Rise to World Prominence
Dr. Philip Duey, who conducted the Glee Club from 1947 to 1969, began the transition of the Glee Club from a quality Midwestern chorus to a world-renowned organization. In the history of the Glee Club, no other director brought more media attention to the Club during his tenure than Dr. Duey. Through radio, television, recordings, and motion pictures, Dr. Duey made a national name for the Michigan Men's Glee Club. In 1954, the Glee Club provided the music for an RKO film, Songs of the Colleges, which featured scenes from colleges and universities from around the country. In the fall of 1951, the Glee Club started an enduring Michigan tradition of performing joint concerts with the Glee Club of a football opponent when they invited the Cornell Glee Club to Ann Arbor. All this was happening as choral music was becoming increasing popular in the 1950's and 1960's. In this period, the Glee Club actually had two concerts on the same night for both its fall and spring concerts. But probably the biggest gain from Dr. Duey's tenure was the start of overseas touring. The Glee Club had never had the membership base or the financial resources to attempt an international trip before. But in the spring of 1955, a four-week trip to Western Europe was undertaken, and it was a great success. Highlights included an appearance at the American Embassy in Rome and a command performance before Queen Juliana of The Netherlands. Dick Bailin, historian for the 1955 tour, recounts the events of that day:
"Finally, we arrive at The Hague, home of the Dutch government and a city in its own right. There is time to spare, so we eat our first meal in Europe--a full three-course dinner for $.60! At last the Club piles into the bus and drives on to the City Hall. Here we wait in hushed expectation, and finally it happens--the Queen herself appears on the steps and the large crowd of Dutch people gathered around us applauds wildly. The Glee Club sings three songs, including the Dutch National Anthem, and while Dr. Duey is being presented to the Queen, numerous carefully concealed cameras are whipped out and many pictures are taken. Thus our tour starts in an exciting and illustrious way."
One of the greatest achievements in Glee Club history occurred during the European tour in 1959, which commemorated the centennial of this organization. In addition to a grueling four-week concert tour, which included performances at the Free University in West Berlin, the group competed in the International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales. The tour was planned so that this competition would be at the very beginning of the tour, but this plan almost backfired as the boat they were traveling on (the S. S. Seven Seas) was almost a day late getting into England. After a 3 a.m. arrival and only three hours sleep, the Glee Club became the first American choir ever to win the male choir competition.
After winning the Llangollen prize in 1959, the Glee Club planned four subsequent trips in which they stopped in Wales for the competition. In 1963, a five-week tour included special performances at the residence of the American Ambassador in Athens and the American Embassy in London. The Glee Club once again won the first place prize. In 1967, the Glee Club celebrated the University's sesquicentennial year by embarking on a gargantuan world concert tour between May and July. This tour will always hold the reign of being the longest in the history of the Glee Club. After traversing the world for eight weeks, an exhausted Glee Club took a respectable third place--the only time that the Glee Club did not receive the first place prize at Llangollen. In 1971, the Glee Club returned to Europe under the direction of Willis Patterson and won the male competition at the International Music Eisteddfod yet again, and in 1978, the task was repeated under Leonard Johnson. This victory in Wales marked the fourth time the Michigan Men's Glee Club had won the coveted prize. Unfortunately, changes in the school calendar and the fact that the competition is held in early July have prevented the Club from attempting another victory. However, to celebrate this accomplishment, the Glee Club gives out four Llangollen Awards annually to members who embody the spirit of this competition.
Many other highlights come from the Duey years. In September of 1965 the Glee Club--along with Harvard University, Smith College, and Howard University--was invited to represent the United States at the first International University Choral Festival. This event was held at the Lincoln Center in New York and at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The Glee Club also made appearances on the Dinah Shore Show, the Pat Boone Show, and Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town". David Wallingford, member from 1951 to 1953, recounts the events of that evening on Ed Sullivan's show.
"The first [memory that I want to share] has to do with our opening song Laudes atque Carmina. We were to appear on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town". We were permitted because of time limitations to sing only two songs, but we wanted to sing our traditional opening hymn also. Ed Sullivan said there wasn't time--but like all loyal and resourceful Glee Clubbers, we hummed it behind the curtain through the commercial and through the introduction--the tradition was not broken."
The 1980's showed that the Glee Club still had some of the world's attention. Under the direction of Patrick Gardner, the group made appearances at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, the pre-game festivities for the final game of the 1984 World Series at Tiger Stadium, and at the Intercollegiate Musical Council National Seminar at Harvard University in 1986. One unique highlight occurred in 1983 when the Glee Club, on their West Coast Tour, performed a concert in San Diego and performed The Hymn and several other Michigan songs for Earl V. Moore--former Dean of the School of Music and composer of several Michigan songs.