(Dedicated to the lovely seniors of the Spelman Glee Club)
Last weekend I visited Atlanta to hear the 84th annual Christmas Concert of the Spelman Glee Club. Presented in collaboration with Morehouse College, the event is a popular destination for graduates of each school, providing them with one of many opportunities to remember the good times of their undergraduate days.
One of the activities connected with the concert is the Alumnae Brunch, which gives parents of seniors such as myself, seniors in the group, and alumnae an opportunity to mix, mingle, and remember.
Observing the poised and polished Glee Club president Brittney Inge (C’2011) in action and listening to the equally so keynote speaker Kerstin Roper (C’2005), now employed by the U.S. State Department, speak of her time in the group, it was clear that there’s certainly more than the music that draws students into this unique circle of fellowship.
It’s also the weight and forces of history that one can sense on the campus–the very idea that the institution has thrived, against all odds great and small. The shine and confidence that these young women exude, the beauty of their rich bel canto blending as they concluded the afternoon’s program with a moving rendition
of “Lord,Thou has been our Dwelling Place,” allow one to glimpse the degree to which these women are connected–how they are linked not only to the long history of the group’s strivings in the past but also to the lofty aspirations toward their futures.
As Ms. Roper said so poignantly, what made her undergraduate experience so special is that “it had a soundtrack.” Indeed, music meets history and the future in this form of Glee. As a proud parent of one of the seniors, I couldn’t help but get swept up into significance of it all. And, of course, being in the Atlanta, the grits were good, too. (Gotta love the South).
The joint concert that night held in the historic Sisters Chapel was a compressed program of holiday music for a delighted crowd of listeners, many of whom return year after year to participate in this honored tradition. I asked a young woman sitting next to me what was her affiliation,
and she said that although she had never joined the Glee Club, she attends annually out of the sheer enjoyment of “tradition.”
From my bird’s eye view as a parent experiencing my last months as a $pelman Dad (Lol),
these young women–particularly the music majors–work very hard to maintain the traditional standards set by generations of their foremothers. Long nights, meticulous organizing for tours, fund raising, wardrobe maintenance, demanding administrative duties, sectional rehearsals, and scores and scores of freelance gigs spreading sistah love and song across the region that challenges their schedules as full time students, are just a few of the activities that constitute membership. Yet, the dedication that these young women demonstrate is a wonder to behold. It is, as I see it, out of their love for song and sorority that they press on. Particularly striking here is the apprenticeship model of mentoring in which the underclass(wo)men learn both dedication and decorum, by observing their older sisters assume leadership positions and sing coveted solo features in the group’s repertoire during their swan song concerts. They’ll leave with these and other treasured memories to hold dear.
The lessons learned here are invaluable and a prime example of the many values of participating in disciplined performance groups like these, even if this will be the last “formal” music making that some of them make. As for the music majors, the talented young women who plan to go on and give a career in music a shot–a hard but rewarding road is certainly ahead. It will be my pleasure to see them make their transitions from this specific brand of “group” and into the necessities of viewing themselves as bonafide, serious solo artists, composers, and conductors. They’ll certainly leave with four strong years of good, beautiful, challenging, and difficult lessons of their Glee days to draw on as they move out, stake their claims, and embrace their very bright futures. And remember. Always remember. Now fly!!