Magazine Feature / People

Retiree has spent decades singing in choir

Since retiring more than 20 years ago, Harvey Herbst (BA speech communication ’43) can’t stop singing — literally.

Herbst is part of a musical group that has been traveling and performing throughout Texas at least once a month since 1983. That’s when Liz Carpenter — who served under President Johnson as executive assistant to the vice president — wrote the book Getting Better All the Time.

She wanted some entertainment to accompany her on her book tour, so Carpenter brought along the Getting Better All the Time choir. The group never disbanded and is now known as the GBATTs.

Although Herbst wasn’t an original member, he joined shortly after the group formed. At 83, he is one of the oldest singers in the 16-member group.

“We sing everywhere — at old opera houses, for conventions and foundations,” notes Herbst, who lives in Austin, Texas. The group has even performed for the Princeton Alumni Association, at the LBJ Ranch for Carpenter’s birthday, and for a party honoring Walter Cronkite.

The GBATTs practice weekly, and Herbst, who is the musical director, says that rehearsals are more like parties than practice. They mainly sing “Golden Oldies,” but they have a few original pieces, including parodies about Texas.

Reminiscing about a cab driver parody and one rehearsal in particular when the group all “howled at the moon like coyotes,” Herbst laughs and says that besides having fun and touring the state, they all “just try to shock [their] grandchildren.”


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