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Coming Together in Song

In the summer of 1998, I had the memorable experience of touring and singing in China with the newly created Yale Alumni Chorus. The tour was conceived and organized by Mark Dollhopf '77 under the musical direction of David Connell '91DMA, who, when not working miracles with Yale Glee Club alumni, conducts the undergraduate Yale Glee Club. In between YAC tours, I sing with the University Glee Club of New York City. It is an all-male chorus founded in 1894 by alumni of several universities. Although the largest contingent of UGC singers graduated from Yale, and Marshall Bartholomew conducted the UGC from 1922 to 1927, there has never been a joint concert between the two groups.


When it comes to singing at Yale, you can go home again.

The Yale Glee Club travels the world singing for alumni. But it is rare to have the opportunity to sing with the YGC. As president of the UGC, I extended an invitation to David Connell, and on Saturday, January 13, 2001, at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, 80 members of the 140-year-old Yale Glee Club joined 120 men of the University Glee Club in what proved to be a spirited evening of song and merriment. The varied program included a Cole Porter medley arranged by Ed Wolff '50, a wonderful Fenno Heath arrangement of “September Song,” and a selection of Yale melodies that delighted the black-tie audience of over 1,000, including AYA executive director Jeff Brenzel '75, Mark Dollhopf, and many more Yale alumni.

At the concert two members of the UGC were recognized for 50 years and two for 25 years of active membership. That brief and very meaningful ceremony must have been proof positive for the undergraduates that there is indeed life after Yale.

The real fun began on the Wednesday preceding the concert when 80 members of the UGC and their conductor and accompanist traveled to New Haven for a rehearsal. We were treated to a warm reception featuring hero sandwiches and soft drinks. Members of the UGC searched the pictures on the walls of Hendrie Hall, eager to see their “brothers in song” as undergraduates. Twenty pizzas appeared right on cue as the rehearsal ended and informal singing began. Not to be outdone, the UGC invited the YGC to be their guests at an “afterglow” on the Avery Fisher Hall promenade following the Saturday concert. I will never forget the sight and sound of the men and women of the Yale Glee Club, arms linked, singing “Bright College Years” in the early hours of the morning after the band had played its last song.

“It was a very special concert for all of us in the University Glee Club of New York City—but I think even more so for the Yale alumni who sang that evening. There is an extraordinary pride in having been part of the Yale Glee Club under Barty, Fenno and-or David,” says Ken Liebman '56. “Singing has become an essential part of our lives, borne out of great collegiate traditions. The fact that there are more Yale alumni currently singing in the University Glee Club of New York City than alumni from any other college or university is not accidental. Rather, it is a reflection of the quality of the continuing choral tradition at Yale and the love for this tradition that each of us feels.”

The Yale Glee Club held its 140th Reunion in New Haven last February 23. While registering at Hendrie Hall, I was delighted and moved to see the plaque that we had presented in January prominently displayed on the already crowded walls of the rehearsal room, where it took an honored place beside photographs of Glee Clubs past and mementos of so many memorable concerts and trips abroad.

Later that night, a reception was held in Commons for singers and their guests. My wife and I were surprised to hear the live music of a traditional swing band. I was later told that the students liked the band at our January post-concert party so much that they requested a traditional dance band for the post-Reunion concert party. Their request was granted, and all the generations partied together to swing music from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

I will sing with the Yale Glee Club again in April when they join the Yale Alumni Chorus at Woolsey Hall as part of the Tercentennial Celebration weekend. When it comes to singing at Yale, you can go home again.




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