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Riderwood Baritone Paul Forbes Found His Voice -- Literally -- After He Retired

July 27, 2012

SILVER SPRING, MD (July 27, 2012) -- The voice on the CD is a rich and powerful baritone. It is he sound of a young man in the prime of his vocal career.  This impression is deceptive, however, because the vocalist is Paul Forbes, a resident of Riderwood retirement community in Silver Spring, Maryland. Incredibly, he found his voice - literally - after he retired as a business executive.
For the past dozen years Forbes has been a sought-after soloist, performing a wide repertoire of classical, Broadway and popular songs in the Metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.  He also writes, produces, directs and performs for the local stage.  He is best known for his portrayal of Tevye the milkman, of "Fiddler on the Roof" fame.
Although many singers continue their career into their later years, time takes a toll on the quality of their voices.  Not so with Forbes, 83, whose voice seems to acquire more depth and strength as he ages.  Richard Hartzell, a voice coach who has worked with Forbes, said, "His repertoire consists of Broadway, classical and popular songs, and his mastery of all the genres is complete and remarkable for a singer of any age.
"Not only is his voice superb in its tonal color, control and range, but his interpretation of songs and arias is all one could hope for, covering a wide range of emotions and different character types," Hartzell said. " To these he brings intelligence and a special insight into each.  Paul is a rare singer who not only sings beautifully but uncovers and celebrates the diversity one finds in songs.  His talent is large and his attention to detail is all one could hope for."
Forbes' story is all the more remarkable because he didn't discover that he could sing until he was 68 years old.  Before retiring as president of a firm that specializes in counseling CEOs and boards of directors, he traveled widely, speaking to audiences across the U.S. and abroad.
He found that he could no longer project his voice without a microphone, so he consulted an otolaryngologist (a doctor specializing in throat problems).  The doctor told him his vocal cords were weakened by age and advised him to strengthen them by singing.  He referred him to a noted operatic baritone, Jerome Barry who was also a voice coach.
After Barry listened to Forbes sing, he said, "Did you know that you have a beautiful baritone voice?"
"No," replied Forbes said.  "All my singing has been in the shower."
Barry convinced Forbes to begin weekly classical voice training, which continued under the tutelage of Barry, Bonita Lestina, George Gibson and Richard Hartzell.
Before moving to Riderwood Forbes lived in Fairfax, Virginia, and was a member of the Olam Tikvah synagogue, which sponsors a Cub Scout troop.  The Scoutmaster would ask Forbes to dress up as Tevye and tell the youngsters what it was like when their ancestors came here from Europe.  Then he would sing "If I Were a Rich Man."  Thereafter, whenever the kids would spot Forbes in the synagogue, they would yell, "There's Tevye!" and surround him with questions.
Forbes' favorite performance venues are at senior centers, retirement communities and nursing homes, where he sings pro bono.  "I particularly enjoy performing for Alzheimers and dementia patients," Forbes said.  "I often see patients wheeled in who have been unresponsive to outside stimuli for months or years.  Then I begin to sing and some of them will start tapping the tune and others, who have not spoken for many months, will actually sing along.  It's very rewarding to me to be able to reach a different part of the brain and give these unfortunate people some pleasure."
In addition to his musical interests, Forbes lectures on Biblical archaeology, collects antiquities and ancient coins, writes short stories and children's books, and dabbles in photography, sculpture and painting.