Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Saturday, April 2: Concert with the Yale Symphony Orchestra!

Event is on facebook here.

In other news, the Glee Club now has Twitter.
1861 - first performance by the Yale Glee Club. 2011 - first tweet.!/YaleGleeClub

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

La Gloire de la Musique Française!

Quelques idées... Daniel Cruse '12, Derek Tam '11, et Arden Rogow-Bales '10.

In the words of Beverly Shangkuan ISM ‘10, Simon Carrington “embodies French elegance.” This February 27th the Glee Club had the pleasure of singing three songs under his baton as part of a large concert of French music featuring the Schola Cantorum, Camerata, YSO and Collegium Players. Several weeks of struggling with French diction were rendered somewhat less painful with assistance of Arden Rogow-Bales ’10 and numerous other Francophone Glee Clubbers. Jeff warned us that Simon “doesn’t kid around,” and indeed anyone who forgot to bring her music to rehearsal or sang with a zombie-like facial expression was told off in fine British fashion.

The afternoon of the 27th soon arrived, and midterms and studying gave way to black dresses and white tie. I could occupy several minutes of your time raving about Schola (an ensemble Carrington founded during his time on the Yale ISM faculty), their performance of de Mondonville’s Dominus Regnavit (I hadn’t heard of it either) and the voices of Sherezade Panthaki and Dashon Burton, but I’ll fast-forward to the Glee Club’s set. The men had the pleasure of listening to the Glee ladies sing in haunting harmony about Ophelia “slowly sing[ing] herself to death” (program notes from Derek Tam ’11 below) in Hector Berlioz’s La mort d’Ophélie; the menfolk then joined them onstage and pretended to be spirits in the jaunty Le Ballet des Ombres, another Hamlet-inspired piece (translation from Arden Rogow-Bales ’11 below). Returning to the audience for Camerata and the YSO’s performance of Poulenc’s somber Stabat Mater, all singers took the stage to conclude the concert with a rousing anthem by César Franck. A great time was had by all.

- Daniel Cruse '12

La mort d’Ophélie

Beside a raging river, Ophelia
Was picking, all along the bank,
Periwinkles, buttercups,
Irises with opal tints
And some of those pale pink flowers
They call fingers-of-death.
Ah! Ah! Ah!

Then, raising in her white hands
The laughing treasures of the morning,
She started hanging them from the branches,
The branches of a nearby willow.
But, too weak, the limb bends,
Breaks, and poor Ophelia
Falls, her garland in her hand.

For a few moments her puffy dress
Kept her up above the stream
And, like a sail full of wind,
She floated, still singing,
Singing some old ballad,
Singing just like a naiad
Born in the middle of that raging river.

But this strange melody
Passed away as swiftly as a brief sound.
Weighed down by the waves, her dress
Soon pulled into the deep abyss
The poor senseless woman,
Leaving her melodious song
Just barely started.
Ah! Ah! Ah!

Like many of his contemporaries, Berlioz’s infatuation with Shakespeare bordered on the extreme. The composer not only quoted Shakespeare frequently in conversation, but also associated personal events with scenes in Shakespeare’s plays. Berlioz also used the bard’s works as a foundation for three major works: the Roi Lear overture (1831), the choral symphony Roméo et Juliette (1839) and the opera Béatrice et Bénédict (1862).

Written in 1828, “Le ballet des ombres” (The dance of shadows) was one of Berlioz’s Shakespeare-inspired works; an 1827 performance of Hamlet at the Théâtre de l'Odéon in Paris had sparked Berlioz’s passion for Shakespeare. In the epigraph to the song, Berlioz quotes Hamlet’s speech from the end of Act III, scene 2, as the prince steels himself to confront his mother:

’Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world…
Shakespeare, Hamlet (III.2)

Berlioz’s fantasy on Hamlet’s words captures the supernatural power of the nocturnal spirits with unexpected accents, enormous dynamic shifts and “special effects” such as glissandi. While the spirits ultimately take leave, their final, whispered words remind the listener than “you will become what we are.”

