Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, May 01, 2005


I have a record of the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club of 1977 singing “Songs of Michigan.” All of the songs are by UM grads, class of ‘78 and ‘01 -- that’s 1878 and 1901 -- and so on. Mostly good songs too -- some dated and awkward words, but lively, tuneful music. Legend has it (and it may even be true; it’s certainly plausible to my ears) that John Phillip Sousa praised “The Victors” (by Louis Elbel, ‘99) as the best college march he ever heard.

My parents left this morning after a weeklong visit from Michigan; while they were here we listened to my old record. They met at Michigan; both of their fathers went there; my mom’s paternal grandparents went there too. When my folks were in school in the late ‘50s, lots of people still learned those songs. Nobody in my acquaintance did when I was there in the early ‘80s, besides my friend Dan Tierney who drummed in the marching band. Most people knew words to the 3rd strain of “The Victors” march; nobody knew the first and second strains. Mom said that her dad, who was there in the late ‘20s, knew the songs much better than she did.

The LP comes with a 4-page lyric booklet illustrated with photos of Glee Clubs past, including one of 10 members of the 1959 Glee Club holding director Philip A. Duey on their shoulders just after having won an international choral competition in Wales. Young brush-cut men with ties, some with horn-rimmed glasses, while director Duey wears a bow-tie and less flashy glasses, everybody grinning like crazy, even ecstatically. One African-American man in the group, grinning like the rest. Such a sweet picture, everybody so happy and, except director Duey, so anonymous, and so long ago.

Well, maybe not so anonymous. My mom knew one of the men in the picture. He’s widowed and lives in Grand Rapids. Back in college days he dated my mom’s best friend, who’s still a close friend of our family. She still is in touch with the former Glee Club man. I’ll have to send her a copy of the photo.
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