The U-M Men's Glee Club
by Penny Schreiber
My dad loved male choruses. One of my earliest memories as a small child in Cleveland is of him performing on television with his barbershop group. Years later I married into a family with serious singers on both sides. Unfortunately, my husband, Paul, and I can't sing. But our son and daughter have beautiful, trained voices, and we fell in love with choral music when Tim and Claire were in high school, singing for the legendary former Ypsilanti High School choir director Bill Boggs. Now Paul and I take advantage of our acquaintance with two former Ypsilanti High School Chamber Singers, twin brothers and members of the U-M Men's Glee Club, to procure the best possible seats in Hill Auditorium for the club's annual November and April concerts.
Last November we took our center seats close to the stage just before almost 100 scrubbed and shining tuxedoed young men filed in. As they hit the first notes of their signature opening song, "Laudes atque Carmina," all those perfectly in-tune blended male voices washed over me, raising goose bumps and bringing thoughts of my late dad. The Men's Glee Club is superb one of the best male choruses in the world. During our Bill Boggs years, Paul and I learned a lot about what distinguishes a great choir from an average one. It must have a collective sound, never revealing individual voices (except for soloists, of course). And the lyrics must be clearly etched on top of that sound. Listening to a fine choir is like listening to a good orchestra. Just as I love the swell of the violins in a symphony, I love the surge of the bass and baritone voices filling in after the tenors.
Men's Glee Club concerts begin with classical music. The mood lightens up as the evening progresses. I relish the entire repertoire but especially look forward to spirituals, Irish music, and the wonderful Michigan songs that end every concert.
The zany popular octet the Friars, who perform after intermission, are always a big hit.
Listening recently to Echoes from the Cliffs, a Glee Club CD recorded on a spring 2004 tour of the British Isles, I single out Victoria's sublime "O Vos Omnes," the exquisite spiritual "Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child," the witty "What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?" and my favorite, "Danny Boy," as songs that freshened my memory of this chorus's amazing variety of repertoire and musical virtuosity.
The club has a new conductor, Paul Rardin, and in November he had his men dancing through some of the livelier numbers. I can't wait to see what Rardin has planned for the club's upcoming spring concert at Hill on Saturday, April 8. A final aside to fans of U-M football: you've never really heard "The Victors" until you've listened to the Men's Glee Club sing it in Hill Auditorium.
[Review published April 2006]