New Glee Club live recording: 53rd Annual Christmas Concert

When I was at my reunion earlier this month at the University of Virginia, we hosted a Virginia Glee Club and Virginia Women’s Chorus reception at 3 and 5 West Lawn. The Club’s manager Travis brought some refreshments (we had an abundance of charcuterie for some strange reason) and some Club swag – stuffed Wafnas (Wafnæ?), branded stress balls, etc. He also had a tattered cardboard box that had been in the Club’s storage unit for years.

He said, “I think you might be able to make use of this.”

Inside? Cassettes, CDs, two VHS tapes (!) and a handful of DATs. Including this one—the recording of the second night of the Glee Club’s Christmas concerts from my fourth and final year in the group, recorded December 11, 1993 at University Baptist Church in Charlottesville.

As Stefon would say, this one has it all: many settings of the Ave Maria including a world premiere of a setting by Alice Parker; almost the entire Missa Ave Maria by Cristóbal de Morales (the group hadn’t learned the “Credo” yet at this point in the season); and an incandescent version of “Betelehemu” by Babatunde Olatunji with William Whalen that included polyrhythmic drumming, forthright vocal performances and some … eccentric solos.

Aside: I previously wrote about how listening to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan informed my solo strategy for this work. The other part of my strategy consisted of picking a couple of words in Yoruba that looked like they belonged together and improvising vocally on those. It must have worked since a young woman from Nigeria came up to me after the show and thanked me for singing in her language.

The other soloists on “Betelehemu” were Tyler Magill, who memorably flubbed part of his solo and shouted “Whoopee!” before recovering and doing an extended improvised trio with me and the third soloist (uncredited, but we think it was probably Tom Nassif).

There were no recordings released from my fourth year. Club director John Liepold intended to produce a CD (which would have been our first) of music commissioned by the Glee Club around the Ave Maria theme, but the project never came to fruition. Releasing this live recording from that Christmas concert feels a little like correcting a long-overdue imbalance, as well as revisiting voices I haven’t heard in many years.

You can stream the album below or purchase it on Bandcamp.