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