One of life's embarrassing moments

... a Melrose native recalls ...

by Bob Campbell

Back in the early 1950's when I lived in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and worked for
IBM, I also had another “job” --- singing old songs with a volunteer
firemen's group at old age homes. Not only did we have fun singing, we
particularly enjoyed singing to the elderly. But there was one singing
experience that reached not only old-age folks but middle and young-aged
groups as well. How did we do that?  

A radio broadcast! Here's what happened ... a broadcast the listener will
probably never forget, nor will we. It happened when we sang a “package” of
old songs that we felt would appeal to our mixed audience. Needless to say,
we were all a little nervous.

We were doing very well with our singing, we thought, until the last song.  
For some unknown reason the basses got off on the wrong key. Did you ever
hear, or can you imagine hearing ”Battle Hymn of the Republic” sung with
the basses off-key?  

I was at the microphone and didn't know what to do! I'd never been trained
on “know what to do” in such a live broadcast situation! Should I stop the
group and restart our Firemen's Chorus? Or should I just let them continue
as is?  We were only expected to sing that one verse.

To make a long story short I decided to let them continue. At the end, I
explained the situation and apologized to our radio audience, much of which
consisted of many of our families and friends in the Poughkeepsie area.  

One thing for sure ... we were the “talk of the town” for the next couple
of weeks.  But, to my surprise I found our audience was most understanding.   
It's an experience I personally will never forget, especially the kindness
and understanding of the radio audience that momentous broadcasting day.  

Neither will I ever forget the old-age folks who listened attentively to
our Firemen's group sing and who applauded enthusiastically when our
performance ended. It was a good feeling to know we had brought some cheer
into their day.  

Rest assured, I will always and forever be cheered when I think of the
Firemen's chorus, the radio broadcast, and, above all, the old people we
entertained whether we sang off-key or on-key.  Need I say more?

April 5, 2013

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