A Shadow’s on the Sundial: initial notes

My copy of the Virginia Glee Club‘s 1972 record, A Shadow’s On the Sundial, arrived today. I haven’t listened to much of it yet, but a quick scan of the first few tracks on the first side and a review of the liner notes (transcribed) provide the following observations:

  1. This is a completely different group than the rough-hewn group from 1951 (or was it 1947) that recorded Songs of the University of Virginia. No monophony here, no vigorously gasping phrases, no mediocre baritones. Don Loach should rightly be credited with introducing the tradition of countertenor singing to the Glee Club, as evidenced in the first four madrigals, and for generally setting a high level of musicianship. When I joined the group, in the second year after he and the group parted ways, much of the musical philosophy of the group was still proceeding in the fundamental direction laid down by him.
  2. Only four of the Summer Songs, settings written by the group’s conductor David Davis of poetry by the group’s student business manager, Michael B. Stillman (class of 1963), are included on the recording—not included is the oddly funny “Little Polly Ethylene.”
  3. The record’s liner notes reveal the identity of the mysterious Harrison Randolph, who in 1893 broke it out of the Glee, Mandolin and Banjo Club and set it on its path of independent existence: he was the organist in the University Chapel.

More notes as I finish listening to the record…

Virginia Glee Club 1972 European Tour

Continuing this week’s back to school theme (hey, in the fall I get a little nostalgic for UVA), I did a little more spelunking through the broken Cavalier Daily archives and turned up a review of the Glee Club’s 1972 European tour. Check out Around the Western World in Eighteen Days: A Glee Club Diary, and marvel at the thought that college students could once visit the Hofbrauhaus on a University-sponsored trip.

New Dorms replacement project underway at Virginia

It’s great to find out about happenings at my alma mater through Wikipedia. In this case, an edit on the University of Virginia article tipped me to some new developments on Grounds: a new style of dorm that will end up replacing the “New Dorms” that were my home in my first year at UVA.

I like that the new dorm is named “Kellogg House” after my late professor, Robert Kellogg. It’s the first time that one of my professors has had a building named after him.

The dorm looks pretty fancy, but of course the important question is unanswered: what sort of view do the Kellogg kids get into the windows of Balz? And how long will it be before all the dorms are converted over? And how long until the kids start hiding contraband behind the panels in the dropped ceilings shown in the photos? I am deeply envious of the view, but not of the hike that the kids in Kellogg must have had on move-in day…

Virginia, Hail, All Hail

Ten thousand voices sing thy acclaim;
Ten thousand hearts beat high at thy name;
All unafraid and girded with good,
Mother of men a queen thou hast stood;
Children of thine a true brotherhood,
Virginia, Hail, All Hail!
Virginia, Hail, All Hail!

Long let thy praises live and resound;
Long let thy virtues in us abound;
Let morning radiance set thee in sight;
Let noonday brilliance crown thee with light;
Let ev’ning sun sink kissing goodnight,
Virginia, Hail, All Hail!
Virginia, Hail, All Hail!

It’s the kickoff of football season (UVA vs. USC at 3:30 pm today), so here’s a little lyric of inspiration from J. A. Morrow (class year unknown). Go Hoos!

I’m looking forward to hearing another recording of this song—I found and bought a copy of A Shadow’s on the Sundial on eBay today.

The Virginia Glee Club: A Shadow’s on the Sundial (1972)

Having sung the title work, I’ve always been curious about the Glee Club’s 1972 recording A Shadow’s on the Sundial, not least because it financed their 1972 concert tour. I hadn’t been able to find any references about it other than a newspaper ad and a passing mention in Virginius Dabney’s history of the 1920s through 1970s at Virginia, but today I struck paydirt.

There are a lot of bugs in the UVA library’s onsite access to digitized back issues of the student newspaper the Cavalier Daily, but you can get to the content by searching to find the article you want, browsing to the year that it was published, opening the file containing all the content for that date, and viewing source (the content is contained in the XML). For those who might not want to go through the hassle, here’s an excerpt from an article that appeared in the February 29, 1972 issue of the Cavalier Daily:

Profits from A Shadow’s on the Sundial, the Glee Club’s recent recording, will also go toward the tour. The record contains several traditional settings of English, French, and Italian madrigals, some of which will be sung in Europe. Two more serious works included are Francis Poulenc’s Lauds of St. Anthony of Padua, which the Club plans to sing in Padua, and Dietrich Buxtehude’s Cantate Domino, “Sing To God The Lord”.

