Harvard Glee Club

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Harvard Glee Club seal

The Harvard Glee Club is a 60-voice, Tenor-Bass choral ensemble at Harvard University. Founded in 1858 in the tradition of English and American glee clubs, it is the oldest collegiate chorus in the US;[1] the Glee Club is part of the Harvard Choruses of Harvard University, which also include the treble voice Radcliffe Choral Society and the mixed-voice Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum. All three groups are led by Harvard's current Director of Choral Activities Andrew Clark. Thomas Sheehan is the accompanist of the Harvard Glee Club.

The Glee Club was long a fixture of the Boston music scene, performing frequently with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and other ensembles, but this local prominence has lessened in recent years. However, thanks to over 80 annual spring tours to different regions of the United States and appearances at the Kennedy Center Honors and in Leonard Bernstein's popular series The Unanswered Question, the Glee Club has garnered national recognition; tours around the world have brought the group further attention. A number of notable people were members of the Glee Club during their time at Harvard, and numerous major composers of the 20th and 21st centuries have dedicated works to the group.


Founding and development[edit]

The Glee Club was founded in 1858 by a group of students to sing glees and part-songs; the group remained small until the end of the nineteenth century, when growth in its size and on-campus profile made higher musical aspirations possible. In 1919, it invited Dr. Archibald T. "Doc" Davison, the choirmaster of Harvard's Memorial Church, to become Glee Club conductor. In 1921, the Glee Club embarked on its first European tour, which, though not the first such tour by a college group, was the most extensive to that point; the group was officially invited by the government of France, and the tour was covered by the press in the US and Europe.[2] This tour also resulted in a spate of new work written expressly for the Glee Club by such composers as Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, and Gustav Holst.[3] Under "Doc" Davison, the Glee Club and the Radcliffe Choral Society became the choruses of choice for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and frequently recorded with them, their recording of La Damnation de Faust won a Grand Prix du Disc, and a recording of the Mozart Requiem in memory of former U.S. President and Harvard graduate John F. Kennedy received a nomination for a Grammy.[3] The relationship with the BSO continued until the creation of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus; both Club and Society continue to sing with the BSO on occasion.

Since the retirement of Doc Davison, the Glee Club has had only five conductors: G. Wallace “Woody” Woodworth, who led the group from 1933 to 1958; noted Beethoven scholar Elliot Forbes, from 1958 to 1970, who led the group on an extensive tour around the world in 1961;[4] F. John Adams, 1970–1978; Jameson N. Marvin, 1978-2010; and Andrew G. Clark through the present.

Under the leadership of Jameson Marvin as conductor of the Glee Club, the group continued to tour extensively, and was invited to a number of conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, invitations that were extended only through a blind audition process. Most recently, the Glee Club appeared at regional conventions in Pittsburgh in 2002 and Boston in 2004 and at a national convention in Los Angeles in 2005. Concerts led by Marvin were favorably received across the country and around the world.[5]

Notable alumni[edit]

Many Glee Club members and assistant conductors have gone on to become leaders of American music, including composers, choral directors, and orchestra managers across the country. Alumni of the Glee Club notable for careers in music include:

In addition, a number of Harvard Glee Club alumni have gone on to distinguished careers in other areas, they include:

The Glee Club today[edit]

The Harvard Glee Club is faculty-directed but entirely student-managed. Students hold the elected positions of President, Vice President, Speaker of the Glouse, and Secretary, held by Niko Paladino '20, Joey Toker '21, Andrew LaScaleia '21, and Jayram Sastry '22, respectively;[14] they also hold appointed positions such as Manager, Assistant Manager, Financial Manager, and Sales Manager held by Michael Horton '20, Daniel Guo '22, CJ Dowd '21, and Jasper Johnston '20 respectively;[15] each tour and major project, such as a large concert or production and release of a recording, has its own student manager. As such, the students themselves are in charge of selecting concert venues, managing a six-figure yearly budget, and taking care of virtually every facet of the group.

The Glee Club rehearses in Holden Chapel in Harvard Yard. Built in 1744, Holden is one of the oldest college buildings in America;[16] the group performs most of its "home" concerts in Harvard's Sanders Theatre, which is renowned for its excellent acoustics.[17] Each year, major concerts include the Harvard-Princeton and Harvard-Yale Football Concerts, joint concerts that have taken place the night before these football games for more than a century; annual concerts also take place with the Radcliffe Choral Society at Christmas and with all of the Holden Choruses during Harvard's Arts First celebration in May; the Glee Club tours a different part of the United States every spring break; recent spring tours have taken the group to northern California, the Upper Midwest, the Deep South, and Texas. The Glee Club also takes month-long summer tours roughly every 4 years. Recent summer tours have included trips to East Asia (1993), Australia (1998), Scandinavia (2002), and Central Europe (2005). During the most recent tour to Central Europe, the group performed at such venues as the Berlin Philharmonie, the Mariacki Church in Kraków, the Matthias Church in Budapest, and as guests of the Kodály Festival in Hungary and the Dvořák Festival near Prague.[18]

The 2007-2008 season marked the 150th anniversary of the Glee Club's founding. Highlights included a week-long tour of the Eastern Seaboard and a three-day festival in Cambridge from April 11–13, 2008. Nearly four hundred alumni of the Glee Club attended the April festivities, which included the world premiere of Dominick Argento's "Apollo in Cambridge: A Harvard Triptych," a performance of Igor Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms with the combined Holden Choruses and orchestra, seminars on a variety of musical, academic, and historical topics, and a well-attended Sesquicentennial Banquet;[19] the anniversary celebration continued into the summer of 2008 with a cross-country concert tour culminating in appearances at Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Ravinia Festival.[20]

Musical tradition[edit]

Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, location of many Glee Club concerts

The Glee Club performs a wide range of repertoire. Music of the Renaissance is an integral part of that repertoire, as is folk music, especially of America and Eastern Europe. In recent years, the Glee Club has performed numerous major works for male chorus, including Schubert's Gesang der Geister über den Wassern, Brahms's Alt-Rhapsodie, Schoenberg's A Survivor from Warsaw, and Argento's Revelation of St. John the Divine.

