Director's Blog

Remembering Bill Scheide '36

I first met William H. Scheide ‘36 after my first Nollner Memorial concert at Princeton. We had just finished a memorable Good Friday performance of Bach’s Johannes Passion, and Bill, then a sprightly 97-year-old, sat alert and attentive through the whole performance, ‘following the score in his mind’ as his wife Judy explained. I had heard that Bill can be an honest critic at times (how the musical world needs more of those now) so I was a little nervous to greet him, but the warmth of his handshake dispelled all concerns. An invitation to visit the Scheide Collection followed, and for three precious years we in the Glee Club grew used to seeing Bill’s face at our performances: taking his accustomed spot in the center of our annual Spem in Alium performance (he never missed one!); attending dress rehearsals and performances of our annual Nollner Concerts; and in the year 13-14 which we devoted almost entirely to the music of Bach, helping us to realize the dream of presenting a concert of Bach’s music in his own church – the Thomaskirche in Leipzig.

It is impossible to imagine a musical life without Bach. But for a singer at least, there would be far fewer performable works of Bach’s choral music available to us were it not for Bill’s scholarship in the unpublished Cantata repertory in the 1940s and onwards, his careful and generous stewardship of the manuscript sources he was lucky enough to own, and his extraordinary support of musical life and resources at Princeton, in Leipzig and elsewhere. How meaningful for us that we were blessed, in January of this year, with the chance to sing one of Bill’s most precious Bach manuscripts – the original ‘outdoor’ version of the exquisite little motet O Jesu Christ mein’s lebens licht – at Bill’s 100th birthday lunch at Princeton. May this peerless music continue to flourish as Bill would wish it to.

Thousands of words will be written in the next few days, and not just by those who love music, or who love Princeton. For though Bill most certainly cherished this town, his horizons were extraordinarily broad throughout his career; and his zeal for scholarship and dissemination of the music of Bach was matched by a 60-year history of quiet but constant support for the American Civil Rights movement. Like all true philanthropists, Bill was not interested in seeing his name in lights – he wished only to make a difference, and as many buildings and institutions as there are in Princeton which bear his name, there are countless more, all around the world, where his discreet generosity has, at his request, remained unrecognized. As our friend Teri Towe ’70 recently said:

“His greatest achievement… is the millions upon millions of lives that have benefited from his compassion, his scholarship, his knowledge, his love of fellow man, and he does not care that hardly any of these people will ever read or hear the name William H. Scheide.”

Thank you, Bill, for your life of service to Princeton, to music, and to humanity.

Fall Recap

Our academic year starts late at Princeton, but the Glee Club has been in a hurry to get things done in the month and a half. As we start to unwind on the first day of fall break, we can look back on two concerts presented, two packed audiences recruited, a brand new choir started, a new ear training program for future choir members, and our annual fundraising effort, The Glee Club Fund, formally launched. All this in six weeks!

I still can't quite believe the incredible welcome we received at Richardson last Friday night for the first Football Concert of the year (actually I can't believe what happened on Powers Field the day after, but that's for another newsletter). Eleven months ago we were staggered to walk out to a full house of friends, parents and alumni for our Centennial celebration in November 2013, but on Friday you surpassed even that audience. Nothing beats the thrill of walking out to a full and friendly crowd at Richardson, and I'm sure you can imagine what a surge of confidence this brings to our singers - especially those who are representing the Glee Club for the first time. 

And how our singers rose to the occasion. I am so proud of the way that the Glee Club has rebuilt itself after such a huge exodus of wonderful singers in the Class of 2014. The surviving members have stepped up to lead, and new members (and there are over thirty of them) have brought great artistry and energy with them. And our officers, led so ably by Lillian Xu '15, have mentored our new members, galvanized the whole group, and added some wonderfully innovative publicity to the mix. I feel confident in saying this: It's going to be a wonderful year!

