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They sing for seniors

Duffeys perform at area elder living communities (YAH)

Duffeys perform at area elder living communities (YAH)

June 25, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

Some couples make beautiful music together.

That's certainly true of Ellis and Peggy Duffey.

Several times a week, the Hagerstown husband-and-wife duo visits area senior living communities, where they lift residents' spirits with the gift of song.

Ellis, 79, plays the guitar while Peggy, 74, handles a tambourine.

But it's their voices that audiences most appreciate.

Known as The Harmonizers, the Duffeys began performing for senior citizens after Ellis retired from Moller Organ Co.

"People love music," he said. "We thought this would be a way to spread a little happiness."

Being an entertainer is nothing new to Ellis.

"When I was 3 years old, I sang on a radio station in Frederick (Md.)," he said. "I don't remember it, but people say I did a good job."

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He also performed as part of a family musical group - his father played the guitar, and he and his siblings sang.

"We mostly appeared at carnivals and festivals," he said.

Duffey said he continued to sing throughout high school, often taking his guitar on stage for school assemblies and singing songs like "Back in the Saddle Again."

"People really seemed to like it," he said. "If it made them happy, it made me happy."

He took a bit of a break from performing when he went into the U.S. Navy, coming home halfway through his four-year commitment to get married.

"Within a few years, we had started a family of our own," Ellis said. "And I did the same thing my Dad did; I started a musical group."

With three sons, one daughter, plus Duffey and his wife, they became known as "The Half a Dozen Duffeys."

Peggy said it was a path she never expected to follow.

"I sang in the choir at a Methodist church in Hagerstown's West End," she said. "But I had never performed in public. I was kind of roped into it."

And she's glad she was.

"It's a lot of fun," she said. "When you perform before a group of senior citizens, they appreciate it so much, we feel like rock stars. It keeps us moving and it keeps us young."

The couple's shows are about an hour long, Ellis said, and include songs most older adults will remember.

"We do a little bit of everything," he said, "from songs by Eddie Arnold and Burl Ives to the New Christy Minstrels. We get a lot of requests - older songs, as well as sacred songs."

The Duffeys also try to add humor to their performances. But what they especially enjoy is taking a break during their shows to go out into the audience and meet people.

"We go around and shake hands, talk a little bit and they really seem to enjoy that," Ellis said. "They like the music. But they also like when we get close to them. Some people tell us they count the days until we come back to visit them."

During the summer, the Duffeys often are joined by friend and fellow musician Perry Reese.

"But he's a snowbird, and when October rolls around, he's gone," Ellis said.

The Duffeys also have grandchildren, who they hope might carry on the family's music tradition.

"But, right now, we'll keep performing as a couple for as long as we can," Ellis said. "It's getting tough carrying our equipment. It seems to get heavier and heavier. But we want to keep going until we're in our 80s. It's better than just sitting at home."

In addition to senior citizen sites, the Duffeys also perform for banquets, picnics and parties.

Persons interested in contacting them for more information may call 301-739-6741.

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