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November 29, 2013

In tune with the times

Lawrence resident, 91, keeps the hits coming as member of Men of St. Patrick singing troupe


Bill Blanchette remembers accompanying his dad when he was in the seventh grade to rehearsals at the Knights of Columbus in North Andover and later Lawrence. The older Blanchette then started doing CYO shows at St. Patrick along with former Lawrence Mayor Kevin Sullivan.

The elder Blanchette coordinates the events for the Men of St. Patrick. His son said he has a music library with thousands of songs which he arranges by artists and years recorded. He took all the reels and converted them into cassettes and later to DVDs.

Despite his age, Blanchette is also in tune with the times

To prepare for the shows, he downloads music from iTunes on his computer into his iPod. He makes a CD of the songs such as “Rosie You Are My Posie,” “Toot, Toot, Tootsey Goodbye,” which are both by Al Jolson. In turn, he gives the CDs to younger troupe members who listen and learn the lyrics and music usually in eight weeks.

During a recent show at MI Nursing Home, they sang “Put on your Slippers and Fill Up your Pipe, You’re not Going Bye Bye Tonight” from 1917 and “Queen of Chesapeake Bay” from 1926.

After every song, Blanchette changed the sheet music. Singers interject humor between songs, most of the time started by Blanchette.

“Where’s Chesapeake Bay?” to which he responds, “If you were swimming in it, you’d know.”

Referring to Perry, Blanchette asks, “Danny boy, did you take a shower today?”

Perry quips, “Why, is there one missing?”

Despite his age, he sings in a loud voice as he proved when he sang “Poor Papa (Has Nothing)” from 1926.

Blanchette adjusted his royal blue bow tie and pointed to his feet during the refrain, “Now, Christmas comes and Mama gets the most expensive frocks, Papa gets a necktie and a pair of 10 cent socks.”

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