Men's Glee Club (University of Michigan) Records

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Men's Glee Club (University of Michigan) Records

This Deep Blue collection forms part of a larger Men's Glee club record group held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to this record group, please consult the online finding aid.

Additional records and information may be found in the Men's Glee Club (University of Michigan) Web Archives.

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

University of Michigan choral group founded in 1859; digital materials include correspondence, administrative records, publicity materials, photographs, and audio-visual content.

As early as 1846 University of Michigan students met regularly to sing "for pure enjoyment." In 1859 the university formally acknowledged this activity through the establishment of a Glee Club. Michigan's group was the second such college organization formed in the nation.

In its early days the club included from seven to twelve singers who performed college songs, humorous vaudeville numbers and skits. In the 1870s the larger group began to divide into smaller performing units, trios and quartets, which allowed for greater individual recognition. In the 1880s the club began to tour and in 1884 the organization made its first excursion outside of the state. Because of the demands of touring the size of the club was expanded, first to sixteen members, four men per part, and by the turn of the century to around fifty members.

After World War I the club experienced difficult times. A lack of sound musical programs led to declining audiences, and in 1920 a disastrous West Coast tour lost so much money that the club was unable to tour for five years. In 1921, as part of an effort to revive itself, the club became part of the Michigan Union. In 1922 the name "Men's Glee Club" was formally adopted and the club experimented with new music. An all classical format was first adopted, and when this proved unsuccessful it was changed to the balanced program of classical, humorous and college songs still used today. The club also began to formally participate in the annual Michigan Union Operas, an all male comedy review.

All of these changes led to a revival in the club's fortunes. Touring was resumed, which eventually caused the club to withdraw from the Union Operas, because the two groups' separate touring schedules made it impossible for members to participate in both. In 1943 the club formally ended its affiliation with the Union and resumed its prior status, as an independent student organization.

After World War II the club evolved new traditions and expanded its touring activity. In 1952 the club began the Fall custom of singing with the Glee Club of a school that had played the University of Michigan that day in a football game. In 1955 the popular double quartet, the Friars, was first organized. 1955 also marked the club's first European tour, which was followed by international tours in 1959, 1963, 1967, 1971, 1978, 1989, and 1992. The tours of 1959, 1963 and 1967 were highlighted by victories at the International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales.

When the club was first organized, and for many years thereafter, musical directorship was entrusted to a club member. In the 1870s and 1880s, however, the club began to experiment with hiring a professional director, usually a music teacher from the Ann Arbor area. In 1894 the club returned to appointing one of their own members as director, but the idea of hiring a professional remained and in 1908 the club resumed the practice of hiring a director.

Please note:

Copyright held by the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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