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151 Years of Musical Excellence
As the University of Pennsylvania Glee Club endures into the 21st century, it remains an institution atop the world of male choral singing. Featuring a unique blend of musical excellence and theatrical showmanship, the Glee Club has won worldwide acclaim. In Dr. C. Erik Nordgren's thirteenth year of leadership as the Club's Director, the Penn Glee Club continues to delight audiences of all ages. Its world-renowned and tradition-rich history began modestly in 1862, when eight undergraduate men formed the Club, making the Penn Glee Club the oldest performing arts group at the University of Pennsylvania. Subsequently, another eight men were added to the group. The Club's premier performance was in the chapel of Collegiate Hall at Ninth and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia for "an audience that was unusually select and large, the Hall filled to its utmost capacity." At this concert, each man wore red and blue ribbons in his buttonhole, and thus the Glee Club became the first known Penn group to wear the University colors as part of its uniform.
The 1915 - 1916 Penn Glee Club
The Glee Club quickly became an integral part of campus life, singing at football rallies, basketball games, alumni events, and chapel services. With the turn of the century, the Club continued to grow in popularity. Soon, much of the University's musical demands depended upon the Glee Club. As a result, the reliance on such traditional collegiate songs such as "Gaudeamus Igitur" and "Integer Vitae" gave way to original pieces composed especially for the University and the Glee Club, which themselves became traditions: "The Red and Blue," "Afterglow," and "Fight On, Pennsylvania."
In 1934, under Director Harl McDonald, the Penn Glee Club began performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Club's partnership with this world-renowned symphony has produced many memorable performances including the acclaimed 1938 performance of the Brahms' "Alto Rhapsody" with Marian Anderson and the 1970 world premiere broadcast of then-Director Bruce "Monty" Montgomery's "Herodotus Fragments." The 1950s saw the first of many Glee Club appearances on national television with such celebrities as Ed McMahon and Carol Lawrence. The Club has been showcased on television specials, in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and at professional sporting events. The Philadelphia Phillies had the Club sing its acclaimed rendition of the National Anthem at the 1993 National League Championship Series. In 1976, the Penn Glee Club first performed with the Boston Pops. The Club has also shared the stage with such superstars as Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Bill Cosby.
The 1958 - 1959 Penn Glee Club
The Penn Glee Club stepped out of the formal lines of choral performance in 1928, performing its first fully staged production, Hades, Inc., written by then-director H. Alexander Matthews. Staging became standard fare for the modern Club in 1969's Handel With Hair. Each year the Club writes and produces a fully staged, Broadway-style production, highlighting fine male choral singing, clever plots and dialogue, dancing, irrepressible humor, colorful sets and costumes, and a talented band. This annual performance accentuates the notion that this Club is like no other glee club in the world.
The Penn Glee Club has toured internationally since 1959 and has traveled to nearly all 50 states in the United States and more than 40 nations and territories on five continents. Since its first performance at the White House for President Calvin Coolidge in 1926, the Club has sung for numerous heads of state and world leaders. One of the highlights of 1989 was the Club's performance in Poland for President Lech Walesa. In 1990, the Club arrived in Budapest, Hungary, on the very day of the inauguration of President Arpad Goncz, Hungary's first democratically elected president in 42 years. In 1999, several prominent Japanese executives sponsored a tour to Guam and Japan, the Club's first tour of the Asian Pacific. Five years later in 2004, the Club returned to Asia, this time touring China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. And in 2012, to commemorate its 150th anniversary year, the Club embarked on its first joint PGC-GCGC tour, cruising to Bermuda.
The modern Club is a reflection of its rich heritage and its contemporary character. Now in its 151st season, the University of Pennsylvania Glee Club remains, as former Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp once remarked, "one of the finest musical organizations in existence." It proudly represents the University in its grand tradition and is equally proud to preserve its distinctive blend of choral excellence and theatrical showmanship, the hallmark of the Penn Glee Club.
The 2004-2005 Glee Club