Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Meeting and Working With the
Indefatigable Barty

One of my objectives when I arrived at Yale was to sing in the Glee Club. And so, sometime early in the Fall Term of 1956 I appeared, on time and scared, for my audition with Fenno.

Hendrie was bustling, as aspiring Glee Clubbers came face to face for the first time with a few of the returning veterans. The atmosphere, for us supplicants, was tense. Whatever our prior singing experiences might have been, this was different. This was the big time.

In the midst of all this, I remember noticing an elderly gentleman who seemed to be somehow a part of the proceedings but whose role I couldn’t discern. I noticed that the veterans all seemed to know him but no one introduced me.

I survived the audition experience and left, shaken.

About 10 days later, sometime after my first rehearsal with the Freshman Glee Club, I got a phone call. Barty graciously introduced himself and, without much preamble, said that after the next FGC rehearsal I was to meet him in a room on the second floor of the Graduate Club where there was a piano and where we’d do more singing.

Now I was really scared. What had I done to attract the attention of this great man? Had I offended someone? Him? Did he think, perhaps, that my singing was so bad that it needed his personal corrective attention? I certainly knew who he was but I was certain, too, that I’d never met him.

After the next rehearsal, I went as ordered next door the Graduate Club, found the upstairs room with the piano, and there was Barty. Friendly, welcoming, enthusiastic and, as I was to learn, relentless. He had assembled about 6-8 of us freshmen, as I recall it, and he said he thought it was important for us to learn … really learn … the core of the traditional Yale songs.

As I remeber it, we met maybe 6 times, following the regular weekly rehearsals, and Barty made sure that we learned - and really knew - songs like Wake Freshmen Wake, Bingo, Mother of Men, We Meet Again Tonight, Shall I Wasting, Bandolero, Careless Love and many more. In the course of these sessions, we learned just how strongly Barty believed that these and other songs had played an important role in establishing the international ambassadorial traditions of the Yale Glee Club. Barty certainly know about the power of song.

It was wonderfully generous of Barty, who had “retired” in 1953. It is one of my earliest and happiest memories of Yale and of the YGC. And what a privilege it was!

No comments:

Post a Comment