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Harvard Glee Club

Harvard Glee Club

America's oldest college chorus, the Harvard Glee Club was founded in March 1858 by the president of Harvard's Pierian Sodality and several of its College friends. Over the rest of the 19th century, HGC numbered about a dozen or two men and sang a repertoire ranging from old European and American college and folk songs to contemporary art songs to popular operetta/show tunes, often combining with banjo and mandolin ensembles and local bands. Its performances were not limited to metropolitan Boston but extended throughout the Northeast.

In the early years of the 20th century, many HGC members were also singing in the Harvard University Choir. They appreciated the advantage of the vocal training and of learning sacred music, and they gradually convinced the Club to ask the University Organist and Choirmaster, Dr. Archibald T. Davison, to coach HGC. From 1912, "Doc" Davison expanded the Glee Club's musical horizons and improved its vocal/choral abilities, as a larger HGC performed solo concerts as far afield as the Midwest. During this period, Doc began combining HGC with the women of the Radcliffe Choral Society for large choral-orchestral works; and in 1917, HGC and RCS began singing these works with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, an association that continued into the middle 1970s.

The men of HGC liked these new experiences and in 1919 asked Doc Davison to become HGC's first conductor. He agreed, with the proviso that the choice of repertoire would be his. By the end of the 'teens, HGC was singing sacred and secular pieces from the renaissance times till the present, folk songs from around the world, and college songs and had ceased its relationships with the mandolin clubs and popular music.

HGC became one of the first American college choruses to concertize in Europe when it accepted the invitation of the French government for an extensive tour during June and July of 1921, performances at sites including major concert halls in major cities and a World War memorial at Strasbourg Cathedral. Not only was this Tour documented by almost daily reports in the French and American press, but it also inspired the writing of new pieces of men's choral music specifically for HGC by two young French composers: Poulenc's Chanson a boire (allegedly based on a Tour reception for HGC) and Milhaud's Psaume 121.

Thus, by the 1920s, most of the basics of HGC had evolved: several dozen Harvard students, mostly from the College, singing serious choral music under the direction of a strong Conductor, traveling all over the United States and sometimes abroad to entertain and educate, encouraging and evoking the composition of new music, and performing choral-orchestral works with such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, often combining with RCS. The only components of the HGC experience added after the '20s are recording -- up and running since the middle 1930s -- and performing for major choral organizations such as the American Choral Directors Association and the Intercollegiate Men's Choruses.

There have been just five conductors of the Harvard Glee Club: Archibald T. Davison ("Doc"): 1919-1933, G. Wallace Woodworth ("Woody"): 1933-1958, Elliot Forbes ("El"): 1958-1970, F. John Adams ("F. John"): 1970-1978, and Jameson N. Marvin ("Jim") since 1978. Many of their students and Assistant Conductors have become leaders in American music, including Virgil Thomson, Elliot Carter, Leonard Bernstein, Irving Fine, John Harbison, and Hugh Wolf, the current choral directors at institutions from Cornell University to Occidental College, and numerous managers or orchestras and festivals all over the country.

Concert tours have continued to be an important part of Glee Club life for over 80 years. Spring breaks see HGC annually on the road for ten days of performances all over the United States. Although there was a long break between the first and second HGC Summer Tours (1921 to 1956), they have become more frequent: Europe in 1956, 1973, 1987, 2002; Asia in 1961, 1982, 1993; Australia 1998; USA 1978. There have in addition been summer tours with RCS: cross-country in 1947 and 1954; USA/Canada in 1964; around the world in 1967.

Symphony collaborations over the years have included multiple performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under all of its Conductors since 1917, as well as with the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, and the Italian Radio Orchestra. Several BSO highlights: the American premiere of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, later recorded with the BSO under Bernstein; two Berlioz recordings: Romeo et Juliet and la Damnation de Faust, the latter of which won a Grand Prix du Disc; and Mozart's Requiem, which got a Grammy nomination for this concert performance in memory of JFK.

Finally, since Poulenc and Milhaud wrote their pieces in 1922, several important 20th century composers have created works for HGC. These include Virgil Thomson, Randall Thompson, Gustav Holst, Elliot Carter, Leonard Bernstein. Irving Fine, John Harbison, Toru Takemitsu, even P.D.Q. Bach! And the HGC Foundation is currently commissioning a new batch of pieces from contemporary composers: Charles Fussell, Carol Barnett, Sir John Tavener, Stephen Paulus, Steven Sametz, Frank Ferko, and Morten Lauridsen, so far, leading up to HGC's 150th anniversary celebrations in 2008.

