A glee club is a musical group or choir group, historically of male voices but also of female or mixed voices, which traditionally specializes in the singing of short songs—glees—by trios or quartets. In the late 19th century it was very popular in most schools and was made a tradition to have in American high schools from then on. The first named Glee Club was founded in Harrow School, in London, England, in 1787. Glee clubs were very popular in the UK from then until the mid-1850s but by then they were gradually being superseded by choral societies. Glee in this context does not refer to the mood of the music or of its singers, but to a specific form of English part song popular between 1650 and 1900, the glee. But by the mid-20th century, proper glee clubs were no longer common.
The term remains in contemporary use, however, for choirs established in North American colleges, universities, and high schools, despite the fact that most American glee clubs are choruses in the standard sense, and rarely perform glees.
Oldest United States collegiate glee clubs
The oldest collegiate glee clubs in the United States are, by year of foundation:
- 1858: Harvard Glee Club
- 1859: University of Michigan Men's Glee Club
- 1861: Yale Glee Club
- 1862: Wesleyan University Glee Club
- 1862: The University of Pennsylvania Glee Club
- 1865: Amherst College Glee Club
- 1868: Cornell University Glee Club
- 1869: Union College Men's Glee Club
- 1871: Virginia Glee Club
- 1872: Rutgers University Glee Club
- 1874: Princeton Glee Club
- 1875: The Ohio State University Men's Glee Club
- Bacon, Richard Mackenzie (1820). "The Catch and Glee Clubs". The Quarterly musical magazine and review (London) II (VII): 328ff.
- "History of the Harvard Glee Club". Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- (PDF) http://www.wesleyan.edu/communications/images/magazine_assets/10-2_musicalcampus.pdf. Retrieved 2014-09-29. Missing or empty
- "The University of Pennsylvania Archives".
- "Amherst Glee Club Website".
- "Glee Club History". Retrieved 2009-12-13.
- Bruce, Philip Alexander (1921). History of the University of Virginia, 1818-1919 IV. MacMillan. pp. 127–128, 841.
- "RU Glee Club History". Retrieved 2010-01-21.
- "Official webpage of The Ohio State University Men's Glee Club". Retrieved 2015-02-04.
- New York Library for the Performing Arts. "Mendelssohn Club Papers" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-02-25.
- J Lloyd Winstead. When Colleges Sang: The Story of Singing in American College Life University of Alabama Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-8173-1790-4