A New Direction
Under the direction of recent conductor, Dr. Jerry Blackstone, the Michigan Men's Glee Club broke new ground while embarking on four historic overseas tours. In 1989 the Glee Club spent three weeks touring Asia with concerts in Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea. In 1992 the Club embarked on a much-anticipated trip to Eastern Europe, where they were one of the first American groups to visit the new country of Estonia, which had recently declared independence from the defunct Soviet Union. 1996 brought the Club to South America including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Peru, and the Club most recently traversed Australia in 2000. The highlight of this tour was the inaugural Men of Song Festival hosted by the Brisbane Boys' College in which 132 young blokes participated in a workshop and joint concert led by the Glee Club. Under Dr. Blackstone the Men's Glee Club attained a new echelon of musical excellence as was paid testimony by countless reviewers around the world. "I was completely enchanted. It is unbelievable that an amateur group could surpass our most professional choirs with such ease of execution" exclaimed the secretary of the Warsaw Philharmonica. A reviewer for Voces, Journal of the Federation of Choral Music, Chile further codified this distinctive sound.
"They performed with a rich, expressive sound that never lost its warmth, even in the most extreme ranges. A distinctive trait of the group is its spontaneity, maintaining a fluency and uninhibited manner...and a controlled dose of humor that earned the affection of the audience." Not surprisingly, under Dr. Blackstone's direction the Club was invited to perform at three conventions of the American Choral Directors Association, including the 1997 National Convention in San Diego where they performed two concerts to filled houses. The Club also released six compact discs during this time and in 2001 was featured on two tracks of Manheim Steamroller's double platinum album Christmas Extraordinaire.
The Blackstone era not only ushered in a new sound, but also a new resolve. In 1989 a new constitution was adopted and in 1991 the first annual Male Vocal Arts Day, a workshop for high school men, was held. Fiscal responsibility has also been a priority as the 1990's saw the Club's endowments blossom from one to four as well as the institution of the annual Phone-a-Thon fundraising drive which serves as a primary revenue source. The Glee Club saw another first in the spring of 2001 as a combined Men's Glee Club and Smith College Glee Club and Chorale staged a performance of Brahms' monumental Ein deutsches Requiem in Northampton, MA. The following fall the endeavor was repeated in Hill Auditorium with the Smith and Michigan Women's Glee Clubs, thanks to generous University support. The Men's Glee Club is currently well poised to continue the successes of the past decade after a successful transition year under the direction of Stephen Lusmann. The Glee Club recently performed at the IMC National Convention at Harvard University, traveled on a sixteen day tour of Great Britain and Ireland in 2004, and in May 2005 performed Beethoven's renowned Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall in collaboration with the Smith College Glee Club, Choirs, and Orchestra. The Club was featured on ABC Sports in 2005 during the Michigan vs. Penn State football game singing "Varsity and the Victors" at The Cottage Inn. A small group was invited to the NFL Commissioner's Super Bowl Tailgate in 2006 and performed alongside such notable entertainers as Boyz II Men. In 2006, the club was honored by invitation to perform the Shostakovich 13th Symphony (Babi Yar) with the world renowned Kirov Orchestra directed by maestro Valery Gergiev. The club thrives under the direction of its current director, Dr. Paul Rardin and as it approaches its sesquicentennial in 2009/10 it remains an international leader among male choruses.