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Monday, May 20, 2024
The Observer

Glee Club members, alumni reunite for centennial concert

More than 500 Glee Club alumni and current members will take the stage at the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend on Friday night to celebrate a century's worth of performances on campus and around the globe.

Current Glee Club president senior Stuart Streit said alumni from as far back as the 1940s and from all areas of the country are coming to participate in the centennial concert and additional reunion weekend activities.

Glee Club, 20151001, 20151001, Courtesy of Soren Kyhl, Glee Club
Photo courtesy of Soren Kyhl

“It’s been really cool to see what a footprint the Glee Club has now, after a hundred years,” he said.

The club has been planning the reunion weekend for nearly two years, he said.

“It’s really been a lot of works by alums, they’ve really been outstanding,” Streit said. “We have two young alums who live here in South Bend who have been handling a crazy amount of logistics. We have some older alums who have been working on it from remote locations.”

Streit said involvement in the preparations for the weekend has given him a much greater awareness of the historic nature of the group.

“I think that it wasn’t something I appreciated my first three years of the group, and since being thrown into event planning, I’ve really gotten a better grasp on the history of the Glee Club,” he said.

The Glee Club was formed in 1915 after a Notre Dame student visiting Harvard saw their glee club perform and decided to start a singing society at Notre Dame, Streit said.

“In the '40s, Dean Pedtke became the director and he ended up serving for almost 40 years," he said. "It was during that time it really became entrenched, traditionally within Notre Dame the way it is now."

Today, the Glee Club performs multiple concerts in the fall and spring semesters, as well as touring internationally every other year and domestically twice a year, Streit said. However, Friday’s concert will be different from the Glee Club’s standard concert.

“This is a really exciting concert. … We’re singing pieces from each of the four main eras based on different directors,” he said. “It’s a lot of Notre Dame songs, a lot of popular choral music. You can see the way not only the way the music of the Glee Club evolved, but also how Notre Dame evolved over time. It’s a really neat look into the history of Notre Dame.”

Streit said the Morris Performing Arts Center also has a historic connection to Notre Dame.

“It’s also just such a storied space. Our director keeps saying that 75 years ago the movie 'Knute Rockne All American' premiered at the Morris,” he said. “It’s cool to be singing in that space on a major anniversary for that movie, too.”

Josh Bathon, who graduated in 2014 and was a member of the club for three years, said he enjoyed the sense of brotherhood that all the members shared in his time with the Club.

“To this day, I am astounded that I could look upon someone and call him my brother simply because we sang together,” he said. “The profundity of this is not lost on me: familial bonds are forged in the harmony of voice. I came for the music, and stayed for the family.”

Bathon said he is excited to return for the reunion weekend, especially as he will be able to sing with his uncle, Howard Bathon, who graduated in 1974.

“We lived in very different times, had different peers and directors, and sang a lot of different music. But there was also a lot of music that we both sang, we stopped in some of the same places on tour, had a common vocabulary for events and songs, and shared many traditions,” he said. “For instance, in the cold days of the late autumn, we had a bonfire and hayride at a random rural Midwestern farm. I found out later that almost 40 years ago, my uncle went to the same farm with the club.”

Howard Bathon said he has been anticipating the centennial reunion for several years.

“The Glee Club was one of the biggest experiences in my time at Notre Dame. My best friends from Notre Dame are in the Glee Club,” he said. “When Josh told me he was going to try out for the Glee Club, I was ecstatic. ... To get back together and know that guys 40 years before me and 40 years behind me sang some of the same songs that I’m singing is just the coolest thing in the world.”

The Glee Club was the only singing group on campus during Howard Bathon’s time, he said, and so they performed for many different events for the University.

“Notre Dame has a far better developed and well-rounded music program now than when I was here. We were kind of it,” he said. “If they wanted music for anything, we were tapped to do it.”

He said highlights from his time in Glee Club included performing for football coach Frank Leahy’s national championship teams during a reunion, as well as touring in Amsterdam, Belgium and Munich.

“The Glee Club was the closest thing we had to a fraternity on campus at that time," Howard Bathon said. "We didn’t live together, but we sure did everything else together. We toured together, we sang together, we played together, we ate together and it just a tremendous experience for me.”

Tom Cook, who graduated in 1988, said he is also looking forward to singing alongside his brother and father, who was president of the Glee Club in 1959.

“It’s going to be a real privilege to be there with my dad and my brother because we were there at all different times,” he said. “For me, the concert is going to be really cool, meeting everyone and being on stage with everyone ... but especially my dad and my brother.”

Many of the men he met while a member of Glee Club turned into life-long friends, Cook said.

“It was great to know all these people from all over campus, multiple years, freshmen through seniors as well as grad students,” Cook said.