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

prints00886.jpg

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

uvarecord.jpg

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.

Famous forbearers

I continue my work on researching the early history of the Virginia Glee Club. Google Books has proved invaluable, both in sourcing the birth year of the group and in providing a reference to a famous alumnus about whose membership I was ignorant: Woodrow Wilson, who sang tenor in the Glee Club during his one year of law school at UVA.

My awe at having found myself among the ranks of presidents is diminished only slightly by my learned contempt of Wilson for his re-institutionalization of segregation in DC when he was president.

This update has been published to Wikipedia, where I am editing the history of the Club.

A teaser: Glee Club past history

bill clinton shaking hands with the Virginia Glee Club on the 250th birthday of Thomas Jefferson

I’ve been digging into my archives this weekend, prompted by a contact from an old Glee Club friend. I have quite a few things to scan and post, but that will wait for another time, when I’m not getting ready to fly across country early the next morning.

In the meantime, I’ll post a teaser—a scaled-down section of a scanned photo that is exactly what it looks like: 55 guys from UVA shaking hands with Bill Clinton in 1993. More memorabilia from that day, including a higher res (halftone) of the photo, when I get back.

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…

The Aerosmith orchestra

Years ago, in college, a few Virginia Glee Club colleagues and I sat around in the Glee Club House, drinking beer and watching a recent Aerosmith concert on cable. As the string section behind the band appeared on screen, our director, John Liepold, told us that one of his friends had been tapped as the touring cellist for the band, and said, “Imagine that career. No matter what else happens to her, she’ll be able to say ‘I was in the Aerosmith orchestra.’”

Well, tonight, that sentence can be spoken by everyone in the Boston Pops. What a weird night, with the decay of Steven Tyler’s vocal chords on full display. And Keith Lockhart hitting the gong at the end of an abbreviated “Dream On”?

But no matter how weird, it’s still not as weird as last year. Big and Rich with the Boston Pops? Dream on, I guess.

Update: Waitaminnit. “Walk This Way” with the Boston Pops? Now it’s weirder than anything I’ve ever seen in this town.

The Academical Potemkin Village?

Tin Man wrote a few weeks back about the planned extensions to Mr. Jefferson’s University. The impetus for Tin Man’s post was a generally good New York Times Magazine article that generally avoided the easy story angles, though there were flavors of architects, both sophisticated and moronic, vs. Virginians both reactionary and preservationist. I was particularly delighted to see the author’s reaction to both Hereford College, though I have to say that Darden is not nearly as grim as he painted it—certainly better than Sloan’s modernist gray architecture. Perhaps the author should have visited Darden during a barbecue. But the description of Hereford College is dead on:

What’s the alternative? Many of the university’s modernists point admiringly to Hereford College, a complex of undergraduate dorms designed in the 90’s by the New York architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. “There’s an engagement with the landscape and a compositional playfulness,” says Daniel Bluestone, a professor of architectural history at the university. But I found Hereford, which is home to some 500 students, as depressing as Darden: an off-kilter arrangement of towering brick slabs, their slitlike windows resembling gun ports in World War II pillboxes. Unlike the Lawn, which on that same morning was full of students sunbathing and tossing Frisbees, the quad at Hereford was devoid of any life.

The one point missing from the article, though, was the violence that has been done to the Grounds by other well meaning architects, for example Gilmer Hall and the so-called New Dorms. With that context in mind, it’s kind of understandable that we would be a little cautious.

But I continue to be nervous about the overall layout and how the neighborhood to the south will be affected. I think the Glee Club House is immediately to the south of the circular amphitheatre at the end of the terrace. But the lack of a map overlay of the existing neighborhood, even through the extended images on the Arts and Sciences web site, makes it hard to tell.

New Hooblogger: John “JP” Park

I should have added fellow Virginia Glee Club alum John “JP” Park to the Hoobloggers list a while ago, but fortunately in some recent correspondence he was good enough to remind me gently that, yes, he did have a blog and I should really check it out. The blog, Park Haus Addition, is an account of designing and (eventually) building a large modern addition onto the 1939 bungalow that JP and his family call home, and it’s enriched by JP’s computer renderings of the design ideas and plans (he is a computer animator in his non-blogging life). Like JP, the blog is creative and visually interesting, and is highly recommended to general readers and housebloggers alike.

