Cornell University Glee Club

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Cornell University Glee Club
Cornell University Glee Club (seal).png
Seal of the Cornell University Glee Club
Background information
OriginCornell University in Ithaca, New York
GenresChoral, classical, etc.
Years active1868–present
Associated actsCornell University Chorus, The Hangovers
Robert Isaacs

The Cornell University Glee Club (CUGC) is the oldest student organization at Cornell University, having been organized shortly after the first students arrived on campus in 1868. The CUGC is a fifty-five member chorus for male voices, with repertoire including classical, folk, 20th-century music, and traditional Cornell songs. The Glee Club also performs major works with the Cornell University Chorus such as Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, Handel's Messiah, and Bach's Mass in B Minor.


  • Performances at two American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) conventions as an auditioned choir: the 2008 ACDA Eastern Division Convention in Hartford, CT, and the 2009 ACDA National Convention in Oklahoma City, OK.
  • First American collegiate ensemble to tour the Soviet Union, traveled to the Soviet Union and England from December 1960 to January 1961.[1]:126
  • Performed for national television and radio on such networks as Television Moscow, BBC, Educational Television Network, Radio Leningrad, Frankfurt Radio Network, Television Singapura, PBS, NBC, and others. Notable appearances include:[1] the Kate Smith TV Hour (1951),[2] The Perry Como Show (1954),[2] Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion (1997),[3] and The Price Is Right (1999).[4]
  • Frequent domestic and international tours have traveled to over thirty-five states and nearly thirty countries across four continents.
  • First group to bring the Franz Biebl Ave Maria from Germany to the United States after meeting the composer during a recording session on the 1970 tour of Germany.[5]
  • Three month tour through East Asia in 1966 on an all-expense paid tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department.[6]
  • 1989 tour of China was the focus of the PBS documentary Geographical Fugue.[7]
  • First published history of an American collegiate choral ensemble, Songs from the Hill: A History of the Cornell University Glee Club by Michael Slon, Class of 1992, was published in 1998.[1]


  • 1889–1921: Hollis Ellsworth Dann
  • 1921–1942: Eric Sydney Dudley
  • 1942–1945: John Marinus Kuypers
  • 1945–1946: Paul John Weaver
  • 1946–1957: Thomas Brodhead Tracy '31
  • 1957–1995: Thomas Andrew Sokol
  • 1995–2012: Scott Arthur Tucker
  • 2013–present: Robert Isaacs

International tours[edit]

The CUGC has performed as an ensemble in twenty-five different countries.


The Glee Club has given the world and American premieres of many works for male chorus, written by a variety of notable composers.

World premieres include works by:

American premieres include works by:

Commissioning Endowment[edit]

In 2005, the Glee Club established the Thomas A. Sokol Commissioning Endowment in recognition of the 75th birthday of Director Emeritus Thomas Sokol. The proceeds help fund an annual commission from a well-known composer of a new work (or works), typically premiered by the Glee Club during the fall Homecoming weekend concert. Sokol Commission recipients to date include:


Record Label
  • Alma Mater and Cornell, Columbia Phonograph Company No. A-1503, (1914, 78 RPM)[8]
  • Alma Mater and Crew Song (1929, 78 RPM), Victor Records No. 21934 – also includes orchestral selections[9][10][11]
  • Cornell Songs (1940, 3-disc set of 12" records) – includes two discs by the Glee Club and a third by the Chimes[12]
  • Cornell Alumni Association (circa 1946–1957, 78 RPM Maxi Single)- Includes 4 songs by Cornell Glee Club: "Alma Mater," "Evening Song," "Crew Song," and "Cornell." No date given. Thomas B. Tracy '31, Director. Matrix/Catalog #XP 40581 / XP 40582.
  • Cornell Music (1950s, 33 RPM LP) – includes selections by Glee Club, Chimes, and Concert Band
    • During the 1950s, the Glee Club released recordings on a near-annual basis through the Cornell Recording Society.[13]
  • Songs of Cornell (19XX, 33 RPM LP)
  • Songs of Cornell (19XX, compact disc)
  • A Concert of Cathedral Music (1992, compact disc) – Recorded live during the 1992 Tour of Spain, France and Switzerland
  • Echos From The Walls (1997, compact disc)
  • Pacem (2006, compact disc)
  • Last Letter Home (2011, compact disc & electronic release)
  • Songs of Cornell (2015, compact disc – jointly with Cornell Chorus, featuring Cornell Symphony Orchestra and pianists Michael Slon and John Rowehl)


The seal[edit]

Adopted as the official emblem of the Glee Club by Thomas A. Sokol shortly after he became director, the CUGC seal features the head of Apollo, the Greek god of music and poetry. It also recalls the well-known glee Glorious Apollo by Samuel Webbe.[1]:261–262


"The excellent impression made by the 60 young men was of a finely finished vocalism from beginning to end of their a cappella program."

