Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The 1941 South American Tour, Part 3

Local reaction to the 1941 Glee Club was everywhere overwhelming. Reading Bartholomew's descriptions, it is hard not to be impressed by the continuous enthusiasm of students and audiences. American folk music was especially well received. “Many of them were not aware,” Barty wrote, “that we had any.” The spirituals on the program were often encored; audiences would not let the concert continue until they were repeated.

But this tour was about more than simply choral music. Barty and the Glee Club made great efforts to encourage choral music in South America. Singing, for him, was advocacy for greater cultural interchange between the Americas. Moreover, he saw the importance of musical relationships among universities, and of exchange programs: "These ... students," he wrote, "will dominate the thought and action of the Latin American world for the next forty years."

Many things have changed in the past seven deacdes; some of the problems that the 1941 Glee Club faced are no longer relevant, and we in turn have new concerns to deal with. But over all, the descriptions of that tour sound very familiar to current members. And the most essential thing remains identical: a belief in the value and power of choral music. As Barty put it:
“Wherever students have been brought together through the friendly medium of singing, they discover the simplest, the most direct and the most effective power on earth for the promotion of understanding and good will."
As we leave for South America today, we believe these words are as true now as they were 68 years ago, and we lift our voices, as they did:

Oh the anchors are weighed and the sails they are set
. Away to Rio!

-Raymond Nagem CC '09