Skip to main content

"Yale found its Glee 150 years ago," New Haven Register

An article from Donna Doherty in today's New Haven Register. All photos Arnold Gold/New Haven Register... and a video in the original article here.


NEW HAVEN — It has sung all over the world, survived wars and co-education. Its alums include legendary songwriter Cole Porter, former senators Prescott Bush and James Symington, and peace activist Rev. William Sloane Coffin, so reaching 150 years old seemed cause for celebration.



The Yale Glee Club, the oldest musical organization on campus, has big plans for that occasion, ones which embrace the community and continue through May, including two specially commissioned works, each composer and writer, unbeknownst to the other, choosing to honor the city of New Haven.



“City Song,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and former Yale Glee-er Lew Spratlan and renowned Yale poet Elizabeth Alexander, will have its world premiere at a gala free concert at 5 p.m. Saturday at Woolsey Hall, featuring current Glee Club members and five decades of returning alumni, who will dine later at a “singing dinner” at the Yale Commons.



The club is big on reunions, having celebrated its milestones every five years since the 125th, but Jeffrey Douma, the director of the Glee Club for the past eight years, says this is a biggie — there’s even a 250-page commemorative book.



“Reunion weekend is the main celebration. Alumni total about 2,300, and they are extremely active and engaged, probably more than any other college chorus in the country,” he says of the club, noting that its seamless transitions among its few directors over the years has led to its “incredible continuity.”



It started as a 13-member student-run group, and became a faculty position when Yale’s first professor of music, Augustus Stoeckel became its head, and enjoyed a long run of lengthy-tenured directors — just seven over its century and a half, which Douma says contributed to its “incredible continuity” — including Marshall “Barty” Bartholomew (1921-1953) and Fenno Heath (1953-1992).



“People join because they love to sing, they love good music, but I think they remain committed because of the friendships that are formed ...,” says Douma, who will be conducting Saturday’s concert.



The weekend begins with Douma moderating a panel on “Collegiate Choral Singing in the U.S.: Past Present and Future,” with leading choral directors Jameson Marvin (Harvard University), Joseph Flummerfelt (Westminster College Choir), Robert Scholz (St. Olaf College) and Marguerite Brooks (Yale Camerata director) Friday at 4 p.m. at Sprague Hall. That will be followed there at 6 p.m. by the premiere screening of “Raising Voices,” the new Yale Glee Club documentary film.



“We look for good singers who can read music well and be able to commit to rehearsals,” Douma says of the undergards who audition each year for one of the 85 spots. That commitment includes several performances during the year, a domestic tour in early January and an international tour right after commencement.



As the city uncurls from one of its worst winters on record, and is hopefully enjoying an early spring, the Glee Club will perform its second celebratory concert, with another new anniversary work, Ted Hearne’s “partitions,” on April 2 with the Yale Symphony Orchestra at Sprague Hall.



The work should also resonate with city dwellers as it is a journey through the New Haven neighborhoods from both sides of the city to the Glee Club’s home at Hendrie Hall on Elm Street.

“Ted took a walk from Fair Haven to Hendrie Hall and recorded what he saw,” says Douma, demonstrating some interesting chord structures at the piano, and reading from the sheet music — familiar street names and places, banks and on to Hendrie Hall. “... For the fourth movement, he started on Whalley Avenue ... and ends at Hendrie,” the word “easy” playing prominently in a neat juxtaposition of text and music.



That concert, which also includes Vaughan Williams’ “Dona Nobis Pacem,” and other pieces the Glee Club has premiered, is a preview of a Carnegie Hall performance of it on April 8.



The Yale Glee Club repertoire for its soprano/alto/bass/tenor voice parts, includes classical orchestral choral works, spirituals, contemporary works such as folk songs, and of course, its traditional Yale songs, which include several of Cole Porter’s famous football fight songs (“Boola Boola”).



Including the city in the celebrations is a no-brainer.



Douma says, “We try to be engaged with the city of New Haven, not just Yale,” noting the Glee Club’s yearlong commitments, such as hosting the annual High School Choral Fest (7 p.m., April 13) where 150 high school singers from Wilbur Cross, Co-Op Arts & Humanities, High School in the Community and Career, are invited to campus for the day; and sponsoring, along with the Yale School of Music, the All-City Choir.



The celebration concludes with this year’s international tour from May 27-June 19.



“This summer we’re trying to retrace the steps of the first tour in 1928,” says Douma, where they will collaborate with several universities in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, France and Istanbul, the latter venue the site of a joint gala concert with the Yale Alumni Chorus.



For more information, visit www.yalegleeclub.org

Event: Yale Glee Club 150th Anniversary Reunion Choral Concert


When: 5 p.m. Saturday

- Where: Woolsey Hall, 500 College St., New Haven


Admission: Free

. Info: 203-432-4136

Popular posts from this blog

Ten Songs of Yale you didn't know about

Bram Wayman '09 delves into the depths of songbooks past. The views shared here in no way represent the official opinion of the YGC Blog nor the YGC... & c. & c. & c.*

Though clear favorites stand the test of time, and the old song books of Yale are full of the high stupidity of yesteryear, a few gems that aren't often — if ever — sung today stand out for me. Some of these songs are beautiful, some hilarious, and some downright offensive, but they all deserve a second look, and I'm not convinced all of them should have fallen out of use. I'm no expert on the history of Yale songs, and have only picked from a few books, but here are ten songs of Yale that still bring a smile to my face.

1. "Old Tom Wilson." TTBB. One of Barty's cleverest arrangements, this piece is a song from the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky. It features vocal banjos, vocal beer-chugging that gets longer each time the jug goes around, lyrics such as "Big fat gals…

Dead Week Shenanigans

Just in case you were wondering what Glee Club members do during dead week, here is just a glimpse of the festivities! This occurred during a lovely spring afternoon after a bit too much happy frappuccino hour at Starbucks.

Tour Memories from our 154th Season

This past spring, the 154th Yale Glee Club spent a whirlwind ten days in Spain, bringing concert masterpieces and Yale favorites to audiences across the Iberian Peninsula. Glee Clubbers were able to take a five-hour head-start on Spring Recess as we boarded the buses to head for JFK International Airport and our first stop, Barcelona! With only a few mishaps along the way, we finished our day of travel with Flamenco and tapas at our welcome dinner. The spectacle was mesmerizing, and jaws dropped as proud women and swashbuckling men performed the traditional Andalusian dance, which to my untrained eye looked a lot like a Spanish version of tap dancing with extra flare. Following a visit to the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, we joined the Cor Jove Amics de Granollers, a local choir of college-age students, at the church in Castello d’Empuries. As we would learn throughout the trip, nearly every small town in Spain has a magnificent, medieval church, and Castello d’Empuries was no dif…