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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Glee Club reunion

A couple of weekends ago, alumni of the Notre Dame Glee Club returned to Notre Dame’s campus for a celebration of its 100-year existence. It was an opportunity to reflect on impact of the club in the lives of its members and the wider community.

There were quite a few alumni in attendance. Final numbers showed over 500 men graced the stage of the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend for our Friday night concert. These included members of the current Glee Club and stretched back to a few members from classes in the 1940s.

Stories of tours, bus rides and favorite pieces dominated our weekend activities and conversations. This is probably not surprising if one imagines the fodder that 100 years of history provides.

Friends and family members have asked me to describe the weekend. But, it’s difficult to capture all of the emotions and feelings that follow from a gathering like this. University President Fr. John Jenkins, while preparing to eulogize Notre Dame’s late president emeritus Fr. Ted Hesburgh, captured the difficulty I feel well: “How can we draw together the strands of a life that spanned so many years, served in so many realms and touched so many lives?”

I think Fr. Jenkins was inviting us to consider an essential truth. Most times, explanations will never be able to quite capture in words what should be seen and experienced most clearly by the heart. Lou Holtz identified this point well when he described the Notre Dame mystique: “For those who know Notre Dame, no explanation's necessary. [For] those who don't, no explanation will suffice.”

Like in the cases of Fr. Hesburgh and Notre Dame, no single explanation of the Glee Club’s impact will suffice. No single event like a reunion will capture the essence of its meaning. Rather, the essence of meanings like the Glee Club’s must be discovered and lived daily. That is to say, we are called to connect our daily lives with the implications of what we have seen and felt clearly in our hearts.

In the case of reunion weekend, I started thinking a lot about community. If Glee Club taught me anything over four years, it’s that close and meaningful communities are not formed quickly. Rather, they result from a life that is lived together over an extended period of time. In community, we are brought together through a common experience or by working together for a common goal.

Over the course of its history, the Glee Club brought together men who had a love for music. But music was just the beginning. At its heart, learning to make music in the rehearsal room helped us learn how to build friendships in life.

When we sung together, we learned how to blend, to give and receive. Sharper or stronger voices needed balance from warmer or softer voices. Those who were not adept at note reading learned or followed those who were better.

What we learned musically translated into our friendships. Different personalities learned how to blend with one another. Underclassmen were led through the joys and struggles of college, relationships and life by the upperclassmen.

Probably most essential to this building of community in Glee Club was our travels together. Every fall and spring break we had a chance to tour somewhere in the United States. And every two summers, we went on an international tour.

If you want to get to know people, take a trip with them. You learn a lot when you encounter people in a variety of situations: when they’re tired, cranky, energized or joyful. Downtime manifests the range of these emotions.

In the quiet and boredom of downtime, we had time to learn about one another. Moments that might have on the surface appeared dull became transfigured. Busyness no longer prevented the sharing of stories. We had time to hear the echoes of each other’s hearts.

Perhaps the meaning we feel after reunions comes because they give us the excuse to spend time together and share our lives. In those moments, we intentionally focus on those who are around us. Dull moments lead to the laughter and joy of “Remember when’s?” This builds community and communion.

How much good might result if we took the time to do this more in our daily lives? What if we were to spend more time with God?

After all, God continually invites us to “remember when” he showed us the fullness of his love in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. We are invited to actively remember that event so we will better be able to recognize and live into what that love looks now.

The more closely we know Christ’s life, the more we will be able to imitate it. And through this imitation, we will transfigure the world.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.