“From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill” (two verses only) and “Glory, Glory To Virginia” combine in a pleasant medley, offering a sharp contrast to the above pieces. Also included among Virginiana are new arrangements by recent Glee Club directors of “The Good Old Song,”, “Virginia Yell Song,” and “Ten Thousand Voices.”

A recent addition to the collection is “Vir-ir-gin-i-a,” by Professor Emeritus of English, Arthur Kyle Davis, Jr. Setting verses to a chorus by G.F. Handel, Professor Davis dedicated his new song on April, 1968, to the Jefferson Society. He sang the first performance of it on that occasion.

Portions of two other compositions that the Glee Club has come to regard as their own have been included. One is Randall Thompson’s Testament of Freedom which was dedicated to the Glee Club in 1943, having been composed for the Two Hundredth Birthday of Mr. Jefferson.

The other composition was written by former Glee Club director David H. Davis, entitled Summer Songs. The title of the album, A Shadow’s on the Sundial, is taken from the name of the concluding Summer Song in the group.

The album represents a lot of work on the part of the Club members. It seems the incentive involved has produced what many consider to be one of the best albums ever put out by the group. The album can be purchased for $5.25 at the corner stores, Newcomb Hall Bookstore, Stacy’s Music Ship, and HiFi House or through any member of the Glee Club.

With the group preparing to record a new album honoring the legacy of Songs of the University of Virginia, I thought the discovery of this description of Shadow was interesting.

Dollars for Deaver: Undergrad physics scholarship fund

Bascom Deaver was my first physics instructor at the University of Virginia, and he became my undergrad advisor a semester or two later. I met him when I toured the University in the spring of 1990, and was hooked by his clear description of his research into superconducting quantum interference devices, a field where he had done some of the key groundbreaking research. I’ll never forget his patience with me as I cheerfully declared my physics major, then later chafed against the curriculum and ultimately decided to finish the degree but pursue a different career path. At the time I graduated he was talking to quite a few of us about how the curriculum should be arranged for those who wanted the intellectual stimulation of physics to inform a non-traditional career path, and later translated those insights into a first-class BA degree program.

I was delighted to get a newsletter from the UVA physics department yesterday stating that the department will be naming its first undergrad scholarship fund after Dr. Deaver. That’s a worthy tribute to a dedicated educator, who cared less about creating PhDs than helping to shape minds and share the excitement of the physical sciences.

Songs of the University of Virginia: Liner Notes and Discography

Finally I have a few moments to sit down and transcribe the liner notes from the 1947 edition of the Virginia Glee Club’s album Songs of the University of Virginia.

From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill, from Cabell Hall to Scott Stadium or Lambeth Field, and back again to the Gymnasium (Fayerweather or Memorial, depending on your vintage!), music and song have always played a lively part in the social life of men of the University of Virginia. Practiced or impromptu, spirited or merely spiritous (or both), music is a part of every Virginia man’s memories of the University. It has always been so.

“Music is the favorite passion of my soul,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, who founded the University in 1819, designed its unique buildings, and drew up its original curriculum—a curriculum which included a plan for a professor of music and reserved a room in the Rotunda for teaching it. Mr. Jefferson was himself a proficient violinist and the collector of an outstanding musical library, and from his University’s opening in 1825 instrumental music and singing were favorite student pastimes. That they were sometimes rowdy and off-key is attested by a faculty ruling of 1831 which prohibited the playing of musical instruments after two in the morning and on Sundays! As early as 1832 there was an informal band composed entirely of students, and by 1835 faculty resolutions were deploring occasional “disorderly singing” amont the young gentlemen.

But there has been all through the years much serious music, too. The Claribel Club, a serenading socety, was started in 1874 and seems to be the first formal musical organization. The Glee, Banjo, and Mandoline Club, organized in 1893, was another of the forerunners of today’s large and well-trained Glee Club and Band. The range of the Glee Club’s repertoire is wide and ambitious and the University Band does far more than furnish colorful backgrounds for athletic events, for its concert programs offer music of a high order.

These two competent and highly-trained University organizations have joined their talents in this album to offer students, alumni, and friends of the University a selection of representative Virginia songs of the present and the recent past. These versions, however, make no claim to be definitive, either in words or melodies. Students and alumni alike may prefer, from sentiment or long familiarity, other versions of some of them.

