Meet the ‘Veterans Home Singers’For someone unfamiliar with the layout inside the Minnesota Veterans Home Hastings, it was not difficult to find the chapel last Thursday around 2:30 p.m. All one had to do was follow the sounds of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
By: Keith Grauman, The Hastings Star-Gazette
For someone unfamiliar with the layout inside the Minnesota Veterans Home Hastings, it was not difficult to find the chapel last Thursday around 2:30 p.m. All one had to do was follow the sounds of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
“He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago way,” the members of the Minnesota Veterans Home Chorus of Hastings began, backed up by a bouncing piano tune played by volunteer Noreen Swanson.
“He had a boogie style that no one else could play/He was the top man of his craft/But then his number came up/And he was gone with the draft/He’s in the Army now a-blowin’ Reveille/He’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of company B.”
The singing group, also called the Veterans Home Singers, are made up of a core group of about five men, but the group’s practices sometimes have as many as 12 people at them. They meet to practice about once a month and perform at vets home events, nursing homes, churches, hospitals and more.
One member, Jerry Krebs, has been singing with the group for about seven years. They recently performed on the lawn of the state capitol during an event called Minnesota Honors Vietnam Era Veterans.
“When we started singing our first song, ‘America Will Always Stand,’ people were taking pictures; I got goose bumps,” Krebs said.
The Veterans Home Singers have about 45 songs in their repertoire, ranging from patriotic songs like, “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” and “This Land is Your Land,” to traditional Christmas songs. Their performances usually last about 45 minutes. Sonya Thompson, an activities director at the vets home, accompanies the group to their performances.
“They always get a good reception,” she said. “It’s a meaningful experience for us (the singing group), and it’s a meaningful experience for them (their audiences), too.”
She said it’s fun to watch the reactions of senior citizens at nursing homes as they perk up when they recognize a tune. At a recent performance at Oak Ridge Assisted Living in Hastings, the group walked in to find an audience of 50 people waiting for their arrival.
Swanson said members of their audiences usually come up to the group after the performance and say things like, “That used to be my favorite song,” or “I remember dancing to that song.”
Swanson, who’s been playing with the group for more than 10 years, said she’s enjoyed her time with the vets in the group.
“Over the years, you see a change in the men,” she said. “They open up; you see another side of them.”
Along with Krebs, other members of the group include Ron O’Brien, Tom Moos, Phil Ellingson and Rick Jensen.