In June 2010 I was at a piano in the Chicago home of Christie
Hefner, surrounded by a group of former New Trier High School
West students and teachers, and we were singing the medley
"Standing on the Corner." This was a party for NT West
performing arts alums, all of whom I had taught and all of whom
still remembered the medley from the 1960s.
Less than two months later, in August 2010, I received an email
from James Conley, who had been been a student from 1975 to 1979
at New Trier High School East (our rival sibling school). James
wrote in part:
have never met but I may have experienced your musical
arrangements, or so I hope.
1977 to 1979 I was part of a High School Boys Singing
Ensemble that was led by a VERY talented Mr. [David]
Bachmann. He had us sing an arrangement of "Standing on the
Corner" in 4 part harmony that, as I recall, was arranged by
you. Fascinating and fun piece with verses borrowed from
"Peg o' My Heart" and "If You Knew Susie." It seems like
every girl in New Trier High School was somehow covered in
sheet music is long gone and my memory is fading. Do you
recall authoring this particular arrangement? If so, Many
thanks for a fantastic tune. I have been humming it for
close to 30 years.
These 2010 events started me thinking: Do I have any recordings
or sheet music of my arrangements from vintage performances? If
not, how can I get some? Thus began my search. In a very real
sense, Christie and James and David got me started on a
comprehensive archival project which, seven years later, has
resulted in this website.
New Trier High School West Girls Ensemble, with Christie
Hefner top row furthest left, 1968
"Standing on the Corner" is my most famous -- some would say
"most infamous" -- arrangement. It began with a Chicago
industrial chorus, no less. I was pianist for the Commonwealth
Edison Choraliers, directed by William Ballard. In 1963 Bill
asked me to arrange something for the men in the group. I
decided to create a medley of pop tunes using girls' names. The
work was scored for three-part men's chorus (TBB) and included
segments of 28 familiar songs which had been written between
1903 and 1956.
No recording exists from the Choraliers May 1963 concert.
However, in 1980 I revived the original 28-song medley for use
with the Stanford University Glee Club men's group, "The
Axidentals." The performance was guest conducted by my good
friend Louis Magor, who at the time was Director of the San
Francisco Symphony Chorus. Lou and I have known each other since
our days at Northwestern University in the 1960s.
I particularly enjoyed this rendition because toward the very
end when the title tune was reprised, Lou stopped conducting,
came over to the piano bench where I was accompanying, pushed me
off, sat down and started playing, leaving me to conduct the men
in the final section. You'll notice Lou's slightly different
piano style, which closed the work with an unexpected and lovely
Bill Ballard and Denis, 1963
Lou Magor and Rob Tackes, 1978
Standing on the
Corner, version 1, performed by Stanford
University Glee Club Axidentals, arranged and
accompanied by Denis, conducted by Lou Magor, 1980
Following the 1963 premiere, I sent a copy of "Standing on the
Corner" to Dr. William J. Peterman, chair of the music
department at New Trier Township High School. "Doc Peterman"
invited me to join the New Trier music faculty in Fall 1964 and
asked me to serve as accompanist for his Boys Ensemble. For New
Trier I rearranged version 1 of "Standing on the Corner,"
bringing the number of songs down from 26 to 20 - still several
mouthfuls. The following recording of version 2 is from the 1965
New Trier spring festival concert.
In Fall 1965 New Trier High School opened its new second campus
and split into two schools, "New Trier East" and "New Trier
West." I taught some of the choral groups at New Trier West,
including its own Boys Ensemble. So for the next five years the
New Trier West boys sang version 2 of "Standing on the Corner"
many times, with my both playing and conducting. That is the
time period when the people at Christie's 2010 party were in
school and learned the medley.
Unfortunately, I have not found any vintage recordings of the
work as sung by the New Trier West groups. Fortunately, memories
of singing the work seem to live on in the minds of many alums.
For instance, one of my former students (who shall go nameless
but whose initials are Ross.
recently wrote me: "My daughter ... and my wife ... watched me
tear up as I listened to (and sang along with) "Standing on the
Corner" and it brought back so many great memories of the NTW
Choir and Boys Ensemble." What a nice tribute. I hope co-editors
Don Brownlee and Bob Smith will include it in the next issue of
the How-To Herald.
