History of the Gentlemen Songsters

Frank Erk, a biologist and skilled musician, organized Riderwood’s first men’s chorus, The Balladeers with his wife Ruth as accompanist, shortly after they moved here in 2000. It grew from nine to twenty-four singers, offering two concerts of classical, semi-classical, traditional, and popular songs each year until he retired as director in 2015. The Erks also founded and led The GraceNotes, a women’s chorus, which was later led by Myra Tate until her death.

Fortuitously, Ray and Cidney Roth, each of whom has advanced degrees as musicians, moved to Riderwood in 2015.  Upon the death of Myra Tate, Ray led The GraceNotes for a year and then moved to reassemble the chorus left by the retirement of the Erks. Accompanied by Cidney, he established and directed The Gentlemen Songsters, building on and expanding the sizable repertoire accumulated by The Balladeers over the years.

Ray retired as director of The Gentlemen Songsters in 2019, replaced by Kathryn (Katy) Hylton, who was at the University of Maryland finishing her pursuit of a Doctorate in Musical Arts with a concentration in choral conducting. She directed her first Riderwood concert on January 20, 2020, and had begun to prepare the chorus for a June, 2020 concert entitled From Dawn to Dusk when the world was turned upside down by COVID-19, forcing cancellation of many events and activities.

Katy received her D.M.A. degree in May 2020 and has been teaching and directing choruses at Pennsylvania State University since then.  In the meantime, Riderwood has been blessed again by the timely arrival of Bob Moore, like Frank Erk a scientist and skilled musician, who has accepted appointment as The Gentlemen Songsters’ latest director. He is joining the bass section for this concert, but looks forward to leading our next one, which will feature spirituals and folk songs. Cidney Roth has graciously agreed to continue as accompanist.