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World's Top Choral Society, Glee Club Starts 85th Year

Started Classical Programs in 1910


Twice a week 200 Harvard students leave their studies for an hour-long rehearsal with the Harvard Glee Club, rated the world's best choral society. Founded about 85 years ago, the club first achieved real importance when Archibald T. Davidson, Professor of Choral Music, took it over in 1910.

At that time, the Glee Club held all its meetings jointly with the famous old Banjo and Mandolin Club, and sang popular and romantic songs. Professor Davidson encouraged the singing of classical music, a revolutionary departure for a college glee club.

As a result of an offer to sing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Glee Club found it necessary to split with the Banjo and Mandolin in 1919. This schism caused a great deal of trouble in the College.

President Lowell was finally called upon to straighten out the conflict, which he decided by separating the two groups. Since then the Glee Club has concentrated almost entirely on good music.

Because of the split, the Club suffered in popularity among Harvard graduates for several years. During a tour of Europe in 1922, however, the club won international recognition, and it soon after gained its present predominant position in College life.

G. Wallace Woodworth the club's present conductor became its accompanist in 1920, his Freshman year. He was appointed assistant conductor in 1927, and assumed full control in 1932.

In order to become a member of the Glee Club, one must first have a voice trial with "Woodie," but this is merely to test the quality of the candidate's voice, previous singing experience not being necessary. About a month later, quartet singing trials are held, and grades are given on these. These grades and the attendance records of the members determine the concert lists for the outside tours and concerts.

Each year, the Glee Club gives one big work in conjunction with the Radcliffe Choral Society and the Boston Symphony Orchestra to aid the Pension Fund for Retired Musicians. Under Serge Koussevitsky's direction, they gave Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis" last year and Bach's "Mass in B minor" the year before. All members of the club join in this concert, though only about 60 go on each of the other concerts and--tours.

During the winter, the Glee Club will visit Smith, Vassar, Sarah Lawrence, and Wells. For the annual spring trip, a tour is planned through New York State, beginning in the north on March 27 and working down to New York City by Easter Day, where they will sing at the Harvard Club.

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