Gentlemen Songsters

The Gentlemen Songsters came about because Myra Tate asked a group of men to join the GraceNotes in leading Christmas Carols during their December, 2015 concert.  The men enjoyed singing together and, as a result, the group known as the Gentlemen Songsters was formed. Their first public appearance was an an added feature in the Acousti-Cats concert a few months later.  The Gentlemen Songsters gave their first stand-alone concert in November, 2016.


Ray Roth and Karl Signell came up with the name “Gentlemen Songsters” after they wrote on a blackboard a bunch of possibilities. Karl suggested Gentlemen Songsters because of its iconic resonance with the Yale undergraduate group’s “Whiffenpoof Song”.  In this song, there are the words “…Gentlemen Songsters off on a spree,…”.

( )  Sounded like a good name for the group. And that was that!

For more information, contact David Ebert (see Resident Phone Book)

Biographies of some of the members:

Ray Roth, Director

Raymond (Ray) Roth, brass player, singer and conductor, attended two colleges and three universities en route to a PhD in Music Eduction.  During his seventeen years working in public schools he directed bands, orchestras, jazz bands, and marching bands and taught music courses.  In his final 20 years he developed a Music Department at the University of Michigan – Flint where he taught classes and conducted ensembles and was the department chair for nine years.  In retirement Ray started a summer band in Mackinaw City, Michigan. The Straits Area Concert Band is still going strong after 33 years. He also directed and performed in both instrumental and vocal groups and was active in musicals, both on stage and conducting in the pit.

Cidney Roth, Piano Accompanist

Cidney Roth started piano at age 6 and flute at age 10.  By 6th grade she was playing flute in the high school marching band and by 8th grade she was accompanying the high school chorus.  She got her Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and she and her music classmates spent their junior year at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.  After graduating she went back to Salzburg for one more year as a grad assistant.  Cidney taught vocal and instrumental music (Pre-K through 12) for nineteen years and taught flute privately for many more years.  Obviously, she still enjoys choral singing, playing her flute and accompanying.

George Cohen

George is a native Washingtonian who became a pediatrician after training at DC Children’s Hospital. Although he started in music with piano lessons (that he didn’t enjoy), in junior high he started flute lessons and has continued playing flute ever since. He was introduced to glee club singing by a fellow band musician, and has been a choir singer since then. He was in the audience of a Gentlemen Songsters performance and thought it was worth a try to join the group.

 David Ebert

David grow up in a small town in Wisconsin and played the trumpet in the high school band and orchestra. He trained in the field of Nuclear Engineering and worked for several organizations, finally ending up his professional career at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He didn’t play the trumpet much after high school, but picked up the recorder since it was a quieter instrument so as not to disturb the neighbors while living in apartments. He always liked to sing, but never sang in any organization until he thought it would be fun to join the Gentlemen Songsters!

John Eliot

I grew up in both Washington, D.C. and Southern California. I received two degrees from Harvard before my doctorate from Stanford, and have since taught educational and cognitive psychology at both Northwestern and at Maryland University. When I retired, I earned a masters in theological studies from seminary. My mother was an accomplished pianist, and I have sung in church choirs for many years. I have missed singing recently and was delighted to join the Songsters where I have learned much from Ray Roth, our excellent teacher and conductor. 

Edward D. Gehres, Jr.

Ed was born in Pittsburgh, Pa. but from the age of eight years old through adult grew up in Detroit, Mi. He played the clarinet from late elementary through high school in which he played in both the marching and concert bands. He also sang in the church choir and during college he sang in the University Chorus and a men’s octet. During the early years of his married life he and his spouse, Evelyn, sang in the Community Chorus. He started out in accounting working for a C.P.A. firm. After about four to five years he left accounting and entered the Presbyterian Ministry. He served as Associate Pastor for nine years after which he finished out his ministry as a regional executive. Having sung most of my life,
I was motivated to continue singing in The Gentlemen Songsters.

Al Girod

Al has sung in church choirs over the years.  He sang in a Glee Club in Naval Officer Candidate School and later he both directed and sang in Glee Club in Supply Corps School. He had the good fortune and great fun of taking a conducting class at the University of Michigan (only non music student in the class).  He sang as a student in the University of Michigan Choral Union (for credit) and went on to sing in the Choral Union for 37 years until shortly before he moved to Riderwood.  The Choral Union was the official large chorus for the Detroit Symphony.  Al and his wife, Almeda, traveled to 7 European countries, Spain, and Egypt on University of Michigan Choral Union concert tours. 

Jim Hall

Jim sang in his small town Missouri high school chorus and played alto saxophone in the band. After graduation he did not continue the sax, but always enjoyed singing in various choirs, vocal groups, and community theater. After medical school and a two-year stint in the US Army as a flight surgeon , he practiced in Orange County, CA for many years. Upon retirement and moving to Riderwood with its many interest groups and clubs, he has enjoyed the opportunity to sing with a chorus again; and appreciates Ray Roth for providing this opportunity.

