Who We Are
Ulysses S. Grant was president, Verdi's Requiem was premiered and the Battle of the Little Big Horn was still two years in the future when Princeton University's Glee Club was founded in 1874 by Andrew Fleming West '74, the first Dean of the Graduate College. In those 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 distinguished 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 Alexander Russell, one of the great organists of the day, 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 Jean Philippe Rameau's Castor et Pollux in 1937. (The custom for joining together with the women's choirs of Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, or 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 round-the-world tours followed, and most recently, the choir has toured Hawaii, Argentina, Paris, Germany and Prague.
Nowadays the Glee Club performs frequently on Princeton's campus, enjoying the wonderful acoustics and surroundings of Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall. There are four major performances each year, and numerous special appearances at functions and gatherings around campus. Perhaps the choir's most celebrated performing tradition began in 1913, with the annual concerts presented jointly with the Glee Clubs of Harvard and Yale on the eve of the respective football games. 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 Orff's Carmina Burana, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Bach's St. Matthew and St. John Passions and Mass in B minor, Mozart's Requiem, Honneger's Le Roi David and Faure's Requiem .
The choir's repertoire is extremely diverse, embracing anything 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 perhaps even broader: undergraduates and graduate students, scientists and poets, philosophers and economists - all walks of academic life are represented, knit together by their belief in the nobility and joy of singing together.