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.

Glee Club Bandcamp: In Concert: Openings and Christmas, 1968

1968 Openings Concert program, first page

This edition of Virginia Glee Club Bandcamp features a surprise I found a few years ago. As the Glee Club historian, I regularly search online for information about the group’s history as more materials are digitized, and this time I found information in an unexpected place: Etsy. In particular, the Etsy shop of an antiques dealer in Florida, who had a Glee Club record that I had never seen before—recordings from 1968, including a fall concert and Christmas.

I bought the thing, of course. I was filled with some trepidation when it arrived and I noted that the album jacket (which was a generic blue cardboard sleeve with no printing or image) was torn in one corner and damaged—possibly even chewed—in another. But the record looked OK. So I dropped it on the turntable, played it, and was delighted to realize that, based on the repertoire, it was indeed a recording of parts of the 1968 Openings Concert and the 1968 Christmas Concert.

The 1968 Openings Concert was notable for a few things. First, it was the fifth year of Donald Loach’s tenure, so while there are definitely signs of his trademark style emerging, it’s not fully there. Second, the Openings program in particular opened for the first time with a song that would become part of Loach’s signature repertoire, “Hark, All Ye Lovely Saints Above,” but then featured a set of twentieth-century compositions that the group would return to only a few times in his tenure: “Here is the God Who Looks Both Ways” and “Thy Word is a Lantern.” Most durably in terms of the group’s repertoire, the Openings Concert also featured the debut recording of “Vir-ir-gin-i-a,” arranged by Loach from a march tune of Handel and featuring a text written by former Glee Club member Arthur Kyle Davis, Jr.

We actually know less about the Christmas Concert, as we have not found a full program listing. But the recording has a few highlights, including the earliest known performance of the “Gloria” from Josquin’s Missa Mater Patris, a work that the Glee Club would not perform again for another 24 years. The Dufay “Gloria” is spectacular here, as is the unexpected closing, the coronation scene from Boris Godounov by Mussorgsky.

Have a listen, and if you enjoy it, please remember that all proceeds from Glee Club Bandcamp sales go directly to support the Virginia Glee Club.

Glee Club Bandcamp: A Dove in the Hall and Songs of the University of Virginia

We have a twofer today, on the cusp of the weekend long celebration of the Virginia Glee Club’s 150th anniversary. The first new album on Bandcamp is A Dove in the Hall. Recorded on the Glee Club’s 1992 Tour of the South under John Liepold, this concert features the Club’s 1991-1992 repertoire in an entirely different acoustical setting. While tunes such as “Come, Heavy Sleep” and “Soon-Ah Will Be Done” had featured on the Club’s setlists that year, in the remarkable resonance of Holy Name Chapel at Loyola University they took on entirely new dimensions. Indeed, throughout the recording you can hear Liepold and the group adjusting their performance to the echo in the hall, at times lengthening cutoffs by a full measure to let the reverb add new colors to the performance. As conductor Robert Shaw once said, “If you want the Dove to descend, you have to clean out the birdcage,” and this group had done that in spades. Listen below.

The second album being released digitally today is the legendary Songs of the University of Virginia. The first record album that the Glee Club ever released (though not the first recorded—more on that later), the record features almost exclusively Virginia songs, including the alma maters, “Hike, Virginia,” an entirely clean version of “From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill,” and, unusually, the songs for two University “ribbon societies,” Eli Banana and T.I.L.K.A. The Glee Club is accompanied by the University Band in most of these recordings, made live in Old Cabell Hall, and is enthusiastic, if not always nuanced; you can see the recording sessions in the photo below.

Glee Club records Songs of the University of Virginia in Old Cabell Hall. Courtesy Small Special Collections, University of Virginia

The album is well worth a listen, despite the passing of the tide of years, as a reminder of where the Glee Club started and how far it came.

Check it out on Bandcamp today!

Glee Club Bandcamp: 51st Annual Christmas Concert

Another Christmas album? A little warm for that, isn’t it?

Yes, perhaps. But this Christmas album is notable for a bunch of reasons:

  1. First Virginia Glee Club recording during John Liepold’s tenure as conductor
  2. First recording of his re-scoring of the Duruflé “Ubi Caritas,” which took advantage of the group’s countertenor section to create a close harmony version of the song that would become one of the signatures of the group during Lieopold’s tenure
  3. First ever Glee Club performance of “The Winter Song.” The wolf winds are wailing from the doorways… without some of the sound effects that later generations of Club guys added to the performance.
  4. Really beautiful trio of “O Magnum Mysterium” settings
  5. Most of the Maurice Duruflé Messe “Cum Jubilo,” featuring Duruflé’s pupil Yvaine Duisit on the Old Cabell Hall organ, and solos from Poulson Reed and Matt Benko

Go check it out!

