Musician Lee Moyer, singing holiday songs for Homeland residents, added a unique twist to one familiar tune.
“You’ll recognize it. I just changed the words a little bit,” he said as he introduced his next number. “This is from 1954. I think Perry Como had a big hit.”
Then he launched into singing, “Oh, there’s no place like Homeland for the holidays.”
Lee is a popular entertainer at Homeland, brought in as much for his engaging ways with residents as for his multiple musical talents. The proprietor of Moyer’s One-Man Orchestra presents regular programs that blend the American songbook with a kind of interactive trivia about the songwriters of the 20th century and the times they lived in.
The Hershey native discovered his love for music as a youngster. His mother cultivated his interest in music and played trumpet in his high school jazz band and, as an adult, began playing at events throughout the region.
He learned to play the keyboard while first working at Marty’s Music Store in Lebanon, Pennsylvania – a store he would later own. In those early years, he realized he could play the cornet and the keyboard simultaneously. He has honed an act playing rhythm and bass on the keyboard with his left hand, while he plays the cornet – smaller and lighter than a trumpet – with his right.
His feet get in the act, too. On the Monday after Christmas, he was performing in the Homeland Chapel, sitting in front of a poinsettia display. His left foot tapped a tambourine sitting on the floor, providing seasonally appropriate jingle-bell sounds when needed. (Due to masking requirements, he could not play the cornet.)
At age 81, Lee realizes he is near the age range of the Homeland residents who love his act and the songs he performs.
“They do remember things from almost 100 years ago,” he said. He chooses songs from the 1920s through about 1980 – songs popularized with the progression of the new technology called the radio, then motion pictures, Broadway, the Big Band Era, Elvis Presley and the dawn of rock and roll.
He has been performing for nursing homes since the early 1990s. Homeland has been on his circuit most of those three decades.
“The audience is very attentive,” he said. “They’re happy to see you come. They pay attention for the whole hour.”
That attentiveness was evident on this Monday; about 16 residents happily engaged with the program. Lee provides song sheets so the residents can sing along, but with a program stocked with holiday favorites – “White Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – most didn’t need much prompting.
Each song was introduced with a bit of backstory and trivia. For “Silver Bells,” he said he was sharing President John F. Kennedy’s favorite Christmas song, written in 1949, “and we’ve been singing it ever since then, 72 years ago.”
“I think it’ll make it,” quipped a resident sitting in the front row.
As he introduced a song about a reindeer, Lee asked, “What was his name?”
“Rudolph!” said the audience.
Lee kept going.
“And he had a . . .”
“Red nose!” said residents.
Lee added that “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” hit the airwaves was 1948, the year in which “a very famous baseball player died. He was the most famous baseball player of all time. Do you remember?”
With each song, residents needed no prompting to sing along and tap their feet. They greeted the end of each song in the brisk program with enthusiastic applause. Lee figures he has developed 50 different programs that he can choose from, tailored to audiences and the season.
While the pandemic sidelined many musicians, he has been able to continue playing when conditions warrant because he is a one-man orchestra. He was well-positioned to perform solo, without the need for group rehearsals or performances.
Moyer is well-known in local music circles, playing with such groups over the years as the Lebanon Community Concert Band and the Lebanon Big Swing Band. His playing for shows with such legends as Gordon Macrae, Jonathan Winters, and Ed McMahon puts Homeland residents in the orbit of some of the entertainment greats of their lifetimes.
The theme of being with loved ones for the holidays returned with the standard, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” It became very popular in World War II, he reminded residents, when American servicemen and women were far from home. Now, he said, Homeland residents are already there.
“’I’ll Be home for Christmas’,” he said. “You’re here. Your home is Homeland.”