ST ’18: Day 7, Milwaukee to Chicago

Our host took us to the Original Pancake House for breakfast this morning. During my time in Milwaukee, I saw connections to Pittsburgh in many areas – the focus on industrial manufacturing as a source of wealth for the city, the intersection of three rivers, and its rebirth as a place focused on environmental research and sustainability. This restaurant was yet another reminder of Pittsburgh, because it was a favorite breakfast location of my family.

After breakfast, we were dropped off for our morning gig at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The new Calatrava addition, build in 2001, seemed like a precursor to the New York Oculus. The 36 fins composing the bris de soleil was down when we arrived, but they lifted it in time for the performance, which let a bit more light into the room.

As today is the 160th birthday of the Glee Club, our conductor led us through a program tracing the development of the Glee Club to its present form. We sounded pretty good for a morning concert, though I expect the echoing acoustics of the museum helped with that.

After the concert, docents took us around in small groups to see the museum. We had a pitifully short amount of time to look at all the artwork, but our docent did his best to hit the major sections of the museum and cover the general history of the provenance of their collection. I took a few notes, which can be seen below:

Notes on the Milwaukee Art Museum:

  1. Sofinisba Anguissola – female artist, portrait painter
  2. Portrait of Henry III of France’s mignons
  3. “Interesting painting which has made its way to Milwaukee” – favorite phrase of the docent
  4. Philippe de Champaigne – only one allowed to paint Richilieu
  5. Andien de Clermont famous for monkey room paintings
  6. Frederick Lipton was buying academic art, which wasn’t super popular, at the same time Chicago was buying impressionists
    1. Bouguereau was an interesting academic artist
    2. Bastien-Lapage pre-dated impressionists, hated by academic artists but still classified with them
  7. “Bawdy tales, but in a German way, much more reserved.”
  8. Georgia O’Keefe would come to museum to look at her paintings, alone, then leave. She lived in WI for a little bit
  9. Joan Mitchell – synesthesia, not a nice woman, “if you were a man, French, & dead, people would like you”
  10. A little background on how museum security works
  11. Drossos P. Skyllas – never sold a painting, strange portraits, no brushstrokes
  12. August Walla – schizophrenic, raised as a girl to avoid draft, swastika and hammer/sickle : feminine & masculine
  13. Earthquake in Haiti makes Milwaukee collection of Haitian art much more valuable
  14. “Kohl’s Art Generation Studio”
  15. Kehinde Wiley: St. Dionysus (docent says it is St. Claire), men posed as women, did Obama’s portrait
  16. Reginald Baylor – Adaptation of annunciation, “On duty, not driving”, does paint-by-number

We departed straight from the museum to Northwestern, our last little bit of travel.  After a brief stop for lunch, we arrived at Northwestern’s Bienen school; a new building of concrete and glass right on the river. I dropped off my luggage with my family, then intended to go to a meet-and-greet with the arts group, The Crossing, we would watch this evening. However, they needed more time to practice, and I ended up getting an early dinner at 527 Cafe, next door to the sadly vacant rooms of what used to be Joy Yee.

While I was waiting for the performance, I happened to run into two high school classmates who were studying music, and we chatted briefly about how we were doing. Then we settled into the balcony for The Crossing’s performance of Anonymous Man and Rigwreck. The first was incredibly rhythmically interesting, if not so interesting melodically, while the second one was a little more conventional musically, but had absolutely arresting and extremely political and religious language. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on it after more reflection. For now though, I am being hosted by my extended family, and it is time to turn in for the night.

-Curtis Wu ’18

ST ’18: Day 6, Milwaukee

Day 6 brought the end of our stay in the Winona Days inn, and the beginning of a four hour bus ride to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The first part of our drive was along the Mississippi, before the crossing of a bridge into Wisconsin. The Mississippi was on our left, and on the right, melting snow had refrozen on the embankment next to the road, forming rows of icicles.

I slept a little, finished Brown Girl Dreaming, and made some more progress in Winter. The first conclusive sign of our arrival in Milwaukee was Miller Park, home to the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team.

