Ed Gifford, 90, is a 60-year member of the Electric City Chorus and co-founder of barbershop quartet
Ed Gifford doesn’t need a radio. He’s always got a song on his lips.
His repertoire likely numbers in the thousands: The 90-year-old Rotterdam resident has been singing for as long as he can remember.
Gifford has a page-and-a-half of his old standbys written down on paper. His favorite, he said, is “Love’s Old Sweet Song.”
A founding member of the barbershop quartet “Revisions,” he sings bass with the group, which makes appearances at local venues.
Revisions formed by chance over 15 years ago when Gifford and three other singers were assigned to the same dressing room at Proctors during an Electric City Chorus concert. Not surprisingly, they started singing in there.
“We found we liked the sound of it, so we formed a quartet,” he explained.
Gifford has been a member of the Electric City Chorus for 60 years and religiously attends the group’s weekly practice sessions.
After everyone else goes home, he and the other members of Revisions stick around and rehearse for another hour.
The group performs monthly, on average, for anyone who wants to pay for the service, Gifford said, with humor evident in his deep, melodic voice.
Walt Lane of Johnstown, Revisions’ lead, called Gifford a mainstay of the quartet.
“He probably remembers more songs than anybody else I’ve ever met,” he said. “He brings a very solid bass. He’s dead on. He’s always on pitch.”
The two men, along with tenor Chris Jensen and baritone Jim Stearns, have sung at taverns, adult care facilities and local theaters.
The best part about it is the fellowship, Gifford said.
“Wherever you go, there are certain songs, like ‘Wild Irish Rose,’ that you can sing with anybody. And with me, when it comes to things like ‘Wild Irish Rose,’ I can sing any of the parts,” he said.
Wherever he goes, Gifford sizes people up as potential quartet members.
“I used to be on school board and would go to school board conferences at a place in the Catskills and I would be walking down the hall by myself and I’d see three men talking to each other in the hallway and my tendency would be to walk up to them and say, ‘What part do you need?’ although they were school board members,” he said with a laugh.
He’d like to recruit more men to sing with Electric City Chorus.
“We need new people and it’s a portable hobby,” he said. “Come to the church on the corner of Eastern and Brandywine any Tuesday night at 7:30 and be welcome.”
Gifford learned to read music in third grade, as a student in the Schenectady City School District.
His first memory of singing for a crowd dates back to childhood holidays, when relatives would gather around while his mother played the piano.
“Uncle Andrew would say, ‘Get the boy to sing,’ ” he recalled.
Although it’s always been an important part of his life, singing never figured into Gifford’s career.
He moved to his family’s 150-acre farm on Mariaville Road with his wife, Nancy, and their two children in 1953, but in lieu of farming, worked as a title searcher for Gifford Abstract Corp.
Now that his son, Tom, is running the company, singing has come center stage.
“I won’t say it’s my life, but it’s close to it,” he said.