We'd love to see you at our future events this year! Please keep a close eye on our calendar so you don't miss our upcoming shows; take a look at our experience page so you can revisit last week's concert, or previous concerts; and please do get behind our newly-launched Glee Club Fund, so that you can help us secure the future of our Glee Club Presents concert series. Our event with the Oxford University Schola Cantorum in September was a sell-out success, and we'd love more of the same when 'Theatre of Voices' come to work with us in February 2015!

2013/14 Season in Review

Make no mistake about it - that was an historic year for the Glee Club. For the new audiences we reached, the exotic and exulted locations we performed in, the challenging and uplifting repertoire we mastered, and the world-class musicians we shared the stage with, I think we set the bar extremely high for future Glee Clubbers, and created memories for our current members which will sustain us all for a lifetime.

From a shortlist which is anything but short, I would isolate three events which shine especially brightly in my own memory: Performing Bach's 'Magnificat' in Bach's own church, the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, with the Leipzig Baroque Orchestra; bringing together an unprecedented gathering of Glee Club alumni for the Football Concert Centennial celebration; and seeing our very own concert series, 'The Glee Club Presents', get off to such an extraordinary start with the visit of Calmus in April.

Next year promises the breaking of yet more new ground, with two more concerts in our 'Glee Club Presents' series (the first of which comes very early in the year with the visit of Oxford University's premier chamber choir, the 'Schola Cantorum') and a professional 'studio' recording in collaboration with one of the world's leading choral producers. Our Nollner Concert will mark the 300th anniversary of the coronation of George the first with a performance of great British coronation music, and the year will also feature collaborations with our cousins in the Princeton University Combined Jazz Ensembles, and the Princeton University Orchestra (for Verdi's 'Requiem').

I hope to see you again (and again!) in the coming year - and in the meantime, I wish all of you a restful and happy summer.

Reflections on tour 2014

Dear Friends,

For someone at my stage of life, with enough years behind me to allow me to have chalked up a few good musical memories and to have met some remarkable musicians, this tour gave me an extraordinary opportunity to reconnect with precious old friends and introduce them to the Glee Club - to the students who are the center of my musical life now. The 'old friends' on this occasion are the phenomenal vocal group 'Calmus' - or to give them their full name, 'Calmus Ensemble Leipzig', who helped us to organize an unforgettable two days in Leipzig and who shared the performing stage with us for our first concert. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride watching Princeton's Glee Clubbers interact with Calmus and perform right alongside them, matching them measure for measure in Bach's most challenging music, in Bach's own church! Better yet, this wonderful group accepted our invitation to come to our campus to perform with us, so we'll be able to present them to a Princeton audience this spring. If you're anywhere near Princeton on Tuesday April 8th, I urge you to get yourself to Trinity Church on Mercer St for a very special collaborative performance of all six Bach motets, presented by the Glee Club and featuring this very special quintet from Leipzig.

Gabriel Crouch

Happy Birthday!

Dear Friends,

Today is the birthday... the one hundredth birthday, no less... of one of the world's great philanthropists, and one of the most important Bach scholars of the twentieth century - William H. Scheide, Princeton Class of 1936. There are so many of us who owe Bill our thanks on this day, and as the Director of a choral program which has been the recipient of Bill and Judy's considered and consistent generosity, and as a devoted servant of the music of a composer whom Bill has studied and promoted perhaps more than any man alive - Johann Sebastian Bach - let me say on behalf of the Princeton University Glee Club: Happy Birthday Bill - we're so honored to be singing for you next Monday!

Gabriel Crouch

Broadcast of Holiday Concert

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you from Frankfurt where the Glee Club just landed this morning to begin our tour. We hope you will follow us live via our blog,

I am taking a break from our preparations for our first concert in Rosstal tomorrow to share with you some exciting news I just received. Tonight, December 30, at 8pm, WWFM classical will air a 2-hour special, including the Bach Magnificat performed earlier this month, and the Faure Requiem and works by Vaughan Williams performed in 2012 for our annual Nollner Concert. Tune in!

I would like to wish you and your families a good end to 2013 and all the very best for 2014.

