Glee Club May Return to Europe After 35-Year Absence
After the Rest, the Cadenza
If next summer's European tour by the Glee Club is anything like its only previous Continental trip--in 1921--Club members can expect everything from midnight dunkings in Venice's Grand Canal to graduation from Harvard in mid-Atlantic.
The men played football in the central squares of French towns, heard Schweitzer play cathedral organs, learned how to drink innumerable toasts of champagne at official receptions; but more than anything else, they showed European audiences that Americans can sing. As the newspaper Petit Parisien commented after the Club's first concert: "One can say that the students of Harvard posses the true art of singing in the profoundest degree."
Led by Archibald T. Davison '06, the trip took 60 singers through France, Italy, and Switzerland between June 11 and August 8. The expenses for the trip totalled $23,000--excluding travel concessions made by the French Government.
Among members of the group were G. Wallace Woodworth '24, who served as assistant accompanist, and Virgil Thomson '22.
Baccalaureate On Board
The early date of sailing from New York forced 12 seniors to hold graduation services, complete with baccalaureate, on Board the "La Touraine." Even before, many of the students had to take their last final examinations above the ship's engine room. But the heat did not discourage the students, though, as one member of the Club observed: "At the conclusion of each examination, the suffers assem- bled, books in hand, marched twice about the decks, and finally halting at the stern, threw books and notes into the sea with a great shout, much to the edification of the other passengers."
The group's arrival at Le Havre prepared the men for what was to follow in every city they visited; crowds of eager people, streets lined with soldiers at attention, and an official reception with "each new kind of punch more deadly than the one before."
At one reception, the Club was almost kept outside because of improper dress. At another--given by Marshal Foch--one student asked a man who resembled a gendarme to tell him where he had checked his hat. The student's indignation changed to embarrassment when he found he was talking to the general himself.
From Bach to Gilman, 1811
At their performances the men sang everything from Bach and Palestrina to "Fair Harvard." As the New York Herald's Paris edition commented, the Club had shown that there was something besides jazz in America. They also performed in many famous cathedrals, including a concert under the stars in the shell of Verdun Cathedral.
There were minor emergencies on the trip. Once, for example, a small fire started in their overloaded railroad car through friction cause when the wooden floor dragged on the roadbed.
Yet the Club itself never dragged bottom. Its pace was fast, and its music well-liked. The Paris Herald summed up the group's tour as "a bit of very concentrated Americanism.