Nursing home performances hit a high note

Thursday, November 7, 2013 7:00 pm | Updated: 1:35 pm, Mon May 5, 2014.
Denise Membreno
Gene and Alyce Welch have been in harmony for 63 years. At 92 and 87 years old, respectively, the couple lends their voices to raise the spirits of others as members of the B-Sharps, a singing group at Smith Mountain Lake.
At a time when many would expect the Welches to slow down, they continue to make music, and each month bring smiles to residents of area nursing homes. On their song list are show tunes, patriotic songs and hymns.
“These are not new songs we are singing,” said Alyce. “These are old songs everybody knows. Pretty soon, their heads [the nursing home residents] are coming up and joining in with us. It is really fun to see, and it makes you feel like you’ve done something worthwhile.”
The Welches retired to the lake from Pennsylvania in 1980. Gene got involved with real estate, which led the couple to build the White House Corner Store. They since have sold the store, but remain involved in the community.
Gene worked for the CIA so they lived all over the world during his career. They both sang in choirs in almost every place they have called home. So when the B-Sharps formed at SML in 2002, it was only natural that they would join.
“There was already one group at the lake called the Notables,” remembered Barbara Dice, co-founder of the B-Sharps. “When we moved here, I wanted to join them, but they only have a certain number of members and didn’t have an opening.”
As it turns out, there were others who wanted to sing, but did not have a group to join, so the B-Sharps was born.
“We sing ‘Let me Call you Sweetheart,’ ‘Bicycle Built for Two,’ ‘I want a Girl,’ ‘The White Cliffs of Dover,’” Dice said. “It’s really gratifying. Sometimes I’m up there singing, and I have to keep from crying because it is such a sad situation, but you just think that maybe you are doing something special for them.”
“All of a sudden you will see someone who appears to have been sleeping or medicated, you’ll see them all of a sudden start mouthing the words and they’ll know all the words,” said Dottie Nagele, director of the B-Sharps. “It brings tears to my eyes at times, but it makes my day.”
The B-Sharps practice the last Wednesday of the month and the group “sings out” the next Wednesday. The “sing outs” are all-day affairs that include a morning performance at a nursing home. Then the members break for lunch, and after eating together, perform in the afternoon at another home.
The B-Sharps perform in Roanoke, Salem and Lynchburg, too.
When Gene and Alyce are participating, they sing a duet of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”
“ Dreaming when the skies are blue, When they’re gray;
When the silv’ry moonlight gleams, Still I wander on in dreams,
In a land of love, it seems, Just with you.
Let me call you “Sweetheart,” I’m in love with you.” —Beth Slater Whitson
“The song brings back lots of memories,” said Alyce. “When we were growing up, it was customary for women to learn piano. My mother played beautifully, so could Gene’s. You did singing at your house and that was one of the songs. The words are quite meaningful.”
“The B-Sharps are a very friendly and warm group of people who enjoy sharing music and making the day of some of the folks in nursing homes,” Nagele said. “We really enjoy each other and have become a family over the years, a welcoming family that takes in anyone who is interested.”
The group has 21 members and is open to anyone. There are no auditions, and musical training is not required to join. Just show up at practice on the last Wednesday of the month at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Moneta at 9:30 a.m.
For more information, contact Barbara Dice at 721-8041 or Dottie Nagele 297-1058.

Reprinted from the Laker Weekly

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