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The Warble Boys

by Clare Coppa

It’s summer; time to blow the froth off a cold one, near—a barbershop quartet singing Lida Rose?

Hardly, since it’s not 1900, but neighbors of John P. Evans in Bethesda, Md., get a taste of nostalgia when The Metropolitans practice at the Evans’ house, singing, “Lida Rose, I’m home again Rose, to get the sun back in the sky. Lida Rose, I’m home again Rose, about a thousand kisses shy. Ding dong ding, I can hear the chapel bell chime. Ding dong ding, at the least suggestion, I’ll pop the question.”

This vocal group owes its beginning to ASTM standards developers Evans, and Dick Park, a barbershop quartet singer and chairman of E20 on Temperature Measurement. Park inspired Evans to form the group and gave The Metropolitans their first sheet music. “We’re not big and famous but we do have fun,” Evans says. Releasing four-part harmony in the air are attorney Bill Anderson, tenor; landscape architect Charles Turner, lead; retired Naval band member Charles Huber, bass; and Evans, the baritone, who says he can reach an F above middle C “if I work hard” and a low G. They use a pitch pipe to get started and sing a cappella.

“It gives another dimension to your life, singing,” says Evans, who has found respite in church choirs since 1954. The Metropolitans are members of the Chancel Choir of the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. At a picnic last month, they strolled the church grounds warbling “In The Good Old Summertime,” “Dear Old Days,” and others. They know about 150 songs, and performed twice at White House Christmas Candlelight tours during the Clinton presidency.

Singing with the quartet is the icing on Evans’ cake after a career of painstaking attention to detail. In 37 years with NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology], he contributed to the NVLAP for thermal insulation and NILJ standards for intrusion detectors; designed the G4 Mueller Bridge for resistance thermometry; pioneered measurement automation using personal computers; designed high-vacuum and silica-glass systems and other equipment for the manufacture of high-temperature resistance thermometers; and designed thermometric fixed points and ancillary equipment. His part in developing high-temperature resistance thermometry influenced changes to the 1990 temperature scale.

Park describes Evans as “an interesting guy, retired from the old NBS [National Bureau of Standards] where he did a lot of very valuable work in primary temperature standards.” Prior to NBS, Evans spent eight years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Currently, he is a metrology consultant and lecturer. He received the ASTM Award of Merit for contributions to temperature metrology and development of E20 standards. “He’s a very active and valuable member of our committee,” Park says.

When the Metropolitans sang in the White House on Dec. 16, 1998, they met a Washington celebrity during an exclusive tour. “The last stop was in one of the dining rooms,” Evans recalls. “We were invited in for cookies and tea and one of the Secret Service people brought Socks down there.” Socks, the Clintons’ cat, did not extend his paw for shaking in typical politician’s style, but “was a friendly cat,” Evans concurs, “used to a lot of people.”

Copyright 2003, ASTM