I’ve tagged this as being about Virginia because the subject matter is probably most interesting to those interested in UVA, my alma mater, but some of it is probably of more general interest. So, first things first: the Virginia Glee Club has a stub of a Wikipedia page that needs some help. So I went about to help it. I added a brief paragraph about the origins of the Club as a student group called the Cabell House Men, then went in search of documentation. As it turns out, the Cabell House Men are scarce fellows indeed.
But in digging through Google’s various features, I found the news archives, a front end to the paywalled deep content of a bunch of newspapers that featured some really interesting paydirt on the Club that I called home and that formed me in some significant ways. Among the findings, as gleaned from article summaries since I didn’t feel like spending $30 or $40 in reprints tonight, I learned that the Glee Club
- was getting reviews in the Washington Post in 1923;
- singing in support of the US purchase of Monticello (somewhat confusingly labeled “a Confederate memorial” in 1912,
- performing “coon songs, female impersonations, and mandolin, banjo, and guitar songs,” also in 1912, and
- accused of carrying off a chewing gum slot machine in 1894.
So much, and so little, has changed.
Interestingly, I also found reference in Google Books that the Club seemingly disappeared for a few years prior to 1910-1911, which I hadn’t heard before.
And of course, there was that Washington appearance in which Bill Clinton himself gave us a shoutout, on Thomas Jefferson’s 250th anniversary: “I want to begin by offering my compliments to the United States Marine Band and the Virginia Glee Club, who have entertained us so well today…” Read that speech; it’s almost unimaginable coming from the current sitting president, but back then it was so routine as to be almost unnoticed.
Oh yeah, and the Good Old Song? Turns out it’s a meta-alma mater, a song in memory of the real Song of Wa-Hoo-Wah, long vanished, and at least according to this author a racist imitation of a Native American chant that originated at Dartmouth of all places.
Lessons? There’s more online than lives in Google’s main index…