We pulled up to Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church (interesting point of note: the church is the same age as the Glee Club), and dropped our stuff in a room pointed out to us by the pastor. Next on the schedule was lunch, but the pastor inquired if we had a “musical grace.” This left us momentarily confused, but we realized that he was asking if we had any songs for blessing the food. We didn’t, but we ended up singing “Mogamigawa,” and that earned us a sloppy joe, potatoes, bacon and cheddar macaroni salad, and carrot and turkey soup.

During lunch, we chatted with the pastor; he had recently moved to Milwaukee from New Orleans, where he had been for 15 years, and was also a singer (basso profundo, as he put it). After lunch, we had a brief rehearsal and sound check. Because the organ was by the entrance to the church, the time it took for the organ’s sound to reach the choir (and our sound to reach the organ) led to some timing issues. We had to work out two transitions to get the choir up to the loft and back down, which caused some frustration. Fortunately, we had some time to relax and get changed before our performance that evening.

The performance was a bit shaky at the beginning; I think the fatigue from traveling, the new standing arrangement, and the small audience threw the group for a bit. However, the concert came together, particularly toward the end, when we performed “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” as an encore.

The church provided dinner and dessert to us, again after a rendition of “Mogamigawa.” We chowed down on tacos and chips and fruit, and I chose a slice of carrot cake as my dessert. At the end of the dinner, the pastor bode us farewell with a sung benediction, and the phrase, “I’m going to do something the devil has never done.” To which we replied, “What?” “Leave you.” He also gave us a CD of himself singing. Of course, we thanked him and another church member with a “Domine” for all their help setting up the concert.

Our host drove us through the city, past Marquette University and Lake Michigan, as we made our way to his home. We also stopped at Kopp’s, a custard shop in the building where Happy Days was filmed, and I got a Swiss chocolate custard, my second dessert of the night. When we arrived at his home, we met his family and chatted a bit before going to bed.

-Curtis Wu ’18

ST ’18: Day 2, St. Paul

Despite losing an hour of sleep to daylight savings, the Glee Club began the day early and in spritely form at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church of St. Paul. We showcased some of our sacred and spiritual repertoire ranging from William Cornysh’s Ave Maria Mater Dei from Renaissance England to Fenno Heath’s arrangement of the American spiritual Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child. The service opened with a gorgeous organ prelude from our accompanist Tom Sheehan and closed unconventionally with an ecstatic performance of the Japanese folk song Mogami Gawa. Between the first and second church services members of the glee club spoke with members of Gloria Dei’s congregation about music, Harvard, and Minnesota among many other topics over much-needed mugs of coffee.

Sanctuary of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church- Nico Tuccillo ’19

After church the glee club travelled to the Mall of America, the 4,870,000 square foot monument to consumerism big enough to fit seven Yankee Stadiums (Wiki). After eating a quick lunch Gleeks descended upon the mall.  Some spent their time browsing the mall’s over 500 stores, while others rode roller coasters in the Nickelodeon Universe theme park or played a round of mini golf.

Entrance to the Mall of America
Gleeks stand bewildered at the Mall of America

In the evening the Glee Club returned to Macalester to prepare for the evenings concert. We had a conversation with Michael McGaghie, HGC alumnus and former resident director, about some of his most salient memories in the Glee Club and about points of change and continuity during his long time with the Glee Club.

HGC alumni and current gleeks eat dinner together before the evening’s concert

By 7:30 PM the gents had donned their white tie and tails and taken front row seats with an absolutely packed house to listen to a wonderful set from the Macalester Concert Choir. Afterwards, the Glee Club took the stage. This concert being the first major performance of tour, we performed with incredible energy. This concert included the world premiere of the Benedictus from the Davison Mass by Carson Cooman, a modern take on a traditional missa brevis that captures a unnerving sense of deep uncertainty. The Glee Club will perform the entirety of the mass, written for a men’s choir, treble-bass choir, and two organs, on Sunday, April 15 with the Boys Choir of All Saints at Ashmont at Parish of All Saints, 209 Ashmont St, Dorchester Center, MA. Oliver Berliner ’19 made his debut concert performance as conductor of Harvard Glee Club Lite. The Glee Club finished its set with the Football Songs and an enthusiastic crew of alumni including former president Eduardo Cabral ’16 joined us in song. The concert concluded with a combined performance between the Glee Club and the Macalester Concert Choir of Unclouded Day.

