The Yale Glee Club began with thirteen men of the Class of 1863 singing folk and school songs at local concerts and on tour with the accompaniment of banjos and guitars.
In the year of its 140th birthday, the Glee Club, along with the Freshman Chorus, Yale Camerata and Yale Symphony Orchestra, performed Verdi’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall.
Although the accompaniment may have changed dramatically, the remarkable heritage of the Glee Club and Freshman Chorus remain.
The Yale Glee Club, directed by David Connell MUS ’91, is the official chorus of Yale University, consisting of sophomores, juniors, seniors and grad students. First year undergraduates sing in the Glee Club’s “little sib,” the Freshman Chorus, directed by Ellen Espenschied ’97.
While not directly involved in the activities of the Glee Club, the members of Freshman Chorus, or Frocho (Pronounced “Fro-koh”), have a very similar experience, rich with its own tradition. Of course, each group takes away something different from the experience. From games to retreats to parties, there are tons of ways to get to know one another and learn some great music at the same time.
Frocho has its own fall retreat at which the new members learn the winter concert repertoire. Aside from being a quick weekend away from the insanity that is the beginning of fall semester, it allows the freshmen to make friendships and makes learning the repertoire easier.
For those with an insatiable appetite for song, both choirs offer their own chamber singers. These are ensembles that sing pieces intended for smaller, more advanced groups. The pieces may range from traditional madrigals to the King’s Singers’ arrangements of Beatles tunes. The auditions for these groups occur a few weeks into the semester.
Another great aspect to membership in the YGC or YFC is the relatively small time commitment compared to other activities at Yale. Both organizations meet twice a week for two hours; Monday and Wednesday for the Glee Club, Tuesday and Thursday for the Freshman Chorus. It is a fun, low-pressure environment that encourages people who have not sung before to try out. This year’s Freshman Chorus contained a number of Yalies who had never before sung in a choir.
The final, and perhaps greatest, aspect of the choirs is the memories that they leave behind. Every five years, the Glee Club holds a concert reunion. This year, many of us got to watch as the choirs of the past took the stage at Woolsey and relived their glory days. There is nothing quite like the feeling of standing on that stage, peering out into an auditorium of hundreds of people with white scarves held high, and singing “For God, For Country, and For Yale.”
Brad Rosen ’04 was a performing member of the Freshman Chorus.