Students had the opportunity to listen to voices from both the past and present last weekend, as current and alumni members of the Yale Glee Club gathered in Woolsey Hall on Saturday for a concert commemorating the organization’s 155th anniversary.
The celebration featured performances by the undergraduate Glee Club and two alumni choral groups that are a part of the Yale Glee Club Associates, the group’s alumni branch. A wide array of music was sung, including the Yale classic “Raise Your Voices Here,” a Swiss yodel and the world premiere of “Hold,” written and arranged by Anna George Meek ’91 and Eric Banks ’90.
“It’s a wonderful thing to celebrate any institution that has lasted 155 years,” former Director David Connell MUS ’91 said during the concert. “That in itself just means that we are old, but we are not celebrating nearly as much that we are old, as we are celebrating that we are strong and alive and going on.”
The performances were conducted by current Glee Club Director Jeffrey Douma and Connell. Attendees included current students, Glee Club family members and hordes of Yale alumni.
Connell emphasized the Glee Club’s strong tradition and the significance of the current and future generations of singers in carrying forward the family that Glee Club has formed over the years.
Highlights of the night included a performance by a trio of Swiss yodellers, accompanied by the all-male Yale Glee Club Alumni choir, which spread themselves around Woolsey to more directly engage the audience. The male and female alumni chorus performed afterwards, their repertoire including “Ave Maria,” “Kom, du Ljuva” and “Ride the Chariot.”
“It was so fascinating to see how so many alumni were happy to take time out of their week to celebrate the 155th anniversary and were willing to learn their part of a very complicated composition in their own time to sing it with us,” Glee Club member Ece Bozkurt ’20 said.
Acknowledging the number of people in attendance, many of whom were alumni members, Connell said he hopes the hall will be similarly filled in the coming years.
Yale Glee Club President Emma Hathaway ’17 and Martin Brennan ’87, the president of Yale Glee Club Associates, gave short speeches highlighting the intensity and passion of the group and thanking the alumni for their generosity and support.
Yale Glee Club alumnus Eli Mitchell-Larson ’13 said that during his time at Yale, the Glee Club celebrated its 150th anniversary by having the oldest living Glee alumnus, who was 94 at the time, stand up and belt out a solo. Mitchell-Larson noted that many of his best friends are from Glee Club, so attending alumni concerts and events allows him to see his friends and meet older and younger generations of Glee Club members.
“It is great to be a part of something so colossal,” Mitchell-Larson said. “It was emotional singing ‘Kom, du Ljuva’ up there with everyone.”
While performing “Hold,” past and present Glee Club members surrounded the audience and filled Woolsey Hall with their voices. The two alumni choral groups sang from the upper left and right balconies, while a small collection of current Yale Glee Club members accompanied them in the center first balcony and the remaining Glee Club members performed on stage.
The lyrical and thematic significance of “Hold” stretches beyond the music. Connell said that the song embodies how musicians support one another, both as singers and as humans, through the act of staggered breathing.
Besides the joint concert, the reunion emphasized the organization’s extensive alumni network. John McKissack ’20, a Yale Glee Club member, highlighted the wide array of mentors he has access to through the choir.
In a speech near the end of the concert, Douma noted that the celebration marked a special day filled with friendship and song. Reading a letter by Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker, Douma highlighted that the Yale Glee Club sustains the art of choral singing and invokes “sheer delight” in those who hear its songs.
The Yale Glee Club has joint concerts with its Harvard and Princeton counterparts in November.
Correction, Nov. 3: A previous version of this article stated that the oldest living Glee Club member, Stowe Catlin Phelps, was 100 at the 150th anniversary celebration. He was 94. It also said Eli Mitchell-Larson graduated in 2012. In fact, he graduated in 2013.