After the performance choristers and gleeks alike celebrated the performance in a manner that can certainly be described as raudimus.

-J. Finley Ong ’21


American Midwest Spring Tour 2018: Day 1, Boston to St. Paul

Here it is. My senior year, and my final Harvard Glee Club Spring tour. This year, we are traveling from Minneapolis to Chicago, by way of Winona, MN and Milwaukee, WI. It’s been a long first day, so let’s get into it.

Tour began, as it typically does, with an early morning flight out of Boston. So, at 4:15 AM, all the bleary-eyed, sleep deprived Glee Club singers received their tour booklet (containing pertinent travel details and information about places of interest) and boarded shuttles to Boston Logan.

Tour book cover, designed by Dennis Zhang ’18

That previous sentence brings me much happiness, because for once, every single member of the Glee Club was present and on time. That is a strikingly rare occurrence for the Glee Club, and it seemed to be a fortuitous start to the tour. One unfortunate contributing factor to our timeliness was that a couple of my fellow singers were not able to join us on tour, making this group the smallest group I’ve traveled with in my four years. It is a big change from last year, when I was with the largest group I had traveled with, and I was a bit sad that we would be missing some valued members of the Glee Club for this first leg. However, the loss of more baritones than tenors or basses restored equilibrium between sections that the Glee Club has not experienced in years; later in the day our faithful and fearless conductor Andy Clark likened conducting this well-balanced choir to driving a Rolls Royce or Ferrari.

Once we arrived at the airport, we all made it to the gate and on-board (after navigating some issues regarding tickets and the maximum dimensions of a carry-on bag). The flight to Chicago went smoothly, and I managed to complete a crossword puzzle while on board the plane. Many of the Glee Club members took this as an opportunity to catch up on an abbreviated night of sleep, or finally fall asleep after staying awake through the previous night. After a brief Starbucks visit and a 55 minute flight from Chicago to Minneapolis, we disembarked and met Mike McGaghie, the choral director of Macalester College. He was there to meet us, but also our conductor, resident conductor, and accompanist. They took off to get to the campus early, while the Glee Club hopped on the tour bus for the short ride to the college.

Gleeks disembark at O’Hare Airport

Brief aside about the Minneapolis airport: for some reason, Chinese is the second language printed on most of the signage, though there are few Chinese people as far as I could tell from the small sample of people I saw at the airport.

It was a cloudy day in Minnesota, and although I was later told that much of the snow had melted, there was a solid couple of inches still on the ground. The pale blue light made it difficult to know what time of day it was, and that combined with our abnormally early start to the day actually made it easier for me to enjoy the experience of travel, rather than trying to worry about the work I would have to do during tour to be on track once I got back to campus.

Manager Emeritus Haden Smiley ’19 expresses joy and relief that everyone made it to St. Paul safely

We were dropped off at the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, where we deposited our bags in the orchestra room, then went to the choir room to have our lunch (Papa John’s Pizza). I can’t draw any deeper connections between those rooms uses and their respective music ensembles, but I leave that as an exercise for the reader. After lunch, we went into the concert hall to begin our afternoon of rehearsing.

Gleeks reposing after a long day of travel

The concert hall, as our conductor put it, has a very “wet” acoustic, which to me meant that it is reverberant, and fairly generous in terms of making the Glee Club sound good. It’s far from cavernous, and I think will make for a welcoming first concert. We ran through our set-list for our concert before being joined by the Macalester Concert Coir.

The Macalester Concert Choir is close to my heart for two reasons. 1) Its conductor Mike McGaghie was a member of the Glee Club and its resident conductor for several years before I arrived at Harvard. He was also in attendance at the Considering Matthew Shepard performance in Spring 2016 and at the performance of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex with Emmanuel Music this February. 2) One of my friends from high school choir, Corbin Dodd, is in his fourth year in the Concert Choir, and will be going on his final tour with them. Our joint concert will represent Macalester’s send-off concert, and my first time performing with Corbin since singing with him in Spain.

