April 04, 2006

The Glee Club Reunion

A few weeks ago I got an email from Stuart Buck, fellow Alumni of the UGA Men's Glee Club. The Buck had finally pulled it off and arranged a Glee Club Reunion.

For those of you who don't know, singing changed my life entirely. I stumbled into a local a cappella singing group one summer during high school, and nothing has been the same since. It just seized control of the reins and took off. I applied to UNC-Chapel Hill solely because they had a kick-ass Men's a cappella group there called the Clef Hangers. Failing that, I joined up with the UGA equivalent called the Accidentals my first semester there. Shortly afterwards, the group started recording CDs and I created the office of Business Manager.

The first few years at UGA, I probably spent more time on the Accidentals and the Glee Club than on my classes. I knew that this couldn't go on, but it was an out and out obsession. I had to keep creating. I had to keep performing. It was the most powerful drug I have ever encountered.

Some people may have gotten the wrong idea about me in those days. Looking back, I might have even come off as a prick who was too full of himself. Don't get me wrong, I was proud of myself and I enjoyed the limelight, but popularity was never my goal. I was drunk on creativity. After spending a childhood where I was good at absolutely nothing, after a lifetime of being too marginal to even notice, I had found something at which I was exceptional.

It wasn't just the singing, it was everything else. The group was finally coming into its own, becoming slowly modern and more experimental, and I was there to contribute to its evolution. All my life, I've been an "Idea Man", but with no experience or connections to make those ideas happen until this point. I could only barely arrange music myself, but the group provided some amazing arrangers like Paul Tate and David Daly who I could get heads together on and talk about ideas. And there were some entirely new directions that we started in that I was pretty much given free reign to do what I wanted. It was my personal Golden Age, where it seemed that everything was possible.

Like I said before, there was some limelight to go along with this, but it wasn't popularity. I don't think I've ever been in danger of being considered "popular", and I've never really wanted to be. In this case, I was just well-known in choral circles. Popularity is a different concept entirely to the kind of camaraderie you get in a team or a singing group. I was just doing what I loved with 80 (in the case of the Glee Club) or 12 (for Accidentals) other guys and having the time of my life doing it. When we joined our voices there was no sense of self among us, just the swell of pride in singing together. A "Choral Communism", if you will.

I was in the group for 6 years, as long as I was at UGA. (I changed majors in my 4th year.) I sang in a cappella groups after that, but it just wasn't the same as UGA. I just can't describe the feeling of nailing a difficult piece of music at a spring concert, having the last note ring in the hall for ten seconds after the director cuts you off, and standing there riding out your endorphin high that all of you earned honestly.

I also owe my marriage to the Glee Club, specifically, it's director, Dr. Pierce Arant. He insisted that I try out for All-College Chorus, where I met Melissa. We've been married 8 years now. Sadly, Dr. Arant passed away from cancerbefore I graduated. We named our son Matthew Pierce in his honor.

So back to the present tense. The unfortunate side effect of the aforementioed "Choral Communism" is that you often forget the names of the individuals. Many of the names I didn't even know when I was singing with them, and I remembered even less when I arrived at the Glee Club Reunion on Saturday. Even names of some of the Accidentals that I sang with escaped me. And as if to maximize my embarrassment, everyone seemed to remember my name.

When the group convened for practice in the morning and I had most of the names memorized (at least for the day), we set to work. We had two hours to sight-read four pieces of music, and I'd only sung two of them before. But in a couple of hours, we had them down, or at least good enough to sing with the current Glee Club, who had more experience with them and not stick out. I was happy to meet up with Tom-E, Kelly, Tom, Paul, David, Manolo, Jason and Brian from the Accidentals. We had a great afternoon catching up with one another over lunch and a few beers around Downtown Athens.

The concert later that day was great. The regular Glee Club and Accidentals sang, then the Alumni joined in for the last 4 songs, followed by the traditional closer The Georgia Medley. Anyone UGA students who have never been witness to this spectacle should have their diplomas withheld until they do. That's all there is to it. It's as much a part of the UGA traditions as attending games or walking under The Arch.

1 comment:

  1. Man, what a thrill you must have felt! I can't imagine what it would feel like to step back into a role from younger years and reprise it, if only for a little while.