Famous Clubbers & Small Groups
With a tradition dating back to 1859, it is not surprising that several national figures have passed through the Glee Club's ranks. Thomas Dewey, ex-governor of New York and 1948 presidential candidate, was a student Leader in the late 1930's. Russell Christopher is currently with the Metropolitan Opera Company, and Ara Berberian is a prominent performer who currently resides in southeast Michigan. Robert "Bob" McGrath was a featured tenor on the Mitch Miller Show before going on to star on "Sesame Street". David Wallingford recounts the days when Bob was in the group:
"The third [memory] was a highly emotional experience for the Glee Clubbers and one in particular--Bob McGrath. We had almost finished our mid-western tour and were heading back to Ann Arbor--we had one stop left--Ottawa, Illinois--the home town of Bob McGrath. I remember clearly the small town high school with its wooden stage. I think most of the town was there--the gym was packed. We sang our regular program--then the Novelaires sang We Three. Then Bob McGrath sang Danny Boy with his first tenor voice. The response was unbelievable--a standing ovation from the audience and the Glee Club. If tears didn't come to your eyes, you were one of the few who didn't feel the emotion."
Bob McGrath returned to Hill Auditorium in 1992 to sing Danny Boy and Rainbow Connection to a sold-out crowd, and in 1993, he joined the Glee Club in New York City to sing the same songs.
One of the other exciting aspects about the Glee Club is the variety of small ensembles that have come from the group. During the 1910's and 1920's there was a group called the Varsity Quartette that would perform a few pieces. From 1948 to 1958, the Novelaires were a quartet in the Glee Club. As a small ensemble, they were able to do some music that the group at large could not perform. In 1951 and 1952 the Novelaires received large publicity as Robert McGrath and Ara Berberian were members. For approximately fifteen years after the Novelaires ceased to exist, a Novelaire award was given each year to the non-executive board member who would be the most spirited alumnus. In 1955, during Philip Duey's sabbatical, acting director Walter Collins developed the Friars, patterned after the Yale Whiffenpoofs. And according to Joel Boyden, a Friar who was in Glee Club from 1957 to 1959, "when Dr. Duey returned he tried to keep both groups going, but the Friars were too good, and the Novelaires died!" The Friars are still going strong to this day. Another example of an ensemble from the Glee Club is the Arbors, a group of former Friars who went on to national fame as a quartet. Two sets of twins, Ed and Fred Farran, and Tom and Scott Herrick, also received nationwide fame after they left the University in 1962. Other small ensembles that performed with the Glee Club include the Midnight Sons Quartet and the Key Changers, but no group has lasted as long as the Friars.