Michael McGaghie welcomes the Glee Club

Dr. MaGaghie led us through a brief rehearsal of our combined piece, and then we were free to eat delicious pita, hummus, and chicken kabobs while getting to know the members from the other choir. As might be expected, we had a lot of similar interests: performing arts and choir tours, but also abstract mathematics and teaching. We wrapped up the evening after dinner by thanking our hosts with a “Domine,” and then dispersed into our homestays.

The Harvard Glee Club and Macalester Concert Choir rehearse Unclouded Day

Tomorrow: HGC goes to church (the Christian kind), church (the capitalist kind), and church (the music kind).

Written by Curtis Wu ’18, Photography by Rowen VonPlagenhoef ’21, Edited by J. Finley Ong ’21

NYT ’17, Taiwan Day 6 : Concert at the National Concert Hall

On the day of our first concert of tour, January 2nd, we had a free morning to do as we wished. Some gleeks decided to go hiking up elephant mountain, others took a visit to the Taipei City Mall, and still others took a trip up to the top of the famous Taipei 101 building with some of the fastest elevators in the world.

Several hikers with the Taipei skyline behind them.

We met after lunch to take the buses to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial. We took group photos both inside and outside the beautiful National Concert Hall Conveniently we all coordinated and wore our great tour shirts (designed by the talented Dennis Zhang). Here is the full group on the steps of the Taipei National Concert Hall:

The Full Glee Club in front of the Taipei National Concert Hall

The Concert Hall had an incredible pipe organ taking up the wall behind the stage, and the room had wonderful acoustics: one of the best in the country, we were told. Here we are on the stage:

The Glee Club on the stage of the National Concert Hall

At long last we had a sound check to prepare for our concert in the concert hall. We ran through the critical parts of the repertoire and made sure we had everything under our belt.

The singers take a break during the rehearsal

After the sound check, we had a dinner consisting of a box with sushi rolls. The people in charge of our dinner learned only after they ordered that we were headed to Japan next! We changed into our clothes and prepared to perform in the concert hall at 7pm.

Overall, it was a fantastic concert. Since it was both the first concert on tour and a high profile concert hall, we were all a little nervous, but the adrenaline gave energy to our music. However we were a bit put off by the icy cold silence after our first piece; unbeknownst to us, an announcer had before our arrival on stage asked the audience to keep their applause until the end of a section! But as the concert unravelled, it was clearly a success. Lite’s A Cappella was beautiful; and probably the single moment that garnered the most applause was Jasper Johnson’s translations of announcements into Chinese. It was a great concert to start off the tour.

The Glee Club during the first tour performance

We were all very excited in the backstage to have performed our first concert: I for one was most nervous about this concert in particular, and we had risen to expectations. It was then time to say goodbye to the concert hall.

The Taipei National Concert Hall, the night of the concert

That night after the concert, we were taken to a karaoke event at Party World, where we were treated by Albert Ting himself to two large reserved rooms, as well as food and drinks throughout the night. The gleeks enjoyed themselves in the singing and drinking, a joyous end to a strong first concert day.

Raucous singing during the karaoke party following the concert

Author: Sean Park and Jeffery Durand

NYT ’17, Taiwan Day 5 : New Year’s Day in Taiwan

We were given a fantastic gift for New Year’s day: the Glee Club had the day off. I can’t imagine a better way to start the New Year.

The group split into a great variety of trips throughout Taipei. Here are but just a few:

Outing to the Taipei Zoo:

A group of just around ten gleeks woke up early in the morning to go to the Taipei Zoo; it has the reputation of being the biggest zoo in Asia, so our expectations were high! We were not disappointed. We started with animals native to Taiwan, among which was a collared bear (Formosan fauna), then spent time in the insect house trying to catch butterflies! From there we hurried to the Panda house to catch a glimpse of the furry bear: we was eating bamboo near the back of his cage! Finally we ambled around, stumbling on the African and Asian elephants, orangutangs, and many others animals. These sights were made unique by the lush sub-tropical backdrop unique to Taiwan.

