Recently we happened to sing at one of our meetings, something we don’t do as often as we once did. A visiting Rotarian, when introduced, said he enjoyed being at “a singing club.”
Back in about 1999, our singing club was concerned about the lack of a decent piano. Rotarian Lee Turner had the idea to solicit $100 contributions from members to purchase the club’s own instrument. Jerry Swalley, owner of Swalley’s Music, gave us a $1,000 discount. More than 40 Rotarians were listed in the RiB as having made contributions.
When the piano arrived, the RiB enthused: “Nifty spinet piano, and bench, arrived. No longer will Dean Boal, or others, have to sit atop three stacked chairs to reach the keyboard, or watch apprehensively as the instrument’s joints opened and flexed as he played!”
Many Rotarians took charge of vocal entertainment at our meetings. We would sing the national anthem and other patriotic tunes, songs from the Rotary songbook, and even songs with lyrics tailored to the individual speakers. The “Rotary Chorale,” started by Karen McMurry, entertained at holiday meetings and other occasions.
Jack Rummel, a well-known ragtime pianist, recalled some of the song leaders:
“One who was legendary was Homer Rainey, whose favorite song was Alouette with every repeat being sung louder than its predecessor.”
“Our best known song leader was Everett “E.J.” Hilty, who was famous for shouting, ‘Follow the director!’ and stopping the singing in mid-phrase to chew us out (followed by many chuckles from the crowd) when we didn’t follow him closely. Other song leaders I recall were Quentin “Karl” Karlsrud, Ray Hauser, Ted Manning, Roger Heath and myself (although I was more often the piano player).”
Ted Manning liked to lead the club in America the Beautiful, Lenna Kottke remembers.
Recently Jack Rummel played some of his ragtime compositions at the Club 1919 dinner. He has said that he pleaded with his mother to be allowed to stop piano lessons but to no avail. One of his pieces is a tribute to the mother who wouldn’t let him quit. And on occasion, George Russell still sings his own cowboy songs and plays guitar.