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Glee Club at Edenwald to present Veterans Day Concert

George Brown served as a Seabee, part of the U.S. Navy's construction battalion, in World War II.

Charles Castle was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force in the Cold War era that followed the Korean War. He flew an F86-D Sabre, a fighter interceptor jet.

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Charlotte Houghton was a member of the Canteen Corps of the Baltimore Chapter of the American Red Cross, delivering food to area military bases during World War II.

Next week, the three veterans will be serving as patriots in a different way when they lend their voices to a Veterans Day Concert on Nov. 10 at Edenwald Retirement Community, where they live.

Brown, Castle and Houghton and 16 other members of The Glee Club at Edenwald, a continuing care facility in Towson, will present patriotic songs and a tribute to those Americans who served in various wars for the concert. Members of Boy Scout Troop No. 832 of Lutherville, will serve as color guard, presenting the American and Maryland state flags at the start and end of the concert, slated for 7:30 p.m. in the facility's auditorium. The public is invited.

"You can't stop honoring those who served their country," said Charles Castle, 81, the former Air Force pilot.

'Very personal'

On a warm fall afternoon, The Glee Club rehearsed for the concert during its regular Monday session in Edenwald's auditorium. Three rows of chairs were arranged on the stage.

The concert isn't for another two weeks and Glee Club Director Becky Kooken is taking advantage. Sitting at a piano to the side of the stage, she ironed out the rough musical edges, playing some tunes over, enunciating some words again.

"They're a wonderful group of people and a lot of fun," said Kooken a Cockeysville resident hired two years ago to lead The Glee Club.

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The club has 20 members ranging in age from the 70s to 90s. The club hosts other special concerts for the Edenwald community, at Christmas and in the spring. Once a month, club members visit Edenwald's Alzheimer's/dementia unit and the nursing care unit, where they sing popular songs for residents.

"[The members] love to put on these programs. They are committed to that service [in the units]. It's definitely a team effort," said Kooken, a private piano teacher, who serves as musical director of Monkton United Methodist Church.

Edenwald resident and club member Betsy Barclay doesn't want to take special credit for the Veterans Day Concert, but last year's Veterans Day Concert, the first, was inspired by the military service of her late husband, Joseph, in the Korean War.

"I felt we should do more to honor the men and women who served in the military," said Barclay, 84, a former Baltimore County schoolteacher who organized the first concert.

For last year's concert, residents of Edenwald were asked to write about their wartime experiences, whatever the war and whatever their role in the military or homefront. Club members read selected remembrances of experiences between renditions of patriotic songs. Boy Scout Troop No. 832 of Lutherville, served as color guard, presenting the American and Maryland state flags at the start and end of the concert.

"It was very personal," Kooken said. And well-attended.

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"We had to open the back doors of the auditorium. They set up seats in the hallway," Barclay said.

This year's concert is taking a different approach.

"We thought we'd try something different, within the confines of a 50-minute program," Barclay said.

Glee Club members wrote the script during "brainstorming sessions," said Kooken, which resulted in a tribute to almost all of America's wars. Starting with the Revolutionary War to the War in Afghanistan, the members wrote explanatory passages to connect them. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address will be read. So, too, the iconic World War I poem, "In Flanders Fields." World War II's "Greatest Generation" is saluted. Vietnam and Desert Storm are remembered.

Songs are matched to the era, from "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Over There" to "God Bless America" and the "Armed Forces Medley." The latter includes such familiar tunes as the Army's, "Over Hill, Over Dale," the Air Forces' "Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder," the Navy's "Anchors Aweigh" and the Marines' "From The Halls of Montezuma."

Glee Club members are enthusiastic about their group and the upcoming concert.

"I like everything about it — the people, the music, the programs, the director," said Houghton, 89, who has lived at Edenwald for two years.

Mary Lu Fisher, 82, a two-year Edenwald resident and club member, is a longtime singer.

"I've always loved to sing. All my life, I've been in choirs and glee clubs," Fisher said.

Castle was involved in choral groups in high school and college. He said his singing days had lapsed until he came to Edenwald two years ago. "I thought, 'Gee, this would be great,'" Castle said.

George Brown, 89, the former Seabee, has been a Glee Club member since he came to Edenwald five years ago and particularly likes singing for the Alzheimer's and nursing care units.

"I get a great deal of enjoyment from the club," Brown said.

The Veterans Day Concert featuring The Glee Club takes place Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Edenwald Retirement Community, 800 Southerly Road. The concert is free and the public is invited.

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