Joe Jones

Joseph E. (Joe) Jones, a native of Illinois, has lived in the Washington area since 1958. A lawyer by training, Joe spent six years as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and 35 years in the non-profit sector, the last 12 as CEO of two associations; a professional organization of financial institution regulators and a human resources trade association. He holds a BA, Pre-Law, from the University of Illinois, an MA in History from Georgetown University and a JD from the Georgetown University Law School. Almost 10 years after retiring, Joe was named Regional Director of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) for the DC metropolitan area in 2008, a position he held for four years. Over the past 60-plus years, starting in high school, Joe has become an accomplished choral singer. A tenor, he has performed primarily with four major symphonic choruses — The Choral Arts Society of Washington, The City Choir of Washington, The Washington Chorus and The Dallas Symphony Chorus — at The Kennedy Center and in major concert venues all over the US and in eight foreign countries–Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, China, England, France, Italy and Russia.

David Nation

David grew up on a farm in Iowa. He played clarinet, bass clarinet and tenor saxophone in high school and sang in choirs and voice competitions. He continued singing where ever he went including colleges where he joined the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity and a career in the Intelligence Community where he was a Human-Computer Interface researcher awarded five patents. Memorable groups he has sung with include the Stanford Symphonic Chorus, the Howard County Interfaith Choir and now the Gentlemen Songsters!

Daniel Sachs

Daniel grew up in New York City and attended the Walden School, where he sang in the chorus under the direction  of Hal Aks,  After graduating from Cornell University and a stint in the US Army, Dan entered George Washington University Law School.  He devoted his career to the development of affordable housing.  He and his wife, Ruth, raised their three children in New Haven, Connecticut, and then returned to Washington in 1990.  In 2015, they moved from Bethesda to Riderwood. He’s delighted to return to choral singing after a 65-year hiatus!

Karl Signell

I grew up in Whitefish Bay, a suburb of Milwaukee, in the “Cheese-Head State” (Wisconsin). Earned a B.S. in percussion at Juilliard, an M.A. in music education at Columbia University Teachers College in New York, and a PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of Washington (Seattle).  Studied choral conducting at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.  I’m an ethnomusicologist (studying world music) by profession, specializing in Turkish art music/makam modal system, and Javanese gamelan orchestra plus wayang kulit shadow-puppet drama. Produced the CD Shadow Music of Java for Rounder Records. Performed with the gamelan orchestra at the Embassy of Indonesia in Washington, D.C. and other venues around D.C. for seventeen years, specializing in gongs, bonang, and gerong solo male voice.

Sang in many vocal ensembles, from the Philippines (where I sang Bach’s complete B-minor Mass), to the U.S. Army (where I first sang “Give Me Your Tired…” (Berlin/Lazarus), to the Rochester Oratorio Society, where I sang, among other compositions, Mozart’s Requiem, Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in E-flat major, often called “Symphony of a Thousand” because of the vast instrumental and vocal ensembles participating, and to Koleda, a folkdance ensemble in Seattle, WA where I created and directed a vocal group by simply putting everyone in the choir (no auditions). Great response from private sponsors’ homes (thanks for $$) to public performances at concert halls there.

I joined Gentlemen Songsters because of the cool name linking Kipling, Yale undergrads, and the film From Here to Eternity

I always enjoyed singing in groups, so hearing about a new group at Riderwood started by Ray Roth (from my Tai Chi class) was a delightful idea. “Sign me up, Ray” I said to myself.

Walter Straughan

I was born in Rocky Mount, NC and lived there through HS.  I also played the trumpet while there.  I went to collage at ECC  (East Carolina Collage) and majored in Music Education.  I also joined the AFROTC while there.  Upon graduation I had to choose between going to Korea as a Private 3rd class and as a 2nd Lt in the AF  (no contest).  I was sent off to pilots school, graduated as a multi- engine pilot and spent the next 24+ years flying transport aircraft.  My music background lead me to many voluntary church choir jobs as my wife and I moved from one place to another.  After she died I looked for some place to spend the rest of my life where I could also use the little talent I have left,  and look where I landed!   

Ed Wachtman

Ed grew up in South Carolina, here he had interests in sports, and sang in his high school chorus and a quartet for four years. He also sang in the Methodist Church Choir. He also graduated from Coastal Carolina University. After college, he served in the United States Army, and now is a life member of the American Legion. Ed spent many years in retail management aimed at home center management. He also was a trouble shooter and technical supervisor in the pest control industry for about twenty years. His last employment was as the Administer of two Moose Lodges, where he was responsible for all phases of running a lodge, including financial. During this time, Ed was also active in his church choir, and sang several years at Christmas with several chorus’ in the District of Columbia. Ed discovered the Gentlemen Songsters when Ray was looking for new members, and enjoys singing with the other men.

Ed Valade

Ed was born in Gloucester, England, and came to the U.S. as a small child. He is a retired writer of speeches, newspaper and magazine articles, and books. In a musical “career” of more than 50 years he has appeared in leading roles and the chorus in dozens of musical comedies, operettas and operas. He also has sung with chorales at such venues as Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center. This year (2017) he has roles in “La Perichole” and “The Mikado” with the Victorian Lyric Opera Company.



875 total views, 2 views today