His repertoire includes a boisterous collection of sea shanties and the worldâ€™s best love songs â€“ not what most Air Force historians would list as their areas of expertise.
Rick Griset, 56th Fighter Wing historian and 28-year U.S. Air Force veteran, works alone in a one-person-deep shop by day. By night, he performs with 79 other men in an all-male choir every Tuesday on Central Avenue in Phoenix.
â€œRehearsal is the highlight of my week,â€ Griset said. â€œI originally joined the group in 1996. I hadnâ€™t been at Luke Air Force Base very long when I went to my first rehearsal. I rehearsed on Tuesday, and by Saturday I was singing in a concert.â€
Griset is a member of the Orpheus Male Chorus of Phoenix. He joined while on his first of two active-duty tours at Luke.
Orpheus is made up of volunteer singers whose objective is to give promising high school seniors the opportunity to continue their education in college. Men, like Griset, drive from around the Valley to participate in rehearsals and performances. They donâ€™t just sing, but rather are involved in the community.
â€œThe need or want to perform choral music brought me into the program,â€ said Kenny Casey, Orpheus section leader and Phoenix native. â€œOnce I was in, I stayed because of the camaraderie. I would encourage anyone interested to check out the Orpheus Male Chorus.â€
The first week of November each year, the group reaches out to young men in Valley high schools, Arizona State University and other male choruses. Itâ€™s called Boys to Men.
â€œThe event helps us connect through music to younger groups,â€ Griset said. â€œThis past year we had up to 350 voices. In volunteer groups thereâ€™s a large turnover of people. Boys to Men gives us a chance to encourage younger singers.â€
Grisetâ€™s personal enjoyment of singing didnâ€™t begin at Luke, however. It came about from an invitation he received during an overseas tour while he was on active-duty as an aircraft maintenance officer.
â€œWhen I was stationed in Germany the spouse of one of my coworkers invited me to join the Rheinland-Pfalz International Choir,â€ Griset said. â€œI always considered myself an instrumentalist up to that point. I played the trombone starting in 4th grade and continued halfway through college.â€
For Griset it was always difficult to stay proficient with playing a musical instrument.
â€œI didnâ€™t take the time to keep up with playing the trombone,â€ Griset said. â€œIt requires a lot of practice to stay with it. However, with singing, I found that I take my voice everywhere.â€
This led Griset to Orpheus and the volunteer singers he calls a â€œgreat bunch of guys,â€ most of whom are nonprofessional musicians. Orpheus is made up of doctors, lawyers, retirees, school teachers and even some construction workers. The group has performed in Australia, New Zealand and ten European countries as well as other cities in the United States.
Grisetâ€™s final military assignment was at the Joint Forces Staff College in Virginia. Following his retirement from the Air Force, he returned to the West Valley and took his current position as wing historian.
Orpheus is Arizonaâ€™s longest continually performing choral organization. It was founded in 1929 and had its debut performance on radio station KTAR. The men have two performing seasons, spring and Christmas. Rehearsals for the holiday season will begin in late August or early September.
â€œEvery piece of music has its own feel and emotion,â€ Griset said. â€œWe bring out the emotion. Thatâ€™s the moment we look for in each of our performances.â€
Griset spent his military career serving his nation. He continues his service to the community both on and off-duty at Luke.
For more information about Orpheus, visit the website at www.orpheus.org.
Upcoming performances by Orpheus Male ChorusÂ
Velda Rose United Methodist Church
7:30 p.m. May 1
5540 E. Main St. in Mesa
Camelback Bible Church
3 p.m. May 6
3900 E. Stanford Dr. in Paradise Valley
Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 for seniors and students, children 12 and under are free.