On the sunny side of the beat

Leo Ball fell off a ladder 15 years ago and hit his head and couldn’t remember how to play the bass guitar, so he learned how to play the electric guitar, instead.

Vocalists Bev Freiday and Phil Bergh are members of Sunnyside Orchestra. (Joan Cronk/The Dispatch)
Vocalists Bev Freiday and Phil Bergh are members of Sunnyside Orchestra. (Joan Cronk/The Dispatch)

Now Ball performs on a regular basis with the Sunnyside Orchestra, traveling to senior centers around the area. The group also has a yearly gig at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup.

The all-senior citizen orchestra never charges for their performances and plays for the fun and enjoyment of it, said Carol Wilsey, who plays the violin with the group.

“I enjoy doing it,” she said.

The orchestra consists of two vocalists, five violinists, one piano, a trombone player, drums, guitar and a washboard player. Together they make good old-fashioned music that had the residents of the Sunset Garden Apartments tapping their feet and clapping their hands at their May performance.

Violinist Barbara Peterson said, “None of us played as a younger person because we put our instruments away for job and family, and then pulled them out when we retired.”

Ed Benson plays the drums and described himself as “the rascal from California.”

His enjoyment shines through as he performs, smiling the entire time.

“I play with three other groups, too, and enjoy making people happy,” said Benson, who worked for 39 years at Bank of America.

The room set aside for the performance at Sunset Gardens filled quickly, and when the orchestra belted out “The Grand Old Flag,” the audience clapped their hands, tapped their feet and sang along.

The military medley had everyone involved with performances of “Anchors Aweigh” and “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”

The orchestra kept playing without taking a breather, violins in perfect unison.

Vocalists Bev Freiday and Phil Bergh entertained the crowd and sang nearly every song.

Freiday introduced each song. “They play the first chorus and then we sing,” she said.

Freiday has been with the group, which formed in 1976, since 2004.  “Everyone is friendly and it is versatile. I like to rise to the challenges, and music is always joyful,” she said. “I see the people when we play and sing and they know the songs. It is their music, and they mouth the words as we perform.”