University of Michigan Men's Glee Club: Wikis


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The University of Michigan Men's Glee Club

The Key
Background information
Origin Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Genres Renaissance, Romantic, Opera Choruses, Folksongs, Spirituals, Contemporary, School Songs

The University of Michigan Men's Glee Club is an all-male glee club (or choir) at the University of Michigan currently conducted by Paul Rardin. With roots tracing back to 1859[1], it is one of the oldest collegiate choirs in the United States and is the oldest student organization at the University. The group is composed of about 100 singers from several of the schools and colleges at the University of Michigan. They perform repertoire ranging from music of the Renaissance to African-American spirituals.




Incarnations and early tours

The Glee Club has undergone many changes since its inception. Once only a group of six or eight men usually from only one academic class, it has grown into a group of 100 men representing the majority of the schools and colleges at the University of Michigan. During the 1860s and 1870s, there were separate Glee Clubs, which usually numbered somewhere in the tens or twenties, for each graduating class. In 1876, the classes came together to form the University Glee Club, which numbered eight men during its first year and then jumped to sixteen the next year. In 1890, the Glee Club was joined by a banjo club and in 1897 by a mandolin club, and during the 1890s and the first few years of the twentieth century, there was also a Freshmen Glee Club. The name of the group also changed with the addition of the ensembles; for example, in 1897 the group was called the University Glee, Banjo, and Mandolin Club. In 1905, the Banjo Club ceased to exist, and in 1923, the Mandolin Club also dropped from the group, which became simply the University of Michigan Glee Club. Due to the increasing popularity of the Girl's Glee Club in the 1930s, the group was renamed the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club in 1938, and in 1944 the group added "Varsity" to the title, although this was dropped four years later. Finally, as an indicator of the cautious and businesslike 1980s the group added "Inc." to its official name in 1989.

During the founding of the Michigan Union in the early 1900s, Union Operas were held to raise money for the proposed building. Women were not allowed to act in these operas, so men played all the parts. Thus, the Glee Club played a prominent role in the operas, providing many of the singers and several of the composers. In fact, some of today’s favorite Glee Club songs, such as "The Bum Army" and "Ann Arbor Days", were originally written for the Michigan Union Operas.

For a great part of the twentieth century, the Glee Club continued to expand its membership, maintaining a presence on the local entertainment scene, and continuing the tradition of touring set forth by their earlier counterparts. Tours in the early twentieth century were usually undertaken during Christmas break. These tours were by train, and the Glee Club manager would communicate with concert sponsors through telegrams. Most of these were local, but the Glee Club did take some extended tours, such as the "prairie states" tour in 1926 and 1941. This was the last tour for some time, as World War II had broken out; the six-year hiatus that followed (1942-1947) was the longest gap without tours in the twentieth century.

The Duey Years and Later Tours

Under the tenure of Philip Duey, who conducted the Glee Club from 1947 to 1969, the Club's recognition expanded into the national and international spheres aided by overseas tours and broad media attention. Through radio, television, recordings, and motion pictures, Duey made a national name for the Michigan Men’s Glee Club. In 1954, the Glee Club provided the music for an RKO film, Songs of the Colleges, which featured scenes from colleges and universities from around the country. In the fall of 1951, the Glee Club started the tradition of performing joint concerts with the Glee Club of a football opponent when they invited the Cornell Glee Club to Ann Arbor. The Glee Club had not previously had the membership base or the financial resources to attempt an international trip, but in the spring of 1955, a four-week trip to Western Europe was undertaken. Highlights included an appearance at the American Embassy in Rome and a performance before Queen Juliana of The Netherlands. Dick Bailin, historian for the 1955 tour, recounts the events of that day:

"Finally, we arrive at The Hague, home of the Dutch government and a city in its own right. There is time to spare, so we eat our first meal in Europe--a full three-course dinner for $ .60! At last the Club piles into the bus and drives on to the City Hall. Here we wait in hushed expectation, and finally it happens--the Queen herself appears on the steps and the large crowd of Dutch people gathered around us applauds wildly. The Glee Club sings three songs, including the Dutch National Anthem, and while Dr. Duey is being presented to the Queen, numerous carefully concealed cameras are whipped out and many pictures are taken. Thus our tour starts in an exciting and illustrious way."

The European tour in 1959 commemorated the centennial of the Glee Club. In addition to a four-week concert tour, which included performances at the Free University in West Berlin, the group competed in the International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales. The tour was planned so that this competition would be at the very beginning of the tour, but this plan almost backfired as the boat they were traveling on (the S.S. Seven Seas) was almost a day late getting into England. After a 3 a.m. arrival and only three hours sleep, the Glee Club became the first American choir ever to win the male choir competition.

Awarded 4 first place awards, International Music Eisteddfod, Wales

After winning the Llangollen prize in 1959, the Glee Club planned four subsequent trips in which they stopped in Wales for the competition. In 1963, a five-week tour included special performances at the residence of the American Ambassador in Athens and the American Embassy in London. The Glee Club once again won the male choral division first place prize. In 1967, the Glee Club celebrated the University’s sesquicentennial year by embarking on a world concert tour between May and July, the longest yet for the Glee Club. After traversing the world for eight weeks, the Glee Club returned to Llangollen and took third place. In 1971, the Glee Club returned to Europe under the direction of Willis Patterson and won the male competition at the International Music Eisteddfod yet again, and in 1978, this achievement was repeated under Leonard Johnson. This victory in Wales marked the fourth time the Michigan Men’s Glee Club had won the prize. Unfortunately, changes in the school calendar and the fact that the competition is held in early July have prevented the Club from attempting another victory. However, to celebrate this accomplishment, the Glee Club gives out four "Llangollen Awards" annually to members who embody the spirit of this competition.

