Glee Club and US Males: A Preview

For many students, it may be hard to believe that for one block every day, many of their peers head down to the music wing and sing together in the Glee Club Room—that while some students are graphing equations, others are harmonizing with their vocal gifts. Despite its misleading name, “Glee Club” is not a loosely established extracurricular, but rather a class and performance group rolled into one.

The University School Glee Club and US Males are among University School’s oldest organizations, dating back to 1890, the year of the school’s establishment. The Glee Club presents concerts with the US Males and US Orchestra and performs at school assemblies and functions throughout the year. Apart from performing for the US community, the Glee Club has performed at Severance Hall with the Choral Arts Society of Cleveland in the Ohio premiere of Robert Cohen’s Alzheimer’s Stories, and has also provided music for the Suicide Prevention Education Alliance’s annual “Into the Light” Walk at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

At the moment, Glee Club and US Males are taking on a variety of songs. The US Males are currently working on two pieces: an arrangement of “Carol of the Bells,” a popular Christmas carol, and an arrangement of “Corner of the Sky”, a song from the musical “Pippin”. The Glee Club is also working on a number of pieces for their upcoming concert. Songs such as “Fergus ’n’ Molly,” sung in the style of an Irish folk song, Hallelujah, an arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s most famous song in memory of his recent death, and Bonse Aba, which is a traditional Zambian song, are just a few to be sung.

When asked about the different types of music that the Glee Club is taking on, Gus Childres ’17 stated, “This year we are doing a lot of foreign pieces, which is saying a lot because we already do a lot of foreign and non-foreign music. So the audience is getting both sides of the spectrum.”

A daily practice routine for the Glee Club opens with a warm up, which can range anywhere from lip drills, to yawns, to scales. Following the warm up, the boys go through a song learning repeater, in which Mr. Singer gives the group around 8-16 measures of music, and then he and the boys break it down and figure out how to read the rhythms and how to sing the pitches before they put it all together. When asked about this practice, Mr. Singer said, “This helps us build skills relevant to learning new music, and as repetitive as this work can seem, it really pays off.”

Following the song learning, they split up into four parts, which is normal for most high school, college, and adult choirs. They split up according to the men’s voices, which is either Tenor or Bass. This comes out to Tenor 1, Tenor 2, Bass 1 and Bass 2. The divisions correspond to how low and high each singer can sing. The lowest voices sing Bass 2, the highest sing Tenor 1, and the other voices are placed according to their strengths.

As far as leadership goes, Gus Childres ’17 is the president of the Glee Club, and Grant Friedman ’17 and Joey Thornton ’17 are the representatives of the bass and tenor sections, respectively. A lot of the student leadership roles come into effect during concerts. Because Mr. Singer also directs the orchestra, Gus, Grant, and Joey are responsible for the logistics of the Glee Club. During concerts, they are responsible for lining up, walking on stage at the right time, making sure everyone is fully in uniform, helping underclassmen get organized, and generally doing anything that can help Mr. Singer be focused on keeping the concert going. Mr. Singer said that although a lot of their work is done “behind-the-scenes”, the concert would not run without their help.

The faculty leader of the Glee Club and US Males is Mr. Singer. When asked about Mr. Singer’s position as both the accompanist and director of the Glee Club, Grant Friedman complemented him on his sight reading and music theory, stating, “Mr. Singer has had the tough job of director and accompanist this year, but has but has been able to keep the choir productive and disciplined despite that challenge.” As the head director and accompanist, Mr. Singer has many leadership positions: selecting all of the pieces, composing the music, preparing learning aids, and playing the piano during rehearsals.

Aside from being part of the Glee Club, many of these University School students are also highly active in the external music community, participating in groups such as the Cleveland Orchestra and Contemporary Youth Orchestra Chorus, performing as independent singers and songwriters, and taking part in musical theater productions. The Glee Club as a whole has also done a lot in the music community throughout the Greater Cleveland Area. Last March, the group sang a concert of video game music, and last May, the group also sang with Tommy Shaw, a singer and guitarist for the band Styx.

The direction of the Glee Club seems to be headed in a positive direction, despite suffering from some shortcomings in the past. According to Grant Friedman, “My junior year we encountered some adversity but both groups (Male and Glee) are on the rise with a newfound excitement and Mr. Singer’s steady guidance.”

Being part of the Glee Club and US Males seems to be an all around positive experience. It unites a great number of students from completely different backgrounds. According to Grant Friedman, “The Glee club has an interesting array of people. It brings together diverse students with equally diverse interests, all for the common goal of making music.”