Local

April 20, 2012

Singing historian: Luke civilian adds culture to Arizona communities

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Photo and story by Chief Master Sgt. Larry Schneck
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
120415-F-GF813-001-Singing-Historian
Rick Griset, 56th Fighter Wing historian, rehearses before a performance of the Orpheus Male Chorus of Phoenix Sunday at American Lutheran Church, Sun City. Orpheus is a nonprofit organization made up of male volunteers around the Phoenix area.

His repertoire includes a boisterous collection of sea shanties and the world’s best love songs – 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.

“Rehearsal is the highlight of my week,” Griset said. “I originally joined the group in 1996. I hadn’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.”

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 don’t just sing, but rather are involved in the community.

“The need or want to perform choral music brought me into the program,” said Kenny Casey, Orpheus section leader and Phoenix native. “Once I was in, I stayed because of the camaraderie. I would encourage anyone interested to check out the Orpheus Male Chorus.”

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. It’s called Boys to Men.

“The event helps us connect through music to younger groups,” Griset said. “This past year we had up to 350 voices. In volunteer groups there’s a large turnover of people. Boys to Men gives us a chance to encourage younger singers.”

Griset’s personal enjoyment of singing didn’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.

“When I was stationed in Germany the spouse of one of my coworkers invited me to join the Rheinland-Pfalz International Choir,” Griset said. “I always considered myself an instrumentalist up to that point. I played the trombone starting in 4th grade and continued halfway through college.”

For Griset it was always difficult to stay proficient with playing a musical instrument.

“I didn’t take the time to keep up with playing the trombone,” Griset said. “It requires a lot of practice to stay with it. However, with singing, I found that I take my voice everywhere.”

This led Griset to Orpheus and the volunteer singers he calls a “great bunch of guys,” 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.

Griset’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 Arizona’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.

“Every piece of music has its own feel and emotion,” Griset said. “We bring out the emotion. That’s the moment we look for in each of our performances.”

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 Chorus 

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.

 




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