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Are you a Gleek?


I am not embarrassed to admit that I am one of the more than 10 million viewers who tune in every week to watch the drama unfold with McKinley High School’s glee club. The popularity and cult following of Glee led me to wonder if the VHS has any glee club items hidden in its collection.  

"Rally Whigs" was written Sept. 8, 1848. (Virginia Historical Society, Call no. 1848:19 Broadsides)


The earliest item is an 1848 broadside entitled “Rally Whigs” (1848:19). It is a poem about the presidential campaign of Zachary Taylor dedicated to the Alexandria Glee Club. The same sheet contains a second poem, “All Hail the Whig Chieftain,” which was written for the Ashland Glee Club of Alexandria. With choruses of “Rally Whigs!” and “For brave Rough and Ready, hurrah,” these politically motivated songs are quite different from the musical numbers that are being performed on the popular television show. Alas, there are no arrangements accompanying the lyrics.  

One can get a better sense of the musical repertoire of nineteenth-century glee clubs from the papers of Louis Schehlmann (Mss1 Sch248 a). Mr. Schehlmann was conductor of the Concordia Glee Club and the Lynchburg Mozart Association as well as professor of music at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College from c. 1883 to 1899. Half of a scrapbook is devoted to programs from the Lynchburg Mozart Association and Concordia Glee Club, who performed together on a regular basis. Their repertoire consisted mostly of music by such Romantic composers as Dudley Buck and Adolphe-Charles Adam, with the chorus “De l’enfer” from Faust by Charles Gounod being a favorite.  

Program of the Virginia Tech Glee Club (Virginia Historical Society, Call no. LD5693.V25 V6 1900z)


The VHS’s most recent acquisition is a program of the Virginia Tech Glee Club (LD5693.V25 V6 1900z). The roster lists forty-six members under the musical direction of Mildred Heimlich. The repertoire runs the gamut from Baroque (Bach and Handel) to show tunes (a selection of songs from My Fair Lady). Although there is no date on this publication, the inclusion of Broadway numbers is more in harmony with the pop cultural images of modern glee clubs.  

Were you a member of the Virginia Tech Glee Club under Mildred Heimlich? Maybe, you can help us establish a date for this publication. If you love Glee, glee clubs, or choral music in general, share your story.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/03/2010 10:10 pm

    Just came across this post. I wasn’t at Tech, but as the alumni historian for the Virginia Glee Club (the longest running musical organization at the University of Virginia) we’re in the process of putting together a repository of the almost 140 years of our history over at the Virginia Glee Club wiki. We have quite a few old concert programs scanned; though I think most of the ones we have are from the 1960s, there are a few from 1943 and earlier.


    • 08/10/2010 9:43 am

      Thank you for your post. It is wonderful that you are scanning the covers of Virginia Glee Club concert programs, both to digitally preserve them and make them accessible. At the VHS, we collect, preserve, and interpret the commonwealth’s past for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations. We are always interested in hearing about other organizations that are involved in similar endeavors.


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