FROM THE ARCHIVES
THE GLEE CLUB: A MUSICAL LEGACY AT RENSSELAER
 

In its various forms—from music and theater, to sculpture and other expressions of creativity—art has deep roots at Rensselaer.

Today's Rensselyrics, for example, took their beginnings from the Glee Club, established in 1873 and one of the first organizations of its kind in the United States.

The Glee Club, one of four original music organizations at Rensselaer, was created by a few devoted students who composed and sang songs a cappella-style about their alma mater to foster school spirit. The first Rensselaer songbook had 14 melodies.

In the 1930s, the Glee Club ranged from 30 to 45 members, climbing to 80 men in the late 1940s. The group performed at on-campus functions, banquets, churches, hospitals, and even for local radio stations. Its repertoire ranged from typical college songs to Christmas carols and classical pieces.

In the 1950s and '60s the Glee Club had a thriving reputation. The chorus toured the U.S., performing alone and with other collegiate groups. In October 1950, the Glee Club took first place in an a cappella competition at Carnegie Hall and was hailed as one of the best collegiate groups in America. Its Campus Carols concerts, performed at the Houston Field House, were immensely popular with as many as 4,000 spectators attending the annual event.

During the late 1970s and into the '80s, however, Glee Club membership dwindled. The requirements for membership became lax—the ability to read music, for instance, was not necessary—forcing better and more committed singers to move on to more challenging groups. The club finally disbanded in the mid-1980s.

In 1988 several students came together to form the Chorale. This was the first co-ed singing group on record at Rensselaer, but its repertoire wasn't strictly a cappella.

When demand for a cappella music began to increase a few years later, the singers decided to return to the original roots of the Glee Club and the Rensselyrics were born in 1991.

With 16 members today, the Rensselyrics perform concerts at local colleges and universities. Late last year, the group was invited to participate in a music festival in Boston.

The Rensselyrics' repertoire draws from a wide variety of musical styles, including century-old Rensselaer anthems, as well as gospel, jazz, blues, classic rock, and modern favorites.

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