The Singing Grandpops
By Ed Karvoski Jr.
Arlington – The Retired Men’s Club of Arlington (RMCA) offers a number of unique activities including the Singing Grandpops, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. The vocal group performs regularly at senior centers, civic clubs, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Its musical director, Frank Vaughan, has been active with the group since its founding in 1990.
“Getting together to sing absolutely helps us,” he said. “A lot of us have aches and pains here and there, but that’s all forgotten when we’re up there singing.”
Certainly qualified to lead the grandpops, Vaughan has 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He also has a longtime interest in music, which he developed at a young age while growing up in Somerville.
“When I was in grammar school, I was in the local church choir,” he explained. “I could let off steam by singing as loud as I could.”
Having lived most of his life in Arlington, Vaughan was pleased to learn about the retired men’s club in town. There, he met musician Al Papazian, who formed the Singing Grandpops with about 15 to 20 men.
“Al put together songs from different eras, mostly the ‘40s and ‘50s,” Vaughan recalled. “We typed up the words to the songs and it took off from there.”
After Papazian passed away, Vaughan began as musical director about 20 years ago. Now, the Singing Grandpops consists of about 20 to 25 men ages 65 to 94. Vaughan is happy to the direct group.
“I like seeing the guys enjoy themselves, and seeing the audiences enjoy the Singing Grandpops,” he shared.
The Singing Grandpops rehearse twice monthly in a hall at St. Camillus Church located at 1175 Concord Turnpike, which the RMCA rents for its ongoing activities and meetings. According to the RMCA newsletter, “If you enjoy singing and hamming it up, you will love this group.”
Songs are occasionally added to their repertoire of classics such as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.” However, most musical selections remain deeply rooted in yesteryear.
“We don’t do rock and roll – that’s for sure,” Vaughan emphasized. “We like doing the older songs from the 1940s and ‘50s. We like happy tunes that everyone knows and can sing.”
Their repertoire also includes a number of patriotic songs including “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)” and “God Bless America.” Throughout the years, most of the group’s participants have been military veterans representing each branch of the armed services.
The Singing Grandpops entertain at an annual Veterans Day tribute for the RMCA members. They also regularly perform at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford and the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea. Their performances for veterans always include each military branch’s service song.
“We want to put smiles on their faces,” said Vaughan, an Army veteran. “Some of them will join in and sing along. They know all the words to the song of their particular branch of service.”
In addition to Arlington, the Singing Grandpops travel to perform for councils on aging (COA) in several communities. The group’s schedule includes an annual dinner-show at the Beech Street Center, home of the Belmont COA. According to the center’s website, “This event is one of the highlights of the center’s year. The after-dinner treat is the Singing Grandpops, who not only have superb vocal talents, but regale us with costumed visual accompaniment.”
Another annual commitment is a Memorial Mass at St. Camillus Church, which is hosted by the RMCA for its departed members. There, the Singing Grandpops perform hymns.
Whether singing or merely socializing, Vaughan appreciates what the RMCA offers.
“I like the comradery and friendliness,” he said. “Everybody gets together and enjoys spending time with each other.”
The RMCA is open to men who are retirees or will be soon. This nonprofit organization welcomes members from communities throughout the greater Boston area. Other RMCA activities include meetings with speakers, drop-in center, blood pressure clinic, book exchange, cribbage, bowling and golf leagues, and day and overnight trips. For more information about the RMCA and the Singing Grandpops, visit rmcarlington.org or call Vaughan at 781-648-0233.