The 1827 performance of Hamlet also marked another watershed moment in Berlioz’s life: in the role of Ophelia was the British actress Harriet Smithson (1800–1854), who was to become Berlioz’s first wife and the muse behind the Symphonie fantastique (1830), perhaps his most famous composition. But by the time Berlioz composed “La mort d’Ophélie” (The death of Ophelia) in 1842 (initially for solo voice and piano; the choral version was composed six years later) the couple had separated. Berlioz had come to realize that the real Smithson, who had become obese and an alcoholic, fell far short of his Romantic ideal.

In “La mort d’Ophélie,” Berlioz paraphrases Gertrude’s description of Ophelia’s death in Act IV, scene 7 and draws it out over four strophes, linked by a beautiful, lullaby-like melody; over the water-like tremolos of the piano, Ophelia — and by implication, the love between Berlioz and Smithson — slowly sings herself to death. Even for a composer whose works often reflected personal turmoil, “La mort d’Ophélie” is intensely autobiographical and provides valuable insight into the personality of an artist largely misunderstood in his own lifetime.

-Derek Tam '11

Le ballet des ombres

Formez vos rangs, entrez en danse!
L'ombre descend, le jour s'enfuit.
Ombres, votre règne commence
Dans la sombre horreur de la nuit. (Hou!)
Quand le souffle des orages
Agite les vertes forêts
Il vient aussi dans nos bocages
Faire frémir les noirs cyprès.
Formez vos rangs, entrez en danse,
Ombres, prenez-vous par la main,
Troublez cet auguste silence
Qui règne sur le genre humain!
(Formons nos rangs, entrons en danse, etc.)

Pour les rangs point de jalousie,
Ombres de bergers et de rois!
Oubliez que l'orgeuil, l'envie
Vous divisèrent autrefois! (Hou!)
L'un n'éprouva que des traverses;
Dans le bonheur l'autre vécut.
Tous ont pris des routes diverses
Pour venir tous au même but.
Ombres, oubliez de la terre
Et les plaisirs et les travaux!
Formez une danse légère
Qui courbe a peine les pavots.
(Formons une danse légère, etc.)

Formez vos rangs, entrez en danse!
Mais la lune se lève et luit.
Gagnons l'Élysée en silence,
Et rendons le calme à la nuit!
Mortels, lorsque dans les nuits sombres
Notre voix vous réveillera,
Songez bien qu'à la voix des ombres
Un jour la vôtre s'unira!
Pourquoi nous craindre, enfants des hommes?
Ce que vous êtes, nous l'étions,
Et vous serez ce que nous sommes.
Au revoir! Nous nous reverrons!
Oui, vous serez ce que nous sommes,
Au revoir! Nous nous reverrons!

The Shades' Ballet

Get into rows, begin to dance!
The darkness falls, the daylight flees.
Shades, your rule begins
In the dark horror of the night. (Boo!)
When the windy gusts of storms
Shake the green forests,
They also come into our groves
To make the black cypresses shiver.
Get into rows, begin to dance,
Shades, take each other by the hand,
Disturb this haughty silence
That reigns over humankind!
(Let's get into rows, let's begin to dance, etc.)

No jealousy among the rows,
You shades of shepherds and of kings!
Forget that pride and envy
Divided you once in the past! (Boo!)
One experienced only hardships;
In happiness the other lived.
All of them took different paths
To all end up in the same place.
Shades, forget of the earth
Both its pleasures and its pains!
Form up into a dainty dance
That barely bends the flower-stalks.
(Let's form a dainty dance, etc.)

Get into rows, begin to dance!
But now the moon rises and shines.
Hence to the Elysian Fields in silence,
And let the night be still once more! (Boo!)
Mortals, when in the still of night
Our voices rouse your from your sleep,
Remember that, one day, your voice
Will join the chorus of the shades!
Why fear us, children of mankind?
What you are now, we once were too,
And you will be what we are now.
Goodbye for now! We'll meet again!
Yes, you will be what we are now,
Goodbye for now! We'll meet again!

