Spem in Alium
The annual reunions concert featuring the Princeton University Glee Club and Alumni in a reunion performance of Thomas Tallis’ Spem in Alium, an iconic 40-part masterpiece.
About the Artist:
Ulysses S. Grant was President and Verdi’s Requiem had just been premiered when the Princeton University Glee Club was founded by Andrew Fleming West, the first Dean of the Graduate College, in 1874. In its early years, the group consisted of a few young men and was run entirely by its student members, but in 1907, Charles E. Burnham became the first of a long line of eminent professional musicians to lead the Glee Club. Since that time, the ensemble has established itself as the largest choral body on Princeton’s campus, and has distinguished itself both nationally and overseas.
The Glee Club first achieved national recognition under famed organist Alexander Russell, when it performed the American premiere of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1931. Further accolades saw performances of Bach’s Mass in B Minor at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1935, and with the Vassar College Choir, the first United States performance of Rameau’s Castor et Pollux in 1937. The custom of joining together with the women’s choirs of Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges continued until the advent of coeducation. In the 1950s, under the direction of its longest-serving conductor, Walter L. Nollner, the Glee club traveled outside the United States for the first time, establishing a pattern of international concert tours to Europe, Asia, South America, and the South Pacific. Two world tours followed, and most recently, PUGC has toured Hawai’i, Argentina, Paris, Germany, Prague, South Africa, Spain and Mexico.
Nowadays the Glee Club performs frequently on Princeton’s campus, enjoying the wonderful acoustic and aesthetic of Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall. One of the choir’s most celebrated performing traditions began in 1913, with the annual concerts presented jointly with the Glee Clubs of Harvard and Yale, which still thrive today. A more recent tradition has seen the establishment of annual performances of choral masterworks with professional soloists and orchestra, now supported by an endowment fund to honor Walter Nollner. In the last few years these have included Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Bach’s St. Matthew and St. John Passions and Mass in B Minor, Mozart’s Requiem, MacMillan’s Seven Last Words and Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Mass for the Endangered. In 2014 the Glee Club was the first collegiate choir to perform Wynton Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass, and in 2018 gave the United States premiere of John Tavener’s Total Eclipse, alongside the world premiere of Shruthi Rajasekar’s Gaanam. The performing arts series ‘Glee Club Presents’ was founded in 2014 to bring professional vocal and choral artists to Princeton to work with and perform alongside the Glee Club, since when the Glee Club has shared the Richardson stage with artists of the caliber of Tenebrae, Roomful of Teeth and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
The choir embraces a vast array of repertoire, from Renaissance motets and madrigals, Romantic partsongs, and 21st century choral commissions to the more traditional Glee Club fare of spirituals, folk music, and college songs. The spectrum of Glee Club members is every bit as broad as its repertoire: undergraduates and graduate students, scientists and poets, philosophers and economists – all walks of academic life represented in students from all over the world, knit together by a simple belief in the joy of singing together.