It’s April! We welcome more daylight and warmer weather to Happy Valley. The annual Blue-White Game, previewing this year’s football team, will take place on Saturday, April 13. That night, the Penn State Glee Club will be celebrating with a special 130th anniversary concert, solidifying it as the oldest student organization on campus.
From its humble beginnings as the Penn State Glee Club and Banjo and Mandolin Society in December 1888, the Glee Club has become a cherished Penn State tradition.
As a bright-eyed freshman at Penn State during fall 1981, I decided to join a few student organizations to experience all that college had to offer. So, I auditioned for membership in the Glee Club. After singing a few scales in a practice room in the old Music Building, it was off to the Forum for the first rehearsal. It was here that I learned the words to the “Alma Mater,” “The Nittany Lion,” and “Fight On State.”
The Glee Club performs music arranged for male voices, with some of the older compositions dating back hundreds of years. From the late 1880s through the 1960s its membership was exclusively male. Since the 1970s, women have been welcomed as members of the group.
In the days prior to the current semester calendar, the Glee Club held concerts for Homecoming, Christmas, and Mother’s Day in Schwab Auditorium. It also embarked on an annual spring break tour in early March.
During the first half of the 20th century and again since the 1990s, the Glee Club has toured all over the world. However, during the 1980s, our “low-budget” tours consisted of stops between Pittsburgh and New Jersey. Each tour had all the trappings of a Marx Brothers movie. Imagine 60 college-aged men living on a bus for a week, bringing merriment and song to small towns across Pennsylvania. Before cell phones, most of the travel time would be absorbed by friendly conversation, singing songs, playing cards, and telling jokes. The bus always seemed to be filled with raucous laughter. To save money on hotels, we would often stay with alumni or in school gyms.
Of all the student organizations that I was part of during my college years, none has provided me with more cherished memories than my years with the Glee Club.
The Penn State Glee Club’s 130th Anniversary Concert is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, at Eisenhower Auditorium.
This year’s concert will include an alumni choir and a massed choir with current members. Nearly 100 alumni from the 1950s through today will return for the chance to step back on stage, look into the spotlights, sing, and feel young again.
Brothers Sing On!
Bernard A. Oravec