Women's Glee Club (University of Michigan) Records

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Women's Glee Club (University of Michigan) records

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Women's Glee Club (University of Michigan) record group held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Singing group established in 1902 as the University of Michigan Girls' Club before changing the name to Women's Glee Club in the 1940s. The group performed on campus and throughout Michigan as well as touring nationally and internationally. The group disbanded in 1953 and was reactivated in 1976. This records include concert programs and posters, fundraising information, correspondence, photographs, audio/visual recordings of performances, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks. Also included are administrative papers including budget information, schedules, rosters and rules.

In the spring of 1902, the University of Michigan Girl's Glee Club was created by the Women's League to provide an opportunity for non-music majors to perform in an organized group. The club was open to both undergraduate and graduate students, and had seventeen members in its first year. By 1905, the club had gained such popularity on campus that Professor Albert A. Stanley appointed fellow School of Music faculty member, Nora Crane Hunt, to direct the club. The women sang on campus, in surrounding Michigan cities, and at Ohio State and Ohio Wesleyan universities. The club's greatest exposure came in the early 1930s when they were chosen to represent the University of Michigan's musical groups on a National Broadcasting Company radio show. The Girl's Glee Club membership grew steadily from around 20 members in 1912, to a high of 70 members in the 1930s.

Former student director Margaret Martindale took over Nora Crane Hunt's post as director when she retired in 1933. Under her direction, the club performed at the May Festival that same year, a performance so admired that the group became known as the "Stanley Chorus," a tribute to the professor who had earlier incorporated the club into the School of Music. The name, however, was short-lived, and the group began to refer to themselves again as the Girl's Glee Club in 1937, only to change their name for good in the 1940s to the Women's Glee Club. During the 1940s boom time the club met in Burton Tower every Thursday evening, and over the next decade the women would hold a couple of performances in Ann Arbor, at least one out-of-town concert, and a few radio broadcasts annually. However, the growing popularity of other newly-formed performance groups, together with dwindling membership following World War II, and the difficulty of finding a suitable conductor all contributed to the disbanding of the Women's Glee Club in 1953. This decision was mutually agreed upon by the Michigan League, Dean of Women Deborah Bacon, and Dean of the School of Music Earl Moore.

In 1976, after 23 years of inactivity, student Kimberley Smith decided the time had come to revive the group to continue the original mission of the Girl's Glee Club to "provide an opportunity for women at the University of Michigan to keep music in their lives." In 1978, Rosalie Edwards took over as director, creating a number of groups within the club: the Madrigal Choir, the a cappella group The Harmonettes, and the spirit club "Bo's Boosters." In 1981, the Women's Glee Club was officially offered as a one-credit course through the School of Music, and in 1994 the School of Music faculty began officially conducting the group. The year 1987 marked their first national tour, taking the 60-plus members to the East Coast through Boston, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, New York City and Buffalo. Subsequent tours took them around the Midwest, Southeast and West Coast. The club took their first international tour to the Netherlands, France and England in 2000. In 1995 one of the most successful outreach programs offered by the Women's Glee Club was created, the Women's Vocal Arts Day. This event offered the opportunity for high school girls interested in singing to learn more about performance at the college level. In 2006, the Midnight Blue jazz octet was formed as another subgroup of the growing club.

The Women's Glee Club continues to perform twice a year in their Fall and Spring Concerts, as well as at their "Blues" tailgate performances. In addition to other shows they hold around Ann Arbor and the state of Michigan, they continue their national and international touring tradition.

Sources Consulted:

Wilfred B. Shaw, ed. The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedia Survey. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan University Press, 1942-1981.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

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