Today’s Virginia Glee Club history moment is a look at the Concert on the Lawn. The Glee Club’s entry in the collegiate tradition of “step singing,” the Concert on the Lawn was inaugurated in 1936 as a community sing with an announcement in College Topics, featuring this trenchant quotation from conductor Harry Rogers Pratt:
Ability to sing is not a pre-requisite. Those who think they can sing are wanted especially. Tenors will be protected by Beta and Captain Mack. Baying, bellowing, and booing will be allowed. ‘Sweet Adeline’ will be sung as often as demand warrants.
The concert was a roaring success, with the review reporting:
With beer in front of them, beer in back of them, beer inside of them, “Pratt’s Boys” went to town last night and lifted the skies from the steps of the Rotunda.Some say the interlude was caused by a shortage of foaming brew, but whatever it was, either the Lure of the Lawn or the Radiance of the Rotunda, it was good!
Over the next sixty years, Club continued to mount free performances on the Lawn in spring afternoons, and surprises–whether community sing-alongs of Old MacDonald or four-voice performances of “Freebird”–abounded.
And then… the tradition died out. Reports are mixed on the cause: some say that a new Glee Club conductor feared his men couldn’t be properly heard in an outdoor venue (as if that were ever the point). Whatever the case, sometime in the late nineties was the last time there was a free Concert on the Lawn by the Glee Club. Here’s hoping that we will see another one sometime soon.