Today's Harvard Glee Club consists of about 65 men, mostly undergraduates at Harvard College, plus a few students from Harvard's graduate schools, from all over the USA and abroad, very few of them majoring in music or destined for a musical career. This HGC continues to flourish, singing good music well, demonstrating the persisting vitality of men's choral music on campus and all over the world, in concert halls and schools and churches, live and on recordings, for novices and for the knowledgeable choral community. By itself and with the Radcliffe Choral Society and the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, HGC is a first-rate representative of Harvard to itself and to willing ears around the globe.

Discography

Displaying 1-6 of 6 items.


Harvard Glee Club : 150th Anniversary Concert

Review: America's oldest collegiate men's chorus, the 60-strong Harvard Glee Club, under the storied direction of Jameson Marvin since 1978, celebrates its 150th Anniversary with a live concert. There are 17 cuts here, some of them piano accompanied. Three of them, "I. The Shepherd of King Admetus," II. The Voiceless" and III. "Fata Morgana," are from Dominick Argento's "Apollo in Cambridge," written especially for the Glee Club and premiered here. Other favorites are Michael Praetorius' "Lo, how a rose e'er blooming," a pair by Josquin des Prez, "Kyrie" and "Agnus Dei I, II, III;" conductor Marvin's "Cantantes Licet," Benjamin Britten's "The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard," Stephen Foster's "Gentle Annie," a very funny rendition of the American Folk song "Sacramento," the 18th century Welsh Folk song "All through the night" and a piano-accompanied medley of traditional "Harvard Football Songs." This is a beautiful, spirited, joyous collection from one of America's great collegiate men's choruses, the Harvard Glee Club!

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6510c | 00 1 CD | $15.95 | A Cappella Men's Choirs CDs


Harvard Glee Club : A Spring Farewell

Review: This is a live, 2-CD set, recorded at a Celebration of the Career of Dr. Jameson Marvin (Director of Choral Activities at Harvard from 1978 to 2010) from April 30, 2010; featuring the Harvard Glee Club, the Radcliffe Choral Society and Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, all conducted by Dr. Marvin and Associate Conductor Kevin Leong. Disc 1 has 20 songs, some favorites are Palestrina's "Sicut cervus," Thomas Tomkins' "When David Heard," Schubert's "Nachthelle-Opus 134," Randall Thompson's "Stopping by Woods," Pablo Casals' "Nigra sum," Zoltan Kodaly's "Esti dal," Stravinsky's 4-part "Podbliudniye," the American Folk song "He's Gone Away," Conductor Marvin's "Each Future Song," Steven Sametz' "Munus," and Brahms' "Wo ist ein so herrlich Volk." Disc 2 features the World Premier of Robert Kyt's two-part "Song of Awakening;" Part I is "Lament-O Lord Hear My Cry," and Part II is "Psalm-Through God Within." Kyt's work was composed in honor of Dr. Marvin's retirement, and it is followed by remarks by Rev. Peter Gomes and Jack Megan. "A Spring Farewell" is a rich, moving collection by three of America's best collegiate choruses, to honor their great Director, Conductor, teacher and friend as he steps down from his work of molding and making them what they are today!

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6511c | 00 2 CDs | $15.95 | A Cappella Men's Choirs CDs


Harvard Glee Club : American Choral Music for Male Voices

Review: "American Choral Music" celebrates the 150th anniversary of the 60-strong Harvard Glee Club, the oldest college chorus in America. These 20 songs are a sampler of the wonderfully varied repertoire of this great male chorus. Our favorites include a pair by Randall Thompson, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" and "The Pasture," both lightly accompanied; Charles Fussell's dissonant "A Walt Whitman Sampler," Steven Sametz' "Shall I Compare Thee," Morten Lauridsen's "Ave Dulcissima Maria," Rodney Lister's "The Oxen-To the Meads," Aaron Copeland's exuberant "The Little Horses," Chris Tapani's mysterious, a cappella "The Sea is Awash With Roses," Irving Fine's eclectic "McCord's Menagerie, Four Variations for Male Voices, II. Jerboa and IV. Clam (or Whose Ooze)." Other favorites are the American Sea Shanty "Lowlands," Stephen Foster's lovely, lightly-accompanied "Gentle Annie" and the Welsh folksong "All Through the Night." "American Choral Music" shows off the varied but consistently excellent vocal talents of one of America's oldest and best Collegiate choral groups, the Harvard Glee Club!