Gabriel Crouch

Happy Holidays

Dear Friends,

As we all pause for a few days to reconnect with our loved ones, I am filled with a sense of gratitude for everything that our Glee Club is, and everything it stands for. I’m so honored to be able to lead these students through their discoveries of great music, and to have been given the chance to maintain this most noble of legacies. And this year, I must express particular gratitude to the many alumni who have stepped forward to support us in numerous ways – it really would not be the same, nor would it be nearly so worthwhile, without you.

Nollner Concert

What a year it has been. Back in March, our Nollner Concert gave us the opportunity to present Handel’s fire-breathing oratorio Israel in Egypt. I will never forget the sound of all-consuming thunder which the choir managed to generate in the chorus He Gave them Hailstones’, nor the looks of astonishment on the faces of the Glee Club when our bass soloists, Dashon Burton and Jonathan Woody, unleashed their full vocal might in The Lord is a Man of War.’  I’m proud to say that our local classical music network WWFM have broadcast the concert in full on two separate occasions in the intervening months.

Poulenc and Ravel

Then came our first collaboration in many years with the Princeton University Orchestra – performing Poulenc’s Gloria and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. This was a magical experience for all of us – and what a thrill for the University to see two hundred of its finest students making great music together. After this we survived finals, we had a memorable party at my house and we said goodbye to sixteen wonderful singers and waved them off to their bright futures.

Reunions

At reunions we had our largest choir yet, and our largest audience yet, for our annual Spem in Alium event in the Chancellor Green Rotunda. Thanks to the efforts of Gene Kopelson and others from the class of 1973, we were also able to reconnect with a dearly loved former Director of the Glee Club, William Trego and sing for him too. See the short film and do take a moment to relive the splendor of it all, and share it with your friends.

Football Concerts and Centennial Celebration

In September a wonderful clutch of eager young singers joined the family and we began work on our most challenging season yet. Our trip to Harvard got the year off to a wonderful start, and then in November we welcomed a crowd of more than 600 (the biggest audience the Glee Club has attracted in at least a decade) for a special Centennial concert and celebration with the Yale Glee Club. To mark this event, we gathered your stories of concerts long past, we put together an exhibition of materials from the last century of Football Concerts on our website, we commissioned a fantastic new piece of music, and we had a lively banquet celebration. A centennial committee consisting of alumni representing each of the last four decades, together with a great number of our current students and senior University personnel, made a colossal effort to put all this together and the results will sustain us, I think, for ever. I’m so proud of, and grateful to everyone who gave their time to this effort. Thank you so much! If you were unfortunate enough to miss out on this wonderful evening, or if you simply want to relive it as many times as I do, then please proceed to

Special thanks to current Glee Clubbers Cameron Johanning, Jon Choi and Warren Rieutort-Louis for their tireless help with these things.

Holiday Concert

We kicked off our holiday season by immersing ourselves in the great seasonal music of JS Bach, in preparation for our performances of the Magnificat and the motet Singet dem Herrn in Bach's church, the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, in January. What glorious music, and how readily the students rose to its challenges, with only two weeks of rehearsal to prepare. Preparations are currently being made for this concert to receive a WWFM broadcast around New Year, and I will of course update this blog with information when I have it. Our students took all the solo roles and performed marvelously – and the choir was at its very best. You can already see the photographs – audio excerpts will follow in due course.

Upcoming tour

We are one week away from setting off on a tour which brings us to Nürnberg (Rosstal), Prague and Leipzig. We’ll be celebrating New Year together and beginning 2014 in the perfect style, by performing Bach’s music in Bach’s church, with the renowned Leipzig Barock Orchester alongside us. We’re all tremendously excited at what’s ahead, and I am especially pleased that we’ll be able to spend these precious days focusing intensely on our music-making, since these are the circumstances in which a choir performs to its true potential. We’ll be keeping you up to date through our blog, so please visit it regularly or subscribe to its RSS feed to find out how our students are enjoying these musical and cultural adventures.

Very best wishes to all for a wonderful holiday season

Gabriel Crouch