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The Whistler’

Whistlers team up to entertain at Linden Ponds

Created date

February 26th, 2013

Even when apart, members of one Linden Ponds group tend to inadvertently announce themselves as they walk through the community. I probably whistle too much, says Ed Petcavage, who lives at the Erickson Living community in Hingham, Mass. They don t have to know my name they call me The Whistler. Ed isn t alone. A lot of us are called whistlers now, he says. When we see each other in the hallway, they may not be paying attention, but we ll whistle. They turn and start whistling back, like a bunch of birds chirping to each other. Among the Linden Ponds whistlers are men and women who grew up in families where whistling was common. They fondly remember whistler Elmo Tanner s Heartaches, and they whistled their way to and from work. Initially, those who live at Linden Ponds and whistle were doing as they always had, making music individually, sometimes unknowingly. But short, whistled walk-ons in performances by the Linden Ponds repertory company, combined with interest from a number of habitual whistlers, spurred the formation of the organized group.

Running with ' an idea

When director and producer of the repertory company Nalora (Lo) Steele was looking for someone to carry a fishing pole while whistling the Andy Griffith theme song in an annual holiday performance, she turned to Ed Petcavage. Ed easily filled the role and another solo during a musical garden promenade event. His and other requests for a place to whistle resulted in Lo organizing a group meeting every other Monday night with piano accompanist Alice Allen. More than a dozen people are on the whistlers roster. A smaller group of charioteers, people who play percussion instruments and noisemakers from their wheelchairs, usually join them. The combined group welcomed people to the last repertory company performance with song as they found their seats. It was an interesting idea but kind of a kooky idea that has just taken off, and we ve run with it, Lo says of the whistlers and charioteers.

Improving skill

Few of the group members consider themselves musicians. I can t read music, but if I m following the radio or music, I can usually follow along fairly quickly, Ed says, adding, I played the triangle when I was in the third grade that s about the extent of my instrumental talent. Adds whistler Jim Pettee, What s really fun is the fact that there are a number of us here at Linden Ponds that like to do it together. Whistlers are very good at picking up and whistling tunes most of us can whistle tunes that we learned in high school. Even so, they have learned to whistle together and have improved their skill level, led by Lo s creative direction. Musically, people in the chorus are now singing with much higher ranges and lower ranges, she says. That has happened with the whistlers. Now most of them have a range in an octave, or eight notes. It s really quite astounding; I had no idea that could happen. It is certainly a surprise to me because, as a trained musician, this is the last thing I had in mind, she adds. In addition to the group s widening range including harmonizing with help from Lo s husband Guy the whistlers have come together as a group. It s fatiguing; you lose your pucker. Practice makes a big difference, Jim says, adding, We reinforce each other for sure. If one of us doesn t know a particular part of a song, we ll either learn it or be quiet and those who do know it will whistle up a storm.

Light-hearted fun

Above all, the group members say they ll continue because it s a good time. It s fun whistling with others; it s a good group effort. It s psychologically rewarding to sing as a group, Jim says. Adds John McTammany: Some people enjoy playing bridge; we just enjoy whistling. For Sybil Bruel, one of the charioteers, the group is a lighter change from her other activities at Linden Ponds. It s a whole different thing because the things that I work for are time consuming and demanding, she says. This is fun, and anybody can do it.