All translations from Arden - but "real people" aren't allowed to read them.
For Glee or Ghost Eyes Only.

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 that eat hot mush," and numerous key changes. Somebody had the cojones to put it in the 1953 songbook, which is the one Yale sells in the bookstore to unwitting visitors. Represent!

2. "Shall I, Wasting in Despair." SATB/TTBB. This rejection song's pretty tune and effective setting caught my eye when researching for my men's quartet last year. The lyrics date to the 17th century (thanks, Tim!). Though I much prefer melody in the soprano to melody in the second tenor (an inner voice), this song is particularly effective when sung by the TTBB ensemble. Present in every songbook going back to 1918.

3. "Daddy Is a Yale Man." TTBB. This is a song about a mother of three who marries somebody from Yale, then apparently sleeps with the entire student body before moving on to Harvard? You can puzzle it out for yourself, while appreciating its terrific "boom-la" accompaniment and hysterical lyrics. Someone had the grace to not put this in the more recent songbooks, but it's still in Barty's collection of 1953.

4. "And When the Leaves." SATB/TTBB. This anonymous song has been in the songbook since the nineteenth century. Though its lyrics seem somewhat obfuscating, I like their vague poetry, and have my own interpretation of their meaning. An old letter written to Barty (which is on display in the YGC 150th exhibit, in the SML exhibit room), references poorly written songs that would make the Club's music teachers cringe. Undoubtedly this fits the bill, with some remarkably poor counterpoint, but it sounds beautiful anyhow. It remains in the 150th Anniversary songbook.

5. "Bzt! Bzt!" TTBB. Something about fish balls and soup, this is probably the most idiotic college song I've seen yet. Back in 2009 a few of us crept into Battell under cover of night to sing all the songs we didn't dare try out in Hendrie. I couldn't breathe for laughing at "Bzt! Bzt!" We found it in the 1918 songbook, and I haven't run across it anywhere else.

6. "A Purple Cow." TTBB. This one's for the older alums, I guess, because my mom knew this nursery rhyme growing up. The mystique of the lyrics about this royally-arrayed bovine is heightened by a "Moo! Moo!" accompaniment from the chorus. Find it in the 1918 songbook.

7. "Comin' Through the Rye." TTBB. This is an inventive arrangement, by Frank Goodale, of an old Scottish song. Though its harmony is influenced by the barbershop tradition of the time, it is largely devoid of the typical schlock. "Comin' Through the Rye" features a trio of soloists in a sort of concerto-grosso-for-chorus setup, and thus stands out from the mundane songs that surround it in its likely debut publication, the 1918 songbook.

8. "Graceful and Easy." TTBB. A very short barbershop tune, I've never been able to sing this song with a straight face, due to a rather dubious third line in the lyrics and the five ladle-fuls of schmaltz the arranger poured on. You can find it, for some reason, in the current songbook, but it goes back at least as far as 1918.

9. "High Barbary." SATB/TTBB. Right in front of my face for years, I didn't bother to look at this until after I'd graduated. I wish I had. Though it requires some rehearsal — it's slightly above the difficulty of "Shenandoah" and probably not suitable for a singing dinner — it delivers, as Barty's arrangements usually do, a large reward for so little effort required to learn it. Present in the most recent songbook and many before.

10. "The Pope." TTBB. During my senior year this one became a favorite among some of us for its slightly (?) offensive lyrics, about how the Pope and the Sultan can engage in either alcoholic or libidinous behavior, but not both. The fourth verse is particularly hilarious for the way the music interacts with the words. Present in at least the 1918 and 1953 songbooks.

So sing to old Yale, to brave old Yale —

*credit to the Pedant's Corner.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Scenes from the 150th Reunion

Photographs above courtesy of Bram Wayman '09, Dylan Morris '11, and assorted others. Send more pictures and stories from Reunion to