"Doc" Bill Peterman and Denis, 1965
Standing on the
Corner, version 2, performed by New Trier
High School East Boys Ensemble, arranged and
accompanied by Denis, conducted by Bill Peterman, 1963
Beginning around 1966 "Standing on the Corner" became a sort of
underground phenomenon. Due to the wonders - and terrors - of
the Xerox machine, the work was performed countless times by
countless groups, some of whom asked my permission before
performing, others of whom simply "borrowed" the work for their
own use (see chapter 1 in this
website for a discussion of the noble art of "borrowing").
In 1972 Robert MacKinnon, director of the Stanford University
Men's Glee Club, commissioned me to rearrange my earlier version
2 into a four-part work (TTBB). The new version 3 further
dropped the number of girls from 20 to 16, and also included an
honest-to-goodness written piano accompaniment (as compared with
my play-it-by-ear earlier piano parts). The Glee Club and I
performed "Standing on the Corner" several times in 1972 but no
recordings of version 3 could be found.
U N T I L . . . I received James Conley's email in August
2010. James and I exchanged a number of emails and determined
that version 1 and version 2 were NOT the arrangements of
"Standing on the Corner" which he sang at New Trier East in
1977-1979. Could I possibly find version 3?
I enlisted the aid of former New Trier music department chair
Dr. Theodore Klinka. Ted did some detective work in the New
Trier music library and found a 1976 recording of the medley, as
performed by the New Trier East Boys Ensemble, conducted by
David Bachmann. I listened to the recording and -- voilą!
-- it was indeed version 3 of "Standing on the Corner."
Filled with archival glee, I sent MP3 copies of the 1976
recording to both David and James.
James responded on October 1, 2010:
It is the version we sang. Many thanks Denis.
And David wrote me on September 30 and October 5, 2010:
wonderful of Ted to research and send the record to you . .
on the Corner" remains one of my favorite Boys Ensemble
memories! Both the guys (myself included) and the women
New Trier High School East Boys Ensemble with James
Conley bottom row fifth from left, 1979
Standing on the
Corner, version 3, performed by New Trier
High School East Boys Ensemble, arranged by Denis,
conducted by David Bachmann, accompanied by Dimitri
In the 1990s "Standing on the Corner" seemed to die of old age
and "political incorrectness." (I remember once when an audience
member asked me, "How can you justify singing a song about guys
standing around ogling girls?" ...!...)
However I did revive "Standing on the Corner" one more time in
2006 when I was hired by Derrik Lewis to be musical director for
his Musical Chairs show, Inka Dinka Doo!, a
tribute to the American vaudeville and burlesque eras. The catch
was that all the songs in the show had to fit into a time frame
of 1890 to 1935. So I had to eliminate any tunes in the medley
which were written after 1935 - including the title song! Thus
it was that version 4 of "Standing on the Corner" became a
rearrangement of versions 3, and 2, and 1, now entitled "Sweet
Adeline (and Other Sweethearts)."
The work was performed by a male barbershop-ish quartet
consisting of four seasoned performers: David Christopher,
Derrik Lewis, Mel Oshins and Marcello Tulipano.
Dinka Doo! poster, 2006
(and Other Sweethearts), version 4,
performed by David Christopher, Derrik Lewis, Mel
Oshins and Marcello Tulipano, with Jeff Stover on bass
and Andy Fraga, Jr. on drums, arranged and accompanied
by Denis, 2006
After finishing with version 4 in 2006, I assumed that "Standing
on the Corner" would at last be laid to rest. But I hadn't
counted on Ron Cohn. In 2010 Ron and I started doing our annual
cabaret shows. In his never-ending quest for new material, one
day Ron suggested that he and I perform a duet based on the song
"Once in Love with Amy." We brainstormed. I said that
Ron should rename his song "Once in Love with Tobi," in honor of
his wife. And then, suddenly, I visualized all those 1970s guys
once again standing on a corner, watching all the girls go by.
Thus was born version 5, which Ron and I performed on many
occasions in 2017.
with Ron Cohn, 2010
Once in Love
with Amy . . . And . . ., version 5,
performed by Ron Cohn and Denis, arranged and
accompanied by Denis, 2017
"Standing on the Corner" has had a good run over a span of 54
years. I don't anticipate doing a version 6, not because I'm
concerned about "political incorrectness," but because I've
simply run out of tunes to "borrow." As they say, "They don't
write songs the way they used to."
But, as they also say, "Never say never. . . ."
on the Corner" original sheet music last page, 1963