Glee Club Bandcamp: Three Songs (1956)

Donald MacInnis with Glee Club accompanist Barry Rogers, ca. 1956

Today’s update to the Virginia Glee Club Bandcamp page is a little unusual. For one thing, before I found a copy of it online a few years ago, we had no idea it existed. These three songs were recorded on a promotional record, an acetate that was sent to radio stations in the hope of garnering live radio gigs for the Glee Club. This was a strategy that actually paid off in 1956, with an appearance on WTVR.

Donald MacInnis was the Glee Club’s conductor for most of the 1950s; his tenure was notable for launching the Virginia Gentlemen. It is therefore unsurprising that this record combines “highbrow” repertoire (a Bach motet) with something a little more popular; what is perhaps surprising is the choice of a Tom Lehrer song, only a year or two after Lehrer’s first record became a collegiate hit.

As we continue the Bandcamp series of digital releases, we’re going to get into some increasingly interesting territory, with recordings that haven’t been heard for years. I’m thrilled to be able to share this one, especially for our 1950s Glee Club alumni that are still with us.

Glee Club Bandcamp: 50th Annual Christmas Concert

Does the Dolby logo make anyone else feel nostalgic? How about the chrome tape info?

It’s time for another Virginia Glee Club recording on Bandcamp! This one is an anniversary milestone: the 50th Annual Christmas Concert! Featuring highlights from the performances at St. Paul’s and Old Cabell on December 7-8, 1990, when I was but a wee first year, this is one you’ll want to check out. As always, the proceeds go to the Virginia Glee Club.

This year was Michael Butterman’s last as our interim conductor, and he brought a lot, as usual, to the proceedings, including some of the nicest Baroque orchestra performances to accompany a Glee Club concert on record. Which is why your bonus photo for today is from the St. Paul’s performance of a young Butterman getting his bow tie adjusted by an even younger John Vick. Ah, history.

You can preview the album on Bandcamp.

Virginia Glee Club Bandcamp Friday: A Shadow’s on the Sundial

Today’s next album in the Virginia Glee Club Bandcamp discography is a classic, A Shadow’s on the Sundial. I’ve written about this album before, but aside from the folks that were there at the time (and people like me who have scored copies on eBay), very few people have had a chance to hear it. Now’s your chance!

In addition to featuring the only recording of David Davis‘s Summer Songs, there are some outstanding performances of staples of the Glee Club’s repertoire from the 1970s and 1980s including “Shoot, false love” and “Hark, all ye lovely saints.” And it’s a really great chance to hear the Loach-era Glee Club at the beginning of their great stretch in the 1970s—after all, this was the album that raised funds to take the Glee Club on their first European tour!

Listen and buy here! As a reminder, all proceeds from sales go to support the Glee Club.

From the Virginia Glee Club archives, on Bandcamp

As I was writing Ten Thousand Voices, one of the things that kept hitting me was that it was a little like dancing about architecture. How could readers who hadn’t listened to all the various recordings connect with some of the stories about the music that is the Virginia Glee Club’s mission?

We’re addressing a bit of that today with an experiment. Music for a Noble Acoustic, released on cassette in 1993 and capturing the Glee Club’s early 1990s repertoire in concert, is now available for preview and purchase on Bandcamp, on the Virginia Glee Club’s very own artist page. You can now hear what the group sounded like under John Liepold, as well as hearing early renditions of “The Winter Song,” “Shenandoah” and other Club favorites.

This is an experiment. There are a lot more recordings awaiting remaster and publishing if this one works out, so all are encouraged to check it out.

And one of the benefits of the Bandcamp platform is the ability to embed a preview here, so check it out!

Bandcamp find: Yussef Kamaal

Increasingly my new music hunting has been on Bandcamp, where I’ve found some amazing music just by browsing and sampling. Other than Grand Banks (of course), it’s been fantastic for getting archival records, out-of-print Jim O’Rourke, and new jazz.

An especially rich vein has been jazz from London groups. I first stumbled across Ill Considered, by saxophonist Idris Rahman, late last year. Last weekend I went back to the site and discovered Brownswood Recordings and Yussef Kamaal. The latter, a group featuring Kamaal Williams (aka Henry Wu) on keys and Yussef Dayes on drums along with an assortment of session musicians, make experimental groove-based jazz-funk that wouldn’t have been out of place in Herbie Hancock’s early to mid 1970s discography—except for the hip-hop inflected drums, a common thread in the Brownswood recordings I’ve heard, and in fact in most of the really exciting 21st century jazz I’ve found.

Infuriatingly, Yussef Kamaal were one of the musical groups caught up in President Trump’s travel ban. Denied entry to the United States in March, they missed the opportunity to perform at this year’s SXSW.

The debut album from Yussef Kamaal, Black Focus, is engaging and rewarding, and a fun listen on a snowy day like today. Recommended. I’m also enjoying the live sets by the group on Youtube, including the group’s very first show, the Boiler Room session.