Swarthmore College Glee Club Records
Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
In its heyday of the 1920s and 1930s, the Swarthmore College Glee Club was an auditioned, self-supporting singing group of about forty male voices. The ensemble gave a number of concerts each year on campus and in various cities under alumni auspices.
Founded in the fall of 1888 by members of the Class of 1889 and directed by Professor George A. Hoadley, the coeducational choir answered a desire for musical entertainment on campus. The author of an October 1888 article published in the Phoenix, the college newspaper, reported that the organization of a glee club was a feasible idea which had been suggested in the past. All that was necessary, in the words of the Phoenix writer, was an "active musical enthusiast" to set the ball rolling. The author believed that the "presence of soprano and alto would be a rich addition to a college glee club and one of which but few colleges could boast" - a belief which other Swarthmoreans evidently shared.
The initial character of the group was short-lived, however, as the 1893 Halcyon yearbook records a separate Male Glee Club of seven men within the larger group. Over the years, the all-male Swarthmore College Glee Club grew in numbers, comprising 17 voices in 1904, 38 in 1924 , and, by 1933, 50 men participating on campus performances, with 40 for the travelling concerts. Direction was provided by both students and faculty members at different times in the ensemble's history. The Glee Club normally performed with the orchestral accompaniment of the Instrumental Club, although it was also sang a cappella. The Glee and Instrumental Clubs had a well-established identity as part of the Swarthmore community well before the first official college orchestra and chorus were organized around 1927. The traditions which helped form this identity included an annual trip to Atlantic City with performances at venues such as Chalfonte-Haddon Hall (1930, 1931), the Marlborough-Blenheim (1932), the Hotel Traymore (1933), and the Hotel Morton (1937, 1938). The Glee Club also performed at hotels and for functions in the Poconos (The Inn at Buck Hill Falls, The Skytop Club), New York City (Hotel Plaza, Park Central, Hotel Vanderbilt), Philadelphia (Wanamaker store), and in Washington, DC. Many of these performances were organized by and for Swarthmore alumni. There was a strong connection between current and former Glee Club members. Another important part of the Glee Club's performance schedule were concerts with vocal and instrumental groups from other colleges and universities, including Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, and Beaver College. Especially popular among both members of the group and other Swarthmore students were the combined concerts of the Swarthmore and Haverford Glee and Instrumental Clubs. This annual concert, dubbed the crowning event of the Glee Club's season by the 1925 Halcyon, was followed by the Glee Club Prom"one of the biggest and most important events of Swarthmore's social calendar" (1931 Halcyon).
The group was occasionally broadcast live from radio stations such as WCAU in Philadelphia and WPG in Atlantic City. It completed at least one album and submitted a recording for a national competition in 1942. The Glee Club's 1930s repertoire was described as a "well-balanced program...of negro spirituals, the better known classical and semi-classical music and modern arrangements of semi-popular songs." These programs were often complemented by the music of other Swarthmore students, including the College orchestra, string quartets, and solo pianists. Almost every concert concluded with a rendition of the Alma Mater and/or a Swarthmore Medley.
The Glee Club was diminished around 1943 as the draft sapped Swarthmore of its male population and musical activity on campus became less organized. The college choir, however, which did continue as a 50 member ensemble during the war years, was noted as containing a very popular male chorus with several successful appearances on campus and in the local area. An album of traditional Swarthmore songs entitled "Swarthmore Sings: The Swarthmore College Glee Club" was recorded by the Glee Club and released in 1945.
This collection consists of written records dated between 1930 and 1940 of the Swarthmore College Glee Club, an auditioned, all-male vocal group. It includes correspondence, financial papers, a sampling of notices from the officers of the group to its members detailing rehearsal and meeting times, trip itineraries, etc. There are lists of the group's repertoire and a small sample of musical scores and lyrics used by the group. The collection also contains rosters of the Glee Club, a description of each member's vocal qualities, and samples of official stationery.
Organized into two series:
Donor: Swarthmore College Glee Club
- Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
- Finding Aid Author
- FHL staff
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
Collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.