Alums, students join in Gleeful singing

Last weekend, more than 500 Yale alumni descended on campus for what was the largest ever reunion of the Yale Glee Club in celebration of its 150th anniversary..

To prepare for the landmark event, the Glee Club published a 224-page hardcover book of its history, in addition to preparing a new song to debut during the bash. While the reunion took place over the entire weekend, the main event was a concert held on Saturday night in Woosley Hall, which featured pieces performed by current and former Glee Club members including a solo performance by 93-year-old Glee Club alum Stowe Phelps ’39.

At the anniversary concert, the Glee Club premiered “City Song,” featuring lyrics composed by poet Elizabeth Alexander for the occasion.
Yale Glee Club
At the anniversary concert, the Glee Club premiered “City Song,” featuring lyrics composed by poet Elizabeth Alexander for the occasion.
Yale Glee Club

“Throughout the years, the Glee Club has experienced a lot of changes, but the essentials seem to have stayed the same,” Heningham Kennedy ’07 said. “People join because they love singing, and they stay because they love singing, and they love the friends they’ve met through the organization.”

While there have been reunions every five years since the 125th anniversary, Douma said Saturday’s concert was “an emotional experience.” At one point in the concert, there were singers performing simultaneously on stage, from both side balconies and from two sections of the main floor, he added.

“As a Glee Club alumnus, I share a musical repertoire with people across generations, which is what makes something like last night’s concert possible,” Kennedy said.

The concert included traditional songs such as “Eli Yale,” the “Yale Football Mendley” and “Bright College Years,” in addition to some newly commissioned works. The weekend’s repertoire also included the world premiere of “City Song.” The piece was created by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lewis Spratlan ’62 MUS ’65 based on a poem written for the occasion by Yale professor Elizabeth Alexander — who also wrote “Praise Song for the Day” to celebrate the inauguration of President Obama — said Glee Club manager Rachel Wilf ’12.

The first performance of the weekend was by the Yale Glee Clubs Men’s Chorus, which is a group of alumni who participated in Glee Club before Yale admitted women.

“It felt exhilarating to be up on the stage and see hundreds of people wave their handkerchiefs at the same time,” said Ingrid Rochon ’13, who is a current undergraduate Glee Clubber.

Four alumni present at the reunion noted that being back was a “special experience,” and they all said that their time at Yale had been among the best experiences of their lives.

Glee club alumna Miriam Lewin ’80 noted that one of the aspects of the organization that she finds “amazing,” especially after having graduated, is the special experience of singing with hundreds of people at the same time at the club’s reunions years later. She added that the club provided her with a sense of unity.

Kate Norton DIV ’99 said that she was “smiling and crying the entire weekend,” meeting friends with whom she shares a “common bond, that never goes away.” Norton also added that this weekend was one of the “10 top experiences of [her] life.”

“The best thing is being able to work with young musicians who are not only committed to making beautiful music,” said Douma. “But they also understand that it is a special privilege to do so, and to do so among friends.”

While admission to the concert was free of charge, formal attire was requested for the participating audience on Saturday night. More than 750 people attended the reunion.

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