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8982c | 00 1 CD | $15.95 | A Cappella Men's Choirs CDs


Harvard Glee Club : Long Way From Home

Review: The 60-voice Harvard Glee Club, Harvard's internationally renowned men's chorus, is the oldest college chorus in America, founded by students in 1858 to sing college songs and glees. It took until 1912, under the dynamic direction of Dr. Archibald T. Davison, that the Glee Club developed a repertoire of distinction and gained a national reputation. Drawing its repertoire from six centuries, the Glee Club has proved itself particularly expert in the performance of contemporary American music, sacred repertory of the Renaissance, Eastern European music and Folk songs of the world. Under the direction of Jameson Marvin since 1978, the HGC has enhanced its reputation as one of America premier collegiate choruses. "Long Way From Home" is a rich collection of 27 tunes, many of them, like "The Minstrel Boy," "Danny Boy," "Skye Boat Song," "K'ang Ting Love Song" and "Barb'ra Allen," beautifully arranged by conductor Marvin, and several others, like "The Foggy Dew," "Glorious Apollo" and "Sacramento," arranged by Archibald Davison. Other favorites are Franz Schubert's "Widerspruch" and "La Pastorella, the Georgian Folk song "Voi Di Vo," the traditional song "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," "Lowlands" (arranged by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw; and several written by Harvard men, Richmond K. Fletcher's "Yo Ho" and "The Grid Iron King & Soldiers Field," R.G. Williams' "Up the Street" and "Harvardiana," Murray Taylor's "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard" and "Fair Harvard," a traditional Irish Air based on a poem by Samuel Gilman, 1811. Every cut here has the wonderful beauty and gravitas we've come to expect and enjoy from this venerable, powerful men's chorus!

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9249c | 00 1 CD | $15.95 | A Cappella Men's Choirs CDs


Harvard Glee Club : Christmas With

Review: The oldest college chorus in America, the 60-voice, all-male Harvard Glee Club was essentially a social club on campus after its founding in 1858, performing college songs and glees to the accompaniment of banjos and mandolins. It was not until 1912, under the dynamic leadership of its new conductor, Dr. Archibald Davison, that it began to develop a repertoire of distinction and earn a national reputation. Under conductor Jameson Marvin since 1978, the HGC has been invited to perform at 5 national conventions of the ACDA, and recently they have appeared at Boston's Symphony Hall and Kennedy Center, and at the Lincoln Center in New York. "Christmas With" is a finely-crafted, mostly a cappella Christmas collection of 13 songs. Favorites are the 13th Century Georgian wedding song "Shen khar venakhi," the Gregorian chant "Salve Regina," Josquin des Prez' "Gloria," Michael Pretorius' lovely "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming," the traditional carol "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," the organ-accompanied "Three Kings of Orient," Leonard Bernstein's "Almighty Father," Hildegard von Bingen's haunting "Caritas abundat," Thomas Tallis' "Sanctus," Randall Thompson's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," based on the Robert Frost poem, Hans Leo von Hassler's exquisite "Cantate Domino" and Franz Biebl's "Ave Maria." "Christmas With the Harvard Glee Club" is a richly harmonic gift to yourself or your loved ones that will add to your celebration and joy of Christmas!

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8984c | 00 1 CD | $15.95 | Primarily a cappella Men's Choir Christmas


Harvard Glee Club : The Archive Collection

Review: G. Wallace Woodworth (1902-1969) is renowned as a choral and orchestral conductor, organist and music educator. At Harvard he studied history and music from 1924-26, and accompanied the Harvard Glee Club. This collection of recordings from his tenure as conductor of the Harvard Glee Club (from 1933) is performed by the HGC with the Radcliffe Choral Society. Included here are 22 Classical works, mostly a cappella pieces performed by both groups, but a handful performed by the groups individually. Favorites are three songs by Claude Debussy, "Dieu! Qu'il la Fait Bon Regarder," "Quant J'ai Ouy le Tabourin" and "Yver, Vous N'estes qu'un Villian;" several tunes by Palestrina, "Benedictus," "Confitemini Domini," "Stabat Mater Dolorosa," "Adoramus Te," "Sanctus and Osanna" and "Benedictus and Osanna." Jacob Regnart's "Petite Nymfe Folatre," Orlandus Lassus' "Mon Coeur se Recommande a Vous" and "Bonjour Mon Couer," Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus" and Leo Preger's "Four Motets" are also some of our favorites. This material is difficult, powerful and not something that your average college glee clubs would consider learning and adding to their repertoire. A remarkable, beautiful collection from a pair of America's best women's and men's choral groups!

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8983c | 00 1 CD | $15.95 | Primarily a cappella

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