Contest sparks ‘Glee’ in campus songwriters

Soon “Boola Boola,” “Bulldog” and “Bright College Years” will have more company in the repertoires of Yalies eager to sing the praises of their alma mater.

The Yale Glee Club will choose one winning song from submissions for the Fenno Heath Award, instituted to honor Fenno Heath ’50 MUS ’51 ’52, who served as the Glee Club’s director from 1953 until 1992. A panel of judges including members of the a cappella community, the Yale Band, the Yale Symphony Orchestra and the Glee Club, as well as the director of the Glee Club, Jeffrey Douma, and Heath himself will evaluate the submissions, which are due on October 5, Glee Club officers said. The composer of the chosen song will receive a prize of $500.

The competition, which is open to undergraduates, aims to begin a new Yale tradition as well as to highlight the already strong repertoire of existing Yale songs, Douma said. Last spring, former Glee Club president Lee Davis ’05 and Douma first discussed the possibility of such a competition.

“It would be great if Yale students today could produce Yale songs that reflect the campus culture of 2005,” Douma said.

This competition comes as the Glee Club is working on the first compilation of Yale songs since it released arrangements of songs suitable to be sung by both women and men in 1978 and the second since the 1953 release of “Songs of Yale.”

Between 1853 and 1953 there were 23 different collections of Yale songs published, while only one has been produced since 1953, Douma said. Beth Mercurio ’06, the current president of the Glee Club, said the new song will bring the Yale song repertoire into the 21st century.

“We have heard what life was like in the 1950s and 1930s at Yale, but nothing about what life is like now,” she said.

Mercurio said that the songwriting competition serves both to update the current Yale song repertoire and to highlight some of the lesser-known Yale songs from the past, including some by Cole Porter ’13.

“We wanted to get a lot of the lesser-known songs publicized,” Mercurio said.

Deciding to honor Heath by naming the award after him was an obvious choice, Douma said. Heath was a member of the Yale Glee Club, the Spizzwinks and the Whiffenpoofs while an undergraduate at Yale and served as the director of the Glee Club for nearly 40 years. He continues to be active in music at Yale, Douma said.

“It seemed natural to recognize him for his great contributions to music at Yale,” he said.

As a graduate student, Heath won a similar songwriting competition for a song that was included in the 1953 edition of Songs of Yale.

“I think writing songs is one of the best ways to capture the experiences of undergraduates at Yale,” Heath said.

Heath himself has composed two songs to be included in the latest installment of the songbook.

Andrew Ly ’07, a member of the Glee Club, heard about the competition in April and plans to submit a composition.

“I love Yale, and I love writing music,” he said. “I want to leave something behind for the Glee Club and for Yale.”

Mercurio said the committee judging the songs will consider works of any musical style. If there is enough interest in the competition, she said, the Glee Club might continue it in the future.

Comments