Some of the Gleeks near the entrance of the Taipei zoo

Hike into Elephant Mountain:

Around 20 Gleeks used New Year’s Day to go hiking in the ‘Four Beasts’ region, just outside of Taipei. The area is renowned for its beautiful landscape, temples, and spectacular views of the city skyline, especially Taipei 101. Beginning at Elephant Mountain (象山) , we were surprised by both the endless stairs and the sheer volume of selfie-stick armed tourists. At the peak – the main tourist destination – the group separated; some descended back into the city, others hiked a temple viewing trail, while the most adventurous pushed on towards the 9-5 peak (九五峯). Although the sunset forced us to turn back prematurely, we were still rewarded with an amazing view, and our tired souls were somewhat soothed by the melodious tenor notes of a local farmer.

The view from Elephant Mountain

Bike Ride toward the ocean:

Another contingent of 10 gleeks went on a biking trip along the Tansui river that afternoon, with the goal of going all the way to the ocean. I had been told by Albert Ting himself that the sightseeing was incredible and that the riverside had a pathway specifically for bikes; parts of this trail were alluringly called the “Golden Shore.” So after some searching, we found a good quality bike shop that miraculously had the perfect amount of bikes for us. We joined the very well maintained and beautiful bike path; the wide, open views of river branches and mountains beyond were unforgettable. But due to its popularity there were a lot of bikers other than ourselves, so we unluckily got split at a turn. But a rescue party successfully reunited us, and we a witnessed a breathtaking sunset from the river shore. After a final push north we arrived at a train station that we took back to our starting point, tired but proud of the 20ish kilometers covered.

Connor and Ben with their bikes

We made our way safely back by subway when night arrived. Once we gave our bikes back, we walked to the nearby night market and had dinner at a restaurant with Hakka ethnic food, and shared duck, noodles and beef dishes to celebrate a day well spent exploring the formidable landscapes of Taiwan.

The biking group meets after their outing for dinner

[more pictures coming soon!]

Authors: Jeffery Durand and Constantin Arnscheidt

Day 7 : A day in Steamboat

Skiing, hot springs, libraries, hikes, downtown shops and restaurants: there were many things we enjoyed doing in Steamboat Springs. Even better: it big yet light snowflakes fell all day, shrouding all our outdoor explorations in an eerie magic.

I got to see a moose for the first time!
I got to see a moose for the first time!

Almost half of the group went skiing that day, and with the help of our hosts this turned out to be completely free. What an incredible treat! For some people it was their first or second time skiing, and they bravely got up from many falls to get down those slopes. The skiing crew got back weary in the evening, but with a ton of fun memories.

Matthew prepares to go down a slope
Matthew prepares to go down a slope

Others (when they could get their hands on good shoes) went on short hikes to enjoy the majestic views of the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs. Personally I thoroughly enjoyed a walk along the Yampa river and a hike to an abandoned uranium mine higher in the mountains.

But the most popular destination were the Strawberry Park Hot Springs, a 30 minute drive from downtown. Three separate groups took the trip. First we took a shuttle that drove along the bumpy and snowy dirt road (quite an interesting ride), then we arrived at the beautiful picturesque springs.

Eduardo and John arrive at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Eduardo and John arrive at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Being in a 100 degree hot pool while snow falls on your shoulders is a surreal experience. John, Eduardo and I even got to sing some impromptu pieces to the tourists at the hot springs.

Our president enjoying the 98 degree waters
Our president enjoying the 98 degree waters

All gleeks had a festive St Patrick day’s evening, be it downtown or at home with their hosts.

Day 6 : The road to Steamboat Springs

A beautiful travel day to Steamboat Springs followed by a memorable concert in the Strings Pavilion was what awaited us on day six.

Unfortunately bad luck did strike: our fearless tour manager Quincy along with Bernie, Luran and yours truly all had a bad case of food poisoning (we had all made the mistake of eating at a Golden Coral two days earlier) Quincy was the last to become sick and did not take the bus with us, instead joining us two days later in Denver. In memorial our poet laureate John Griffin composed alternative lyrics for Quincy’s solo, “So fades the lovely, blooming flower”:

“So pukes the lovely, poisoned Q,
Sweet, fevered tour man oh so true,
So soon his nausea leaves him far,
Now we must sing these, first few bars”

During the beautiful drive out of New Mexico and through Colorado, John also appropriately launched the limerick contest. Winners would be announced on our way to Denver.