Beaten by three years

I was puzzled by a recent notice in the Boston Globe about a tour by the Cornell Glee Club, called “one of the nation’s oldest examples of that collegiate phenomenon, the glee club…” Surely, I thought, they couldn’t predate the Virginia Glee Club, founded in 1871 (as the Cabell House Men)? My bemusement turned to outrage when I Googled the group and noted they had secured gleeclub.com as a domain name… then to resigned concession when I learned that they were indeed the senior of my vocal alma mater—by three years, having been founded in 1868 as the Orpheus Glee Club. Alas, missed by three years. And alas, I’ll be out of the country when they arrive in Boston on Monday.

ECM hits the iTunes Music Store: go get some Pärt

I thought I was seeing things a few weeks ago when I saw an ECM release in the iTunes Music Store, but no: a bunch of essential ECM classical releases have been added this week, including the Pärt Te Deum. If you haven’t already added this recording to your collection, I highly recommend it. And don’t buy just the tracks; go ahead and get the album so you can get the recording of the “Te Deum.” I remember sitting around in Monroe Hill with fellow Glee Club member Morgan Whitfield listening to this and being in awe back in 1993, and then being just as awed in 2002 when I sang the work with the Cascadian Chorale.

Other Pärt ECM recordings of interest in the iTMS: Tabula Rasa, the Miserere,
Kanon Pokajanen, and the Passio (which, as on the CD, is a single 70 minute long track).

Intruders in the dust

New York Times: Reviving His Works, on Paper and Plaster. With William Faulkner’s house, Rowan Oak, newly restored to the somewhat eccentric condition in which its owner left it (houseblogger beware! “haphazardly laid pine floors” and “brick patios like wings” that “fostered rot” and “diluted the whole Greek Revival vibe” lurk within), it seems an appropriate time for a confession.

A fleuron is a typographical symbol that looks like a flower.

Thirteen years and change ago, I was with the Glee Club on what seemed like a never-ending Tour of the South. We had left Charlottesville, opened in Chapel Hill, proceeded to Athens and Atlanta, and made a stop in Jackson, MI before pulling into Oxford for the night. At that point we were all a little disconcerted to find that Oxford buttoned up its sidewalks at 8:30 at night—and since we had been on a bus for a Very Long Time, we wanted to get out and find something to do. So, while some of the group went off in search of house parties at Ole Miss, a few more literary-minded individuals (I’m not naming names, but I’ve talked about one of them before, and another is now a minister) piled into a car in search of Faulkner’s home.

It was after 10 when we walked up the front drive and found the house. We had joked and laughed in the car, which we left parked at the top of the drive; now we were soberer. I remember it was a moonlit night and we seemed awfully exposed. But it was quiet and still except for the crunch of gravel underfoot; and luminous around us except for the small cloud of dust raised by our feet. We stood at the base of the steps leading up to the back porch—that porch that the writer, between novels, added along with his office, that office on the walls of which was scrawled in graphite and grease pencil the skeleton of a novel; that office in which rests the typewriter that crackled and popped with the writer’s thoughts, now silent.

– It’s a sad house, said the future minister. – It feels as though it’s incomplete and is waiting for someone.

And then there was a pop from inside, a crack as though someone had trod on the floors—those same rough pine floors haphazardly laid by the writer during one renovation or other. We held our breath.

But no ghosts arrived, no night watchman shining suspicious flashlights. And no bleary eyed writer clutching a glass invited us up on the porch.

A fleuron is a typographical symbol that looks like a flower.

Now, if Faulkner could read Oprah’s tips on how to get through The Sound and the Fury, I think the house would be doing more than crackling. Probably it would be making sounds more like the advice at the end of Tod Goldberg’s post on the same subject.

Friends with bands

The benefit of sitting on postable items is that sometimes they pile up into some neat connections, as is the case with these three friends-with-bands stories. First, here in the Boston environs, Chris Rigopulos’s band Honest Bob and the Factory-to-Dealer Incentives has released its second album, Second and Eighteen. (Chris was the lead guitarist with the Jack Tang Orchestra back at Sloan.)

Second, Craig Fennell, who sang at our wedding and who was a dear friend for many years starting in the Glee Club days, takes time off from his landscape architecture job (and, apparently, weight training. My God, it’s full of muscles!) to play keys and sing in Wonderjack, a DC area band that’s starting to get some radio play. The band’s bassist is another former Virginia Gentleman and Glee Club member, Dan Roche—congrats on the nuptials, Dan. (Nice band pics by another Glee Club friend, Guido Peñaranda.)

Finally, Justin Rosolino has added a new credit to his resume: producer. Apparently he sat behind the boards (as well as behind the electric guitars) for Portrait of Another, which (completing the UVA connection) is the band of the housemate of Hooblogger Hunter Chorey.