Many other highlights come from the Duey years. In September 1965 the Glee Club—along with Harvard University, Smith College, and Howard University--was invited to represent the United States at the first International University Choral Festival. This event was held at Lincoln Center in New York and at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The Glee Club also made appearances on the Dinah Shore Show, the Pat Boone Show, and Ed Sullivan’s "Toast of the Town". David Wallingford, member from 1951 to 1953, recounts the events of that evening on Ed Sullivan's show.

"The first [memory that I want to share] has to do with our opening song [Laudes atque Carmina]. We were to appear on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town". We were permitted because of time limitations to sing only two songs, but we wanted to sing our traditional opening hymn also. Ed Sullivan said there wasn't time--but like all loyal and resourceful Glee Clubbers, we hummed it behind the curtain through the commercial and through the introduction--the tradition was not broken."

The Modern Era

In the 1980’s, under the direction of Patrick Gardner, the group made appearances at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, the pre-game festivities for the final game of the 1984 World Series at Tiger Stadium, and at the Intercollegiate Musical Council National Seminar at Harvard University in 1986. One highlight occurred in 1983 when the Glee Club, on their West Coast Tour, performed a concert in San Diego and sang The Hymn and several other Michigan songs for Earl V. Moore - former Dean of the School of Music and composer of numerous Michigan songs.

Ummgc logo.jpg

Under the direction of recent conductor, Jerry Blackstone, the Michigan Men’s Glee Club embarked on four major overseas tours. In 1989 the Glee Club spent three weeks touring Asia with concerts in Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea. In 1992 the Club embarked on a trip to Eastern Europe, where they were one of the first American groups to visit the new country of Estonia, which had recently declared independence from the defunct Soviet Union. 1996 brought the Club to South America including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Peru, and the Club most recently traversed Australia in 2000. The highlight of this tour was the inaugural Men of Song Festival hosted by the Brisbane Boys’ College in which 132 young men participated in a workshop and joint concert led by the Glee Club. Under Blackstone the Men’s Glee Club has been well-reviewed around the world; the secretary of the Warsaw Philharmonica exclaimed, "I was completely enchanted. It is unbelievable that an amateur group could surpass our most professional choirs with such ease of execution" A reviewer for Voices, Journal of the Federation of Choral Music, Chile, further remarked on this distinctive sound:

"They performed with a rich, expressive sound that never lost its warmth, even in the most extreme ranges. A distinctive trait of the group is its spontaneity, maintaining a fluency and uninhibited manner...and a controlled dose of humor that earned the affection of the audience."
Hill Auditorium facade

Under Blackstone’s direction the Club was invited to perform at three conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, including the 1997 National Convention in San Diego. The Club also released six compact discs during this time and was featured on two tracks of Mannheim Steamroller’s 2001 album Christmas Extraordinaire.

In 1989 a new constitution was adopted and in 1991 the first annual Male Vocal Arts Day, a workshop for high school men, was held. In the spring of 2001 the combined Men’s Glee Club and Smith College Glee Club and Chorale gave a performance of BrahmsEin deutsches Requiem in Northampton, MA. The following fall the endeavor was repeated in Hill Auditorium with the Smith and Michigan Women’s Glee Clubs.

Stephen Lusmann led the Club from 2002-2005; highlights of his tenure include an appearance at the IMC National Convention at Harvard University, a sixteen day tour of Great Britain and Ireland in 2004 and the club's premiere performance at Carnegie Hall with the Smith College Glee Club in 2005. The Club is now under the direction of Paul Rardin as it approaches its sesquicentennial in 2009.

Directors and Terms

  • Rossetter G. Cole, 1886 - 1889
  • Albert A. Stanley, 1889 - 1892
  • Silas R. Mills, 1892 - 1893
  • Student Lead, 1893 - 1908
  • Earle Killeen, 1908 - 1911
  • William A. Howland, 1911 - 1914
  • Russell Carter, 1919 - 1920
  • Frank L. Thomas, 1920 - 1922
  • George O. Bowen, 1922 - 1924
  • Theodore Harrison, 1914 - 1919, 1924 - 1930
  • Arthur Hackett, 1930 - 1931
  • David Mattern, 1931 - 1947
  • Philip Duey, 1947 - 1969
  • Willis Patterson, 1969 - 1975
  • Leonard Johnson, 1975 - 1981
  • Patrick Gardner, 1981 - 1987
  • Bradley Bloom, 1987 - 1988
  • Jerry Blackstone, 1988 - 2002
  • Stephen Lusmann, 2002 - 2005
  • Paul Rardin, 2005-Present


Subsets and A Cappella Groups

  • Varsity Quartette: 1910’s and 1920’s
  • Midnight Sons Quartet : ?
  • Key Changers : ?
  • Novelaires: 1948-1958
  • The Friars: 1955-Present - all-male a cappella group formed by Glee Club director Dr. Walter Collins, named after a former prestigious drinking club at the University

Notable alumni

International Tours

  • 1955: Europe
  • 1959: Europe
  • 1963: Europe
  • 1967: World Tour
  • 1971: Europe
  • 1978: Europe
  • 1985: Europe
  • 1989: Southeast Asia
  • 1992: Eastern & Central Europe
  • 1996: South America
  • 2000: Australia
  • 2004: Great Britain & Ireland
  • 2008: Spain




  1. ^ Humphrey, Edwin (1898). The Michigan Book. University of Michigan. pp. 136-139.  
  2. ^ Newvine, Colleen . [1]. Retrieved 2006-09-13.

External links

See also


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