Symphony collaborations over the years have included multiple performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) under all of its conductors since 1917, as well as with the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and the Italian Radio Orchestra; some BSO highlights include 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, and Mozart’s Requiem. In 1973, the Glee Club performed Bernstein's Chichester Psalms with the composer conducting at the Vatican; the Glee Club now frequently performs with Boston's Orchestra of Emmanuel Music, including another performance of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex on February 23, 2018.[3]

Finally, the Glee Club frequently performs traditional Harvard football songs, such as "Yo-Ho," "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard," "Harvardiana," "The Gridiron King," "Soldiers' Field," and "Up the Street."

Singers are divided into four parts: Tenor 1, Tenor 2, Baritone, and Bass, though various arrangements often require a few singers to switch parts for balance or for the entire group to re-divide into two, three, or five-part harmony.

Glee Club Lite[edit]

The Glee Club also has a subset called "Harvard Glee Club Lite" (or simply "Lite"); this group, which features 12-16 singers and performs pop and jazz a cappella arrangements, was formed in 1985 to give Glee Club members a chance to sing a wider range of music; Harvard has over a dozen a cappella groups on campus, and Lite allows students to experience both types of ensemble - a small, student-directed pop-driven group and a larger, faculty-led choral ensemble.[21] At any given point in time, much or all of Lite's repertoire is arranged for voices by student members of the group.

Composers who have dedicated works to the Harvard Glee Club[edit]

Another cornerstone of the Glee Club's repertoire is contemporary music; the group has a long history of commissioning or simply receiving work from prominent composers, some of whom are listed below, with the title of the work when available; each published work notes the dedication to the Glee Club on its title page:

In addition, the Glee Club's conductors have a long tradition of dedicating folk song arrangements and editions of Renaissance vocal pieces to the group; Jameson Marvin's arrangements are published primarily by Oxford University Publishing and Earthsongs.[23]


  1. ^ "Student Organizations: Harvard Glee Club". President & Fellows of Harvard College. Archived from the original on 2006-09-01. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
  2. ^ "Invites Harvard Glee Club". The New York Times. New York. 1920-12-22. Retrieved 2007-02-01.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Dr. Bernard Kreger. "Harvard Glee Club (Men's Choir)". Bach Cantatas website. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
  4. ^ "11 Awarded Honorary Degrees". The Harvard University Gazette. Cambridge, MA. 2003-06-05. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
  5. ^ Tim Page (1986-03-24). "Harvard Singers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
  6. ^ Paul Wittke. "Virgil Thomson: Vignettes of his Life and Times". The Virgil Thomson Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-01-01. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
  7. ^ Geoffrey Norris (2005-12-29). "I owe my knowledge of music to the Harvard Glee Club". The Telegraph of London. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
  8. ^ a b Mark Feeney; Edgar Driscoll Jr (2006-01-13). "Elliot Forbes obituary". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2006-01-20.
  9. ^ "Composer Irving Fine is Subject of New Publication". News from the Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2006-02-17. Retrieved 2006-01-20.
  10. ^ "American Arts Alliance Board of Directors". American Arts Alliance. Archived from the original on 2006-11-16. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
  11. ^ "Theodore Roosevelt Study Guide". Spark Notes. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
  12. ^ "School House to White House: The Education of the Presidents". Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
  13. ^ Bernard Trainor; Warren Weaver (1988-04-29). "Washington Talk". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-11.
  14. ^ "Harvard Glee Club | Leadership". Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  15. ^ http://harvardgleeclub.org/members/leadership/
  16. ^ Alvin Powell (1999-12-02). "Newly Renovated Holden Chapel Opens Its Doors to Song and Study". The Harvard University Gazette. Retrieved 2006-11-03.
  17. ^ "Sanders Theatre". Office for the Arts at Harvard. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
  18. ^ "2005 Summer Tour schedule". Harvard Glee Club. Archived from the original on 2006-10-12. Retrieved 2007-02-01.
  19. ^ "HGC Foundation Schedule of Main Events". Harvard Glee Club Foundation. Archived from the original on 2008-04-22. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  20. ^ "150th Anniversary Tour home". Harvard Glee Club. Archived from the original on 2008-02-29. Retrieved 2008-03-03.
  21. ^ "Harvard Glee Club Lite website". Harvard Glee Club. Archived from the original on 2006-10-12. Retrieved 2007-01-20.
  22. ^ "Online Library". New York, USA: New Music USA. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  23. ^ Curriculum Vitae of Dr. Marvin, see References.

See also[edit]


  • Forbes, Elliot. A History of Music at Harvard to 1972. Harvard University Press, 1972.
  • Bernstein, Leonard. The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard. Harvard University Press: 2006.
  • The Glee Club website contains information about the group's history, repertoire, tours, and managerial structure.
  • Curriculum vitae of Jameson Marvin, Harvard music department webpage, available here

External links[edit]