In this album the Band and the Glee Club have tried to reflect in song the essential spirit of the University in its lighter moods, to evoke again the happy memory of University days (and nights) which, despite the tide of years, still “cheers our hearts and warms our blood.”

The University of Virginia Band is directed by M. Donald MacInnis, the University Glee Club by Stephen D. Tuttle. The music has been arranged by M. D. MacInnis, J. E. Berdahl and S. D. Tuttle with the assistance of members of both organizations.

Glee Club record on 78s

Quick followup to my post about the 1947 Virginia Glee Club album Songs of the University of Virginia: yesterday I scored a copy of the original release. As I surmised, it was originally released on 3 78RPM records in an “album,” or book containing the records in three separate sleeves.

The good news is that the album has liner notes, which I will be transcribing at some point not too far from now. The bad news is that the liner notes don’t clarify either the recording release date (still estimated at 1947 based on the UVA library photo evidence) or the copyright of the record. They also muddy the waters about the origin of the Glee Club, dating it to the 1892 formation of the Glee, Banjo and Madrigal Club rather than to the formation of the original Glee Club in 1871. But it’s more information than we had before, so that’s cool.

Kickoff

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So, as I posted on my Facebook account last night, I remember when UVA used to beat other football teams 23–3, not get beaten by that amount. Sigh.

Other traditions: in times past, the first concert of the Virginia Glee Club’s season was called the Kickoff Concert, and the program featured traditional university songs as well as the Glee Club’s normal classical repertoire. Now? Apparently, the Virginia Choral Showcase is the order of the day instead. Sensible in that it makes sure that there isn’t a glut of choral concerts competing for audience, but I bet it limits the groups’ ability to perform bigger works for that first concert. It also eliminates one crucial opportunity for working with visiting choirs.

But then, maybe I’m just biased. Fifteen years ago, I was just getting started as the Vice President of the Glee Club, a position whose chief responsibility then was concert publicity, which for us largely meant posters. So I learned how to design posters. I inherited a big cardboard portfolio of posters with designs that had been used and reused for many years. Most were hand drawn; all had some level of nostalgic meaning. I thought that the posters didn’t stand out, and that they didn’t project the kind of image that director John Liepold and I thought the group should claim: professional, an important part of the University, fun. The first poster of the year was for the Kickoff Concert. So to replace the hand-drawn image in use for several years prior, I went searching in Special Collections at Alderman Library for old pictures of the football team.

And I found the shot attached to this post, an actual football kick (albeit in practice). I surrounded it with sans serif typography—Franklin Gothic Condensed, letterspaced, a favorite— in homage to a famous Elvis Presley poster of about the same vintage as the photo. It was great. We used it for two seasons while I was there. Then the group moved on to other images and eventually stopped doing Kickoff Concerts.

I found the image again recently while working on a Wikipedia article. It hit me again the same way it did back then, an immediate punch. And I thought about change, and how the immediacy of an image can fool you into thinking that things don’t change. But of course they do, and you can change with them or stay out of the way.

Songs of the University of Virginia

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My copy of Songs of the University of Virginia, the Virginia Glee Club recording made in 1947 that I bought on eBay, arrived earlier this week. Between work and a million other things, I didn’t get a chance to listen to it until Thursday night, when I ripped the record to lossless AAC using my Griffin iMic and Amadeus Pro (see my earlier note on my increasingly unlikely project to rip all my vinyl records for pointers). And it’s a little different than I expected.

First off, some new findings about its pedigree. As I posted earlier, University archives said it was recorded by RCA Victor, but the record cites “Recorded Publications Company” as the label. There is no further information other than an address in New Jersey. I did some Googling, and it seems that this was a not uncommon arrangement. RPC was kind of a vanity vinyl press for small markets like universities, and in at least one other case they published recordings that were actually made by RCA Victor engineers.

There is very little on the record itself to help with additional clues about its provenance—no liner notes or even any text on the back cover, and no date. But a few clues are possible to deduce. First, this record is not the original format that was issued in 1947. There is a scan of the record in a UVA exhibit that shows the label, with only two songs on one side, not the four or five in the current pressing. This is a simple mystery to solve, though: the university archives speak of a “three-record album”—in this case, they apparently mean album as in the original books of 78-RPM discs. This would mean that the first edition had three 78-RPM records in it, which has since been condensed to the current 33 1/3 RPM LP with nine total songs.