Robert P. Commanday, music critic of The San Francisco Chronicle from 1965 to 1993, in a San Francisco Classical Voice review of the Glee Club's performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on January 8, 2011.[14]

"Throw out all stereotypes. The Cornell University Glee Club has developed a virtuosic choral sound that has far more in common with the King's Singers than 40 guys with a keg."

Alfred Thigpen of the Washington Post in a review of the Glee Club's performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. on January 9, 2010.[15]

"I want to send you my heartiest congratulations on your superb singing...I do not exaggerate when I say you made choral history, and I hope sincerely that before long we can again make music together."

Eugene Ormandy, in a letter to the Glee Club and Chorus, after conducting a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony by the Glee Club, Chorus, and Philadelphia Orchestra on October 9th and 10th, 1962.[1]:130

"This is the most exciting moment in my eight years as Governor of New York."

Nelson Rockefeller after hearing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony performed by the Cornell Glee Club, Chorus, and the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Eugene Ormandy for the opening of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, August 4, 1966.[1]:131

A cappella subsets[edit]

The Hangovers[edit]

The Hangovers, established in 1968, have been the official a cappella subset of the Glee Club for over forty years.[16][17] The Hangovers' repertoire consists mainly of popular songs arranged for a cappella by members and alumni of the group, but they also perform traditional Cornell songs,[18] as well as selections from the Glee Club repertoire on occasion.[19]

The Hangovers have two major on-campus concerts every year, one in the Fall and one in the late Spring. The Fall concert has been named Fall Tonic since 1980, while the spring concert (produced since 1993) is known as Happy Hour.

Performances and tours take place around campus, around the country, and around the world. These efforts are undertaken in addition to the performances and travels that Hangovers members are also involved in as members of the Glee Club (see above). The Hangovers' first solo tour was to Bermuda in 1971, with subsequent tours undertaken to Antigua, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Spain, and Switzerland.[20] The ensemble also records periodically, and has released thirteen albums.

Earlier subset history[edit]

Prior to The Hangovers, the Glee Club spawned several spinoff a cappella subsets in the second half of the 20th century as collegiate a cappella emerged as a popular form of music.

  • Cayuga's Waiters (1949–1956)
    • disassociated from Glee Club in 1956; existed independently through 2017
  • The Sherwoods (1956–1958)
    • removed from Glee Club in 1958; existed independently through 1973
    • alumni often perform during Cornell Reunions weekend
  • Glee Club Eight / Glee Club Octaves (1958–1966)
  • The Hangovers (1968–present)
    • continue to tour and perform within the CUGC and separately as the official a cappella subset
  • Leftovers (1971–1972)
    • merged with The Hangovers in 1972

The Sherwoods[edit]

First appearing at the Glee Club's 1956 fall concert, The Sherwoods of Cornell gained prominence quickly among collegiate musical groups. They took their name from Sherwood B. "Woody" Bliss, Cornell class of 1958. They embarked on their first international tour in the summer of 1957 (with an itinerary including Hawaii and the Far East) and by 1958, they were a successful act in great demand both on and off campus.[1]:242 This enormous success came at a price, however, and led to conflicts with the Glee Club, which had nominally remained The Sherwoods' parent organization during these formative years. In the fall of 1958, the two organizations split officially. Glee Club director Thomas Sokol later recalled that The Sherwoods had been "twelve of [his] best singers," and that losing them was a difficult—but necessary—step for both organizations.[1]:242

The Sherwoods toured extensively, traveling to Hawaii, the Far East, Bermuda, the Virgin Islands, and Jamaica and on two extensive tours for the USO, entertaining troops in the Philippines, and throughout Germany (1964). They commonly wore dark (Sherwood) green jackets and ties for performances. Rather than sing stock arrangements, The Sherwoods wrote their own. They were known for rich 6–8 part harmony music unique among other a cappella groups of their time. Four members accounted for most of their arrangements: Jack Wade '58, Frank Holden '62, Fred Kewley '65, and Dan Murray '70 whose arrangements are numerous on the final Sherwood LP, "Green" (1971). Holden (resident of Duxbury, MA) and Kewley (a manager of music professionals in Nashville, TN) are now both music directors for two large groups of alumni Sherwoods they call "The Founders" (singers from classes of '58–'63) and "The Youngers" (singers from classes of '64–'74). Kewley succumbed to pancreatic cancer on June 23, 2013. Eighteen of his Sherwoods traveled to Nashville, TN to join family and friends in a memorial service to honor him. Taking Kewley's place as Sherwoods music director is David Hunter '68. Ron Johnson '68 continues on as business manager. The group intends to continue singing at Cornell's annual reunion each June, and elsewhere, upon demand.