The ride was an occasion to watch the landscape slowly turn from red or yellow rock formations to white snowy mountains (and “Kill Bill volume 1”).


The road seems endless but is always changing
The road seems endless but is always changing


Finally after our arrival at the Strings Pavilion we had our rehearsal, followed by pizza for dinner and our 7:30 PM concert. The house was close to full and we had a lot of fun singing in that concert space.

The beautiful Strings Pavilion is world renowned
The beautiful Strings Pavilion is world renowned

When our hosts then snatched us and took us back home we discovered a closely-knit community at Steamboat Springs. We prepared excitedly for the next day where many would go skiing.

Day 5 : Santa Fe and the Scottish Rite Temple

A morning free in Santa Fe is completely different from one in Phoenix: they are so different in style and size! This morning we were able to explore much of downtown with its old churches and chapels, art galleries, history museums, arts and crafts traditions, all the while admiring the pueblo architecture.

A shop in Santa Fe
A shop in Santa Fe

The bus picked us up at half past noon to bring us to the Santa Fe high school for a choral workshop with one of their choirs. Our conductor Harris led a warm up session and a short interactive rehearsal. Then they sung us their favorite songs, and we sung some of ours songs. Both groups had a lot of fun sharing the music.

The choral workshop with Santa Fe high schoolers
The choral workshop with Santa Fe high schoolers

We all had a shot at eating the traditional Santa Fe food with red or green chile sauce that former member Tag Murphy so eloquently described to us in a pamphlet for the tour. It was indeed quite a culinary experience. About half of the group decided to go out of their way at Tomasita’s. We sung to the restaurant as a thanks. However our time was short and we had to run across all downtown to get back to the Scottish Rite temple in time for rehearsal.

The group joins in Glee at Tomasita's
The group joins in Glee at Tomasita’s

What a beautiful hall! With its moorish architecture, the velvety and finely decorated room has a great acoustic. We had a very rewarding rehearsal.

Lite rehearses choreography for "Stacy's Mom"
Lite rehearses choreography for “Stacy’s Mom”
After a dinner break, we all got into tuxes
After a dinner break, we all got into tuxes
Some still need help with their bow ties!
Some still need help with their bow ties!

We finally performed in what I think was our best performance so far. The audience was fantastic, and during our singing there were moments where I felt the magic just happen.

For some of us this was the best concert we've had so far
The Harvard Glee Club performs

After the concert our hosts drove us to a warm reception in a small art gallery. We had a fun time talking with our hosts and enjoyed coming out of our “musical high”.

Fine looking gentlemen, one must say
Fine looking gentlemen, one must say


Day 3 : Camelback Church

On day three we performed at Camelback church, widely renowned for its acoustics. However we first had our morning off. Some gleeks decided to walk up the top of Camelback Mountain, a short but intense experience with more scrambling over rocks than actual walking. But the trail was a lot of fun and the view incredible.

2016-03-13 18.52.04
Gleeks cross paths on the Camelback Mountain “echo canyon” trail
Jay made it to the top of a mountain!
2016-03-13 19.04.31
Gleeks on their way down (as I make my way up as fast as I can)

After lunch we all met at Camelback church in semi-formals right after the Sunday service people were trickling out. Before they departed, we thanked what had been our first hosts on tour in the only way we saw fitting: by singing to them. Thank you for the terrific time and great generosity!

We rehearsed in the church: a completely different acoustic from the MIM. We prepared a set list for a 3PM concert including Duruflé’s “Messe Cum Jubilo” for Baritone choir. The concert itself went very well. Pictures are upcoming!

That night we were hosted by people from the Camelback church, in a completely different part of Phoenix. After a shared dinner, some gleeks went out on an evening adventure to explore southern Scottsdale before we left Phoenix the following morning.