
- What are your non-musical hobbies?
Travel, particularly with my wife Dotti who has a knack for finding the local nooks and crannies often missing from the guidebooks. Basically, I love the outdoors and being active; I especially enjoy biking and hiking. I am also an avid gardener, a passion passed down from my immigrant Italian grandparents, that I now share with Dotti. We are members of the New York Botanical Garden, which we visit often.
Published in October 2021