Virginia Glee Club 140th Anniversary Weekend

The Virginia Glee Club 140th Anniversary Weekend was last weekend, and was so wonderful that I fell behind in my work and am still catching up. But what a way to fall behind.

I drove down from Massachusetts to DC on Thursday, where I spent time at the Jefferson Memorial before catching up with my first year roommate Greg Greene. The next morning, I hopped back in the car and drove down, spending the morning and early afternoon in the Small Special Collections Library doing research before going on to the first cocktail party of the weekend.

After spending months and months building up the Virginia Glee Club history wiki, it was nothing short of astonishing to meet so many alums–and to be able to talk intelligently with them about what they did during their time in Club. We had a splendid meeting of alums in the Colonnade Club before moving on to the Glee Club concert, in which Club acquitted themselves nobly.

The concert also raised awareness of just how powerful this collection of singing alums and students could be. When Frank Albinder called alums to stage to sing the alma maters of the University (“Virginia, Hail, All Hail” and “The Good Old Song“), the 130 voices pretty much blew the roof off Old Cabell Hall. Afterwards, we all fetched up on the Corner, where we learned that the Trinity Pub (née the Greenskeeper, née Jabberwock, née many others) was too loud for some of the 90s era old timers (though not, surprisingly, for the 70s era guys). We relocated to St. Maartens, home of many an inaugural drinking experience on 21st birthdays, where at least one Club alum still had a mug hanging at the bar, and closed the night at Littlejohns, home of much late night gastric distress.

The next morning was transcendental, as Club members reunited with old (and new-to-us) directors to review repertoire, then performed on stage. Don Loach’s alumni performance of “A Shadow’s on the Sundial” was probably the most emotional, as he confessed, “The ending of that song gets me every time!” The group then repaired to the Rotunda; on the way, a group of current Club guys gathered to sing “Coney Island Baby” and other works. By the time they were at the Rotunda, they had moved on to “Loch Lomond,” in which many an alum joined in. We then took our collective 130+ voices to the portico of the Rotunda to serenade the startled onlookers with “Virginia, Hail, All Hail” and “The Good Old Song.”

The evening banquet featured more activities, including announcement of a details-pending initiative to fund scholarships for students to engage in Club’s keynote activities of musicianship, leadership, and fellowship; speeches from several including former University president John Casteen, who pointed out that Club’s custodianship and performance of the University songs including “The Good Old Song” constitute one of its most important contributions to the University; and announcement of a digital remaster of the Shadow’s on the Sundial album (available to donors). The evening concluded with many visiting various Corner bars and washing up at The White Spot.

The Glee Club has come a long way since 1899, when Corks and Curls memorably published a fake notice stating that it could “furnish funeral music on short notice.” The extended Fraternity of Talent embraces more than 2000 named alumni of the group to date, and I think that the 100+ that attended the reunion would agree that the more often all could come together, the better.