The popularity of a cappella singing faded for a period in the early 1970s and The Sherwoods stopped auditioning new members in 1973. 1973 also marked the final year in which the Sherwoods were featured in The Cornellian, Cornell University's annual year book.[1]:242

In 1985 The Class of '65 invited the 'Younger' Sherwoods back to Cornell to entertain them at their 20th reunion. It was the first time in twenty years The Youngers had met to re-learn their songs and practice their entertaining introductions. The 'Younger' Sherwoods have been returning to Cornell's Ithaca campus to perform at reunions every year since 1985, celebrating their 26th annual shows in 2010, once again entertaining the Class of '65, this time at the class's 45th reunion.[1]:242

The 'Founders' Sherwoods gather at various times during the year, continuing to practice and perform the repertoire they sang during their era at Cornell. Between the two Sherwoods groups there are about 45 active Sherwood singers performing today.

The Sherwoods released seven albums during their undergraduate years; more recently they have produced two re-mastered compilation CDs entitled "Try to Remember – The Reunion Album" and "Old Friends". The Sherwoods continue to look for opportunities to perform. Business manager is Ron Johnson '68 of Hingham, MA.

Noted hit singer/songwriter Harry Chapin sang with the Sherwoods for several years, writing two songs performed by the group, 'Let me Down Easy' and 'Winter Song'. As an undergraduate, Chapin was preoccupied with his prolific songwriting, and he eventually dropped out of Cornell University to focus on his early career as a successful singer-songwriter. In 1971 Fred Kewley, Sherwood musical director, became Chapin's manager through the best years of his career, from landing the recording contract with Elektra through his hits Taxi, WOLD, and Cats In The Cradle, etc., and the hundreds of concerts around the USA and Europe his music spawned.

Notable CUGC alumni[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Slon, Michael (1998). Songs from the Hill: a history of the Cornell University Glee Club. Cornell University Glee Club. ISBN 978-0-9620103-1-6. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  2. ^ a b Corey Ryan Earle (1890–1986). "Guide to the Cornell University Glee Club Records, 1890–1986" (Correspondence, programs, scrapbooks, photographs, notebooks, recordings, miscellany.). Collection Number: 37-6-2399. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. Retrieved 2006-12-18.
  3. ^ Prairie Home Companion Episode Guide
  4. ^ View the Glee Club on The Price Is Right Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Program notes by Dr. Wilbur Skeels detailing the Ave Maria's history Archived 2007-04-23 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "1966 Cornell Glee Club alumni celebrate historic Asian tour with Homecoming performance"
  7. ^ Link to the bio of writer/producer/director Dan Booth Archived October 15, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Cornell Daily Sun, Columbia Records by the Glee Club, January 5, 1914, Page 1
  9. ^ Cornell Daily Sun, Record Made By Music Clubs Now Available, April 26, 1929, Page 2
  10. ^ Cornell Daily Sun, Advertisement by Lent's Music Store, April 26, 1929, Page 7
  11. ^ Victor Discography, Matrix BVE-51129, Alma mater / Cornell University. Glee Club; Eric Dudley (identifies recording date as April 5, 1929 at Liederkranz Hall in New York City, with ensemble consisting of 7 first tenors, 9 second tenors, 8 baritones, and 8 basses)
  12. ^ Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell Chimes Records On Sale, October 8, 1940, Page 1
  13. ^ Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell Establishment Produces Own Records, April 20, 1954, Page 6
  14. ^ "Alive, Awake, and Singing". San Francisco Classical Voice. January 8, 2011.
  15. ^ "Cornell University Glee Club hits plenty of high notes at the Kennedy Center". The Washington Post. January 11, 2010.
  16. ^ Summary of the Hangovers' connection with the Cornell University Glee Club Archived 2009-01-07 at the Wayback Machine at the Glee Club's web site.
  17. ^ Hangovers Perform Across Europe Archived 2012-02-05 at the Wayback Machine, The Cornell Daily Sun, 8/26/2002.
  18. ^ "Keeping Cornell's Traditions Alive," Archived 2012-02-05 at the Wayback Machine The Cornell Daily Sun, 10/14/2003.
  19. ^ Hangovers' Frequently Asked Questions page Archived 2006-12-12 at the Wayback Machine at
  20. ^ The Hangovers' tour log Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine at, chronicling recent European tours