Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy. A kid’ll eat ivy, too. Wouldn’t you?
This is a little ditty that can easily get stuck in my head when I call it to mind, but not because the lyrics are compelling or because the song was popular.
It’s because when I was a little girl, my dad used to sing it to me as a goodnight song while perched on the edge of my bed. There was nothing sweeter or more soothing than lying there in my tiny room with my dad crooning this silly song to me. It made me giggle.
There are other songs I can call to mind that also remind me of my dad, and they are all barbershop songs, like “Sweet Adeline,” “Hey, Look Me Over” and “Danny Boy.”
For as long as I can remember, my dad has loved to sing, and he has been a barbershop singer since before I was born 50 years ago.
Harvey Beetle sang in a barbershop chorus and in many iterations of quartets in eastern Mass, where I grew up, and since he retired in the 1980s, he’s been singing with the Lakes Region Chordsmen in Laconia, N.H., which recently honored him for 50 years of service as a chorus member.
At 86, my dad also still sings several times a week with a group of fellas in a quartet called Rewind.
Barbershop music is sung a capella in four parts – lead, tenor, bass and baritone. My dad sings baritone, which is the hardest part to sing as it doesn’t really follow any kind of melody line.
Listening to him practice was always amusing. I’d hear the familiar sound of his pitch pipe – which he’d let me blow for fun – and then the unusual sound of a familiar song being sung in one part only. It was one of the sounds of home.
My dad performs in nursing homes, at fairs and festivals, in annual recitals and in contests and competitions. He travels to sing. He stays out late at night to sing. He knocks on doors with his quartet on Valentine’s Days to sing love songs to unsuspecting listeners.
My dad lives to sing, and in doing so, he’s successfully modeled what it means to live into a passion and commit to it unconditionally.
I’ve followed my dad’s music career with interest and support. I was in the audience for many a concert as a young child, and as a young adult and mother, I would attend my dad’s outdoor concerts at Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee whenever I was visiting my parents in the summertime. My daughters loved watching their Grampy sing as much as me.
We were also apt to crack up while watching as well. This because my father lives into his music with his whole heart – and his whole face. When he is singing, his face is big and bright, and his rather bushy black eyebrows are excessively expressive, moving theatrically up and down.
Once, as a teen, I got to laughing so hard watching my dad sing with his quartet in our living room that I had to run out and get a grip on myself.
“What was so funny?” my dad asked me later, in his most innocent way. The question only brought on another wave of laughter.
My late husband, Ed Godleski, was a musician himself, and he was a great supporter of my dad’s interest. One Christmas, Ed gave my dad and his Rewind colleagues a gift certificate to a recording studio in New Hampshire.
They spent the day there – and Ed and my mom and I did as well – singing their repertoire of songs and recording them. The result was a CD my dad can still play. It’s a great reminder of his lifelong dedication.
My dad’s passion for barbershop singing is truly something to be admired.
Just like my dad.
Happy Father’s day to a wonderful, kind and giving role model. I love you.
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