April 28, 2015
By Rachel Rogol
Amherst College Glee Club, circa 1880
Founded by students in the spring of 1865, the Amherst College Glee Club is now celebrating its 150th anniversary.
To commemorate the sesquicentennial, they've produced the first new college songbook since 1940; created memorabilia, including mugs and nylon backpacks; performed for alumni in Boston at Old South Church; held a song competition; and sponsored the two-day Amherst Today alumni program that culminated in a live performance (two selections from which are posted below). In May, they'll take a 10-day trip to Costa Rica with the Amherst College Women's Chorus and perform four full-length concerts while touring San José, La Fortuna and Guanacaste. And upon returning to campus, they'll perform at the Commencement Concert on May 23.
Two Tracks from the 150th Anniversary Performance
Words and music by Kurt Knecht
Performed by the Glee Club
"Soon Ah Will Be Done"
Spiritual arranged by William Dawson
Performed by the Glee Club with alumni
Directed by Mallorie Chernin, Amherst's Glee Club is the fifth oldest collegiate choir in the United States and the longest continuously running student organization at the College. "Mainly the Glee Club sings on campus," Chernin says, "but it has also sung at many other venues, including international tours in 58 countries." And, as noted in the the new songbook, "its members have performed for kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers and even a pope."
Chernin is the 13th conductor of the Glee Club and has been at the College full-time since 1986. "The Glee Club provides a place for people to come together in song and bond despite different backgrounds, religions, politics or any other differences," she says. "Music really is a universal language."
And music abounds at Amherst. Branded as "The Singing College" for its long and varied musical history, Amherst boasts a Choral Society that includes the Concert Choir, Madrigal Singers, Women's Chorus and Glee Club; a large Symphony Orchestra made up entirely of students; a jazz performance program with one large ensemble and several smaller combos; and six student-run a cappella groups, including the Sabrinas, the Bluestockings, the Zumbyes, Route 9, the DQ and Terras Irradient.
"Music gives us a common goal, and an opportunity to entertain, share our talents with others, make beautiful music and have fun," Chernin says. "I can’t tell you why the Glee Club has lasted 150 years," she continues, "but, as the editor states in the songbook, what is important to the singers is 'the songs, the camaraderie and the bonds they formed with their fellow singers in sharing this wonderful tradition.'"
To purchase a copy of the new college songbook ($20), a mug or a nylon backpack ($6 each), contact Chernin.