The performances themselves? This is a bit of a surprise. For the most part, the Glee Club sings in unison, not harmony, and the band has the harmony lines and the interesting parts of the arrangement. Apparently the a cappella part of the Glee Club’s history lay in the future. And the songs themselves are really interesting too: both verses of the “Good Old Song,” a bunch of now-obscure football songs like “Hike, Virginia”; some less obscure football songs like the “Yell Song” (which was being sung during my Glee Club years; and “Virginia, Hail, All Hail!” which the Glee Club currently pairs with the “Good Old Song” in performances. And then there are the real obscurities: a setting of “Mr. Jefferson’s Favorite Psalm,” the theme songs of Eli Banana and T.I.L.K.A., and a recording of “From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill” which omits the, um, most colorful verse. Full tracklisting below; as on the record label, the years denote classes of graduation where applicable:

  1. “Cavalier Song” (Lee 1924/Lewis 1925)
  2. “Good Old Song” (Craighill 1895)
  3. “Hike, Virginia” (McVeigh 1907/Crenshaw 1908)
  4. “Psalm Fifteen” (arr. Daniel Purcell)
  5. “Yell Song” (Lehman 1915)
  6. Ribbon Society Songs: “Eli Banana The Starry Banner”
  7. Ribbon Society Songs: “Come Fill Your Glasses Up for T.I.L.K.A.”
  8. “From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill-Glory, Glory to Virginia-Fill Up Your Old Silver Goblet”
  9. “Virginia, Hail, All Hail” (Morrow 1921)

The next task for this particular Glee Club alum is tracing the copyright of the recording. I can’t help but think that some alums of Mr. Jefferson’s University would be interested in checking out these recordings as CDs or downloads—and if that means that we could help make some extra dough for the group, all the better.

Virginiabilia

recording engineer at recording of Songs of the University of Virginia, 1947, courtesy Special Collections, UVA

I got a nice score for a collection of Glee Club memorabilia today: I purchased an LP on eBay called Songs of the University of Virginia that was recorded in the late 1940s with the Virginia Glee Club and a University band. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the record, as much to clear up the discography as anything else. While the eBay listing gave the record number as RPC 81952 (a listing that doesn’t turn up any other Google hits), an exhibit at the UVA Library cites the record as an RCA Victor recording.

There is a surprising amount of documentary evidence about this session, including the picture to the right (from the University of Virginia Visual History Collection in the Special Collections department of the UVA Library). From the notes on these photos, we know that the disc was recorded under the direction of Donald MacInnis and Stephen Tuttle, and that it was to be released on RCA Victor in 1947. But even here there is some confusion. Another 1947 photo shows the Glee Club with Harry Pratt, who was apparently also a director of the group. So the chronology of directors is a little confused.

This is why I have currently only completed the history of the group through 1915. The documentary evidence for subsequent years, up until the time when the group split off from the Music Department in 1989, is scanty—at least online. I know other records (concert programs and posters, University newspapers) will help to fill in the blanks; since I only get to Charlottesville every four years or so, I may have to get some help to piece the rest of the evidence together.

Wikipedia, Google News Archives, and the Good Old Song

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

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…

Open letter to a Glee Club student

glee club after my last lawn concert 1994

I started thinking about my days in the Virginia Glee Club a few weeks back. Probably because of my imminent 10-year reunion. Then out of the blue I got an email from a current Club member and Clubhouse resident who had found my page about my time in the group.

I reprint my reply to him here, for the ten or fifteen other Glee Club members who might see it and remember too.

Sounds like you’re having a great time with Club. I remember my days in the group fondly.

I never lived in the Clubhouse (I was planning to my fourth year but I turned into a damned Lawnie instead), but I have many fond memories of flopping on, sleeping on, and drinking on the couch. And of cleaning the house after parties. Wait, those aren’t fond memories; they’re kind of nauseating. Does the basement still flood every winter?

My fonder memories are of rehearsing in Old Cabell, B-012; of making fun of the bass section; of long bus trips to, um, sing with young women at institutions of higher (or at least more Northern) learning; and of performing some of the best music ever written. There hasn’t been a year since I graduated that I haven’t been singing with one group or another, and none of them have come close to the camaraderie of Club (well, maybe one, but that was a special case; the guys sang at my wedding, and one of them was a fellow Club alum).

The mule, however, is new to me. What’s the story there?

Hope you’re enjoying what the Club web site says is your fifth year. (I see some things haven’t changed at Virginia. 🙂 ) Please give the group my best. If you ever travel as far west as Seattle, drop in; my door is always open.

Yours in VMHLB,
Tim Jarrett
Club 1990-1994