ST ’18: Day 8, Chicago

We woke up and it was St. Patrick’s Day in the Windy City! We made our way to the spectacular Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago. The chapel boasted an awesome display of unconventionally colored (mostly muted, light hues of purple, green, and blue) stained glass windows.

Rockefeller Chapel

The concert began at 2:00 PM. Our accompanist opened the show by providing Adrian Berliner G4 a D on the piano so that he could begin his solo in Mogamigawa. But, rather than begin the Japanese folk song Adrian started singing a classic sea chanty From Boston Harbor much to the surprise of our faithful conductor. Andy caught on quickly and began to conduct the song appropriately, but little did he know that once the chorus arrived the entire glee club would speed up the tempo and start swinging eighths. Thoroughly bewildered, Andy smiled and tried as best he could to keep up with the shenanigans. When the song reached the final verse, the Glee Club stared menacingly at its conductor as it solemnly sang “And the one thing we shall have to crave is that he may have a watery grave. So we’ll heave him down in some dark hole where the sharks will have his body and the devil have his soul.” But the piece ended on an upbeat note with a “Yo heave ho, to row row, wind aloft and rum below.” Andy took the tour prank very well and graciously bowed for the slightly confused audience.

After a week of shows and rehearsals the Glee Club gave a truly emotional, yet refined performance. The organ and chapel provided an amazing opportunity to sing the Benedictus of the Cooman mass. One highlight was surely the singing of an arrangement of Sondheim’s Not While I’m Around.

After the show the Glee Club had the opportunity to explore the city of Chicago on one of the most festive days of the year. People dispersed to see the green river and cloud gate, to try authentic Chicago deep dish pizza, and to spend some time with friends and family in the area. In the evening a good time was had by all but the gleeks tucked in on the early side to be ready for the next day’s flight home to Boston.

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 5, Winona

While some members enjoyed the option to sleep in this morning, others woke up bright and early to go to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum on a party bus. Apparently the bus company overbooked all its regular busses, so they sent us a party bus for transport to the art musem.

The museum held an impressive collection containing pieces by George O’Keefe, Monet, Matisse, Van Gough, Deurat, and most famously Leutze’s 2nd copy of Washington Crossing the Delaware. We spent about an hour here before heading off downtown for lunch at Erbert and Gerbert’s sandwich shop.
After lunch, we rode the party bus back to the hotel while jamming to black eyed peas. We then rested for a bit before heading to rehearsal at Chapel of St. Mary for the afternoon, which is also our performance space for the evening.
Alter of St. Mary’s Chapel of the Angels
Some newies cheesing in the chapel
Anticipation built all afternoon as to whether there would be a decent audience for this concert. As time got closer a small group of people started trickling in. By the time we got on stage, we had a large crowd of over one hundred people in attendance. Performing in such an acoustically resonant place before an audience was an amazing experience. Afterwards, when we asked how people heard of the concert, a significant portion had read about it in the local paper, but many also were personally invited by members through email, word of mouth, and postering.
Riding to the museum in style (Partibus!)
When everyone finished changing, we took the bus back to the hotel and met at the nearby restaurant, Ground Round, for Glee Club dinner. It was the first group dinner, and the Glee Club had a great time just talking and hanging out as an entire group for the evening. After dinner, people split up to either go out to local bars, play cards, or sleep.
Written by Rowen VonPlagenhoef ’21, Photos by J. Finley Ong ’21

ST ’18: Day 4, Winona

Many members woke up today refreshed from the first full night of sleep. We rehearsed for about 2.5 hours and had the rest of the day free. Nico Tuccillo ’19 organized a hiking trip to Garven Heights for some nice views and fresh Minnesota air.
Dennis Zhang ’18 goes ice fishing
Gleeks take a brief respite as they climb the bluffs
We also asked members to begin spreading the word of our concert tomorrow night in the traditional glee club manner. They carried out this task with fervor, taking to the streets to talk to local Winonans and poster the town.
Winona concert program
In the evening, the group spread out to do various activities. Roshan Padaki experienced Culver’s for the first time, a classic midwest fast food chain. A small group went to see Black Panther and also met the same Lyft driver that has been driving members of the Glee Club all day. Another group went bowling and witnessed Tom’s magical skills in the process. As pin after pin was knocked down, Tom left members of the Glee Club in the dust. At the very end, he was 1 pin away from a Turkey.
When the Glee Club returned to the Hotel, we gathered for a movie night of Sausage Party and further Glee Club bonding. The movie-watchers paused the film to pay their respects for the late Stephen Hawking. Overall, it was a nice relaxing day.
Written by Rowen VonPlagenhoef ’21, Edited by J. Finley Ong ’21

ST ’18: Day 3, St. Paul

Coming off a late night, the Glee Club started the day a little behind schedule. But by car, subway, and light rail eventually everyone arrived at the Boys and Girls Club of St. Paul. We then participated in three consecutive workshops with choruses of elementary, middle, and high schoolers. In one workshop we learned the song This Little Planet and sang it as a round with the middle school choir before adding original dance moves and having a sing/dance off. A different group performed an arrangement of Michael Jackson’s classic Man in the Mirror and before long the Glee Club enthusiastically joined them in song to create a truly touching moment. The conductor of the school’s singing program Siri told her students that the Glee Club showed that music can be an important part of your life even when you get and even if you do not intend to be a professional musician.


After having completed the three workshop classes, the Glee Club had some free time to explore the city of St. Paul. Gleeks flocked to the Science Museum, the Cathedral of St. Paul, the state capitol building, and the Schubert Club Museum.

Minnesota Capitol Building
Do you believe in miracles?
Cathedral of St. Paul (Star Tribune)
Schubert Club Museum

In the afternoon the Glee Club gave a short performance at the Boys and Girls Club of St. Paul to an audience of kids and teachers while standing behind a purple Prince mural.

“Yoi sa no makasho”

The performance became interactive when Gleeks and kids sang a round/mash-up of children’s songs. Afterwards, the Glee Club participated in a final workshop with Commusication, an after school music program for the St. Paul area in which students meet at least three times a week to rehearse singing and piano under the musical direction of Ryan Laboy. Commusication seeks to be accessible to all youth, create great music, and offer a welcoming community; it recently performed alongside Leslie Odom Jr. at Super Bowl LII. The students in commusication were incredibly well-focussed and simultaneously having a really fun time. With them we played a game that involved practicing proper singing posture and we also learned a song Draw the Circle Wide, which the students explained was about inclusion, accepting each other no matter our differences, and how we’re all stronger together.

HGC and Commusication

Today’s activities with various youth singing groups exemplified the power of music to bring people from very different backgrounds together to create something beautiful out of love.

-J. Finley Ong ’21

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