The first Glee Club reunion

Virginia Glee Club presidents at the 140th anniversary alumni sing (2011) — photo courtesy Jeff Slutzky
Virginia Glee Club presidents at the 140th anniversary alumni sing (2011) — photo courtesy Jeff Slutzky

We’re in the run-up to the Virginia Glee Club 145th Anniversary Reunion, and that has me thinking about the history of Glee Club reunions.

The earliest record of Glee Club involvement in a reunion activity predates both the Glee Club as a well-established organization and formal reunions at the University of Virginia. In an article published in the Virginia University Magazine in October 1882 describing the final exercises of the previous June, this description occurs:

In the afternoon came the Alumni dinner whereat many of the young initiates forgot themselves and waxed uproarious–especially to be noticed was a sober minded one who insisted on drinking to the health of the “Glee Club” after every song in which performances his stentorian lungs did effective service.

So before there were Glee Club reunions, there were alumni at University functions who were involved with the Glee Club.

The next reunion was likely the 50th Anniversary concert in 1936. I say “likely” because we don’t have a record of an actual reunion event, but we do have evidence that there was going to be, thanks to the listing of the Glee Club’s Alumni Advisory Board in the 1935 Annual Concert program.

After that the record is murky. The next one for which we have a record is the 125th Anniversary in 1996 (in between these two we changed the founding date from 1886 to 1871 based on better evidence). This established the format for future reunions: a Glee Club performance, an alumni sing, a banquet.

Regular five year reunions began in 2006 with the establishment of the Virginia Glee Club Alumni and Friends Association and the 135th anniversary. Reunions have followed at five year intervals since then. If you haven’t done so, it’s fun to check out the photos, video, and audio from the 140th.

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