Monday, February 21, 2011

“When I was in the Glee Club…" The YGC’s 150th Reunion

Abigail Droge ’12 on the joys of our 150th Reunion Weekend. Above, Commons in its finery for the Singing Dinner (Photo: T Sean Maher)

I realize now that “once a glee clubber, always a glee clubber” is an understatement. The sense of community and friendship that I experienced this weekend are like nothing I have ever seen before. The whole weekend was one of the highlights of the year for me, but there are a few moments that especially stood out:

Friday, February 11

2:00 pm I’m standing in Hendrie 201 with a smile on my face and my brand new lapel pin clipped to my sweater. As the amazing Reunion Chair Jasmine Dyba ’11 explains the registration process to me, alums pour in, excitedly examining the contents of their registration packets, donning name tags, hugging old friends, and pointing at the rows and rows of photos behind us. These thousands of sepia-tinted faces with bangs, buzz cuts, center parts, or mutton chops (depending on how far back you go) have gazed at me for three years, but I have never seen them come alive as they do now, as the glass reflects real eyes eagerly searching for the year when such-and-such happened on tour and, oh my gosh, do you remember when..? Back in October, I must confess that these photos seemed rather daunting to me. I volunteered to help out with the commemorative book written by Tim DeWerff ’92, and my task was to put together a comprehensive roster of everyone who has ever sung with the Glee Club. When I walked into rehearsal after first starting my research I remember looking up at the solid wall of tiny faces and thinking, “You all have names, and I have to find out what they are!” But now, with “Louder Yet the Chorus Raise!” in hand, I scan the wall again and feel like I am smiling at old friends, many of whom now appear, in the flesh, streaming through the door.

6:00 pm Hundreds of alums and current glee clubbers sit in Sprague Hall, captivated by the first screening of the new documentary film, Raising Voices. Cheers go up from the classes of ’09 and ’10 during the Brazil and Argentina scenes and everyone claps as the faces of beloved alums light up the screen. The sound of old recordings fills the hall and as we see photos of Old Campus with different trees, we recognize buildings decades younger and imagine where fences full of singers used to be. Those guys sitting on the fence and singing is one of the elements that sticks out most to me. A proud Hounie, I lived in Bingham my freshman year and remember well the first time I saw the plaque on the College Street side commemorating the site of the old fence. That was move-in day, freshman year. Little could I have imagined that a few days later I would make 80 instant friends in the Glee Club and that a few years later I would make 800 more instant friends at the reunion and all because of the men who sat on that fence, pushed their bowler hats rakishly to one side, looked out at the carriages rolling by, and decided to sing together.

Saturday, February 12

5:00 pm Woolsey is packed. I am sitting on the side, looking out over the heads of current glee clubbers at a stage brimming with 70 years of alums as the first notes of Shenandoah mesmerize the audience. I can hardly keep from crying when the crowd rises in unison to give a standing ovation to Stowe Phelps ’39, after an incredible solo performance of Pretty Saro. The YGCA Mixed Chorus touches our hearts with The Lamb and brings the house down with Ride the Chariot. When we take the stage ourselves, City Song is particularly memorable, as alums stand in both side balconies to join us --- what a special gift to be able to sing about a city that we all share, no matter how far flung our roots or current homes. When we get to the Yale songs, I realize that the Football Medley is ten times more fun when the whole audience knows all of the words and there is a surprise appearance of the band (!), and during BCY, singing chickens flutter as nearly every hand waves a handkerchief.

9:00 pm The dance floor is packed as glee clubbers old and new twist and shout and think to themselves, what a wonderful world. I hardly recognize Commons with streamers and twinkling lights draped from the ceiling and tables gorgeously set with tulip center pieces and cloth napkins. Just after the salad, we sing “We Meet Again Tonight Friends” (my favorite), and I cannot keep from smiling, remembering the first time that I sang it at glee club retreat freshman year, leaning over someone’s songbook around the campfire, trying to hold the flashlight and turn the pages at the same time, and fumbling through the soprano line. Tonight I sing it with confidence, no song book needed (though I open mine just to see it lie flat with its new spiral binding!) and realize how appropriate the lyrics are: We meet again tonight friends with mirth and song. That just about sums it up.