If you were walking around the freshman quad during the first two weeks of school last fall, you most likely ran into a few ecstatic students running around singing or convincing freshmen to talk for 30 seconds to someone other than their roommate. No, they weren’t harassing you – they were just members of the Glee Club trying their hardest to promote their biggest year yet.
Established in 1947, the Glee Club is the oldest and largest student group on campus with 120 members in the fall semester of 2011. Delighting the Fairfield community as well as audiences around the world for 65 years, the Glee Club is a Fairfield tradition and point of pride for many alumni, current students, and fans. This year, all will be welcome to reminisce at the 65th Glee Club Anniversary celebration on April 21, 2012, when they will be performing the Father Murray/Simon Harak Memorial Concert at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.
“My favorite part of Glee Club are the performances,” says conductor Dr. Carole Ann Maxwell. “When I get to bring together all of these kids with a common desire and commitment to make music and get them all to hit at the same time, it’s just a magical feeling.”
Dr. Maxwell joined Fairfield University in 1980 to lead the Women’s Chorale when the Glee Club was an all-male group, and two years later founded the Chambers Singers. In the late 1980’s, all three groups – the Glee Club, Women’s Chorale, and Chambers Singers – came together under Dr. Maxwell’s direction.
Following her life-long passion, Maxwell practices with her choir every Monday and Wednesday and demands excellence in every performance. With the wonderful accompaniment of Beth Palmer, Glee Club today sings a combination of sacred and pop music, both on and off campus.
Every year Glee Club kicks off its four well-rehearsed performances at Homecoming Weekend, followed by the annual Christmas concert where they performed an inspired combination of sacred classics and popular Christmas pieces around the theme “Canticle of The Animals.” Over the spring, the group went on tour to Waterbury, Connecticut, Boston, Massachusetts, and Greenwich, Connecticut. Shortly after, the Club packed up and headed to Italy.
“It’s a special treat to witness different cultures as well as experience the varied responses we receive from totally different audiences,” says Martin Malaspina ’13.
The year of hard work culminates with a “Pops Concert” in May, when selected students are given the opportunity to perform themed popular pieces as solos. The theme of this year’s Pops Concert is “Glee Braves The Elements.”
“The Pops Concert is such a blast,” says James Mathews ’12. “We get to relax a bit after the intensity of the tour and perform all the songs that we love. Everyone has so much fun – the singers and the audience.”
Glee Club Ensembles
Within the Glee Club are subgroups of further dedicated singers. The Chambers Singers are a small ensemble that rehearses twice more weekly to perform an additional and more difficult repertoire. The Chambers Singers also get a chance to learn more about music during their rehearsal, receiving course credit in the process.
Another group within the Club is the all-women ensemble of Sweet Harmony. Under the guidance of the Glee Club accompanist, Beth Palmer, and the student direction of Nicole Raposo ’14 and Lindsey Gorgel ’13, Sweet Harmony gets together a few extra times a week to learn songs to perform at the Glee Club’s annual concerts.
“Sweet Harmony is a lot of fun,” says Raposo. “We sing and dance and have a blast.”
The latest new group within the Glee Club is the Bensonians, the University’s only all-male a cappella ensemble. The “Benz,” as they call themselves, are a student-run group that want to take their singing to the next level. Dedicating themselves to 6 extra hours of rehearsal per week and a repertoire ranging more than 20 songs, the group performs all over campus in their classic matching clothes at open houses, masses, basketball games, and many more University events such as the Black Box Poetic Exhibition. In addition, the group has been found to perform off-campus at memorial services, weddings, Christmas parties, restaurants in town, and outside barbershops and ice cream parlors. Beware where they may appear next!
The Bensonians actually got their start in 1947 as a popular barbershop quartet within the Glee Club. Somewhere in the 1980’s, when the group combined to become co-ed, the Bensonians broke up, re-emerging in the early 2000’s in a small way with the Men’s Ensemble who performed maybe one or two songs a year. A resurgence of interest has resulted in the resounding 16 that they are today, performing a wide variety of repertoire from the old barbershop standards of the early group, to sacred pieces for church, to brand new pop songs for the student body. The group of tightly knit friends find themselves singing anywhere and everywhere they can.
“Auditioning for the Bensonians was the best decision I have made,” says new member, Joe Marino ’14. “We have so much fun and make such amazing music together, and we just look forward to every rehearsal and performance when we get to see our audiences’ delighted faces responding to our hard work.”
As for the Glee Club in its entirety, says Palmer, “It is truly a privilege to work with the students and get a chance to see them make music at higher levels than they ever could have imagined.”
Dr. Maxwell and her choir look forward to the 65th Anniversary extravaganza this month. All Glee alumni are invited back for dinner and the concert. “The Glee Club will choose some wonderful musical remembrances of the past 65 years,” says Maxwell, “plus some new touches of our own.” A full house is expected!
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