Michigan Men's Glee Club Bids Farewell in Spring Concert

Saturday, April 9, 2016 - 10:40am

Say “Hambani kahle” (or “Farewell” in the Zulu language) to the Michigan Men’s Glee Club as they depart for a fifteen-day tour in South Africa this May. But before the men pack their suits and sheet music, the group will be performing one last “send-off” concert at Hill Auditorium.

“The pieces we have been singing this year are centered around the ideas of love, life, and loss,” junior publicity manager Patrick Kiessling said in an interview with the Michigan Daily. He also mentioned that the group had to learn multiple South African languages for some of the pieces: “The South African National Anthem itself has four different languages… it’s a fun, unique challenge.”

The group will be performing a thriving and immensely emotional set, including works like “Blossoming Lotus” by composer and professor Ethan Sperry and a world premiere piece titled “Requiescat” by composer Andrea Ramsey.

“(Requiescat) is very moving and meaningful. It speaks directly to us,” Kiessling said. Many of the glee club’s songs were given to the them specifically and other pieces were commissioned by their director, Eugene Rogers.

“Glee Club is a powerful and relevant force, and Dr. Rogers is a strong advocate for commissioning these pieces. It’s really remarkable, and we feel very fortunate to premiere new works," he continued.

Although the never-before-performed “Requiescat” and their other songs are powerful, Kiessling stated that the most important piece for this concert is “Love-Life-Loss” by the British composer Rodrick Williams. Despite the idea that “Love-Life-Loss” correlates directly with the Glee Club’s theme for the year, the deeply heart-felt song poses as a tribute to Nelson Mandala and holds actual quotes from citizens of South Africa.

“It (“Love-Life-Loss”) consists of these shouts of praise and quotes that describe Nelson Mandala as a leader of the people,” Kiessling said.

To dive even further into South African culture and the life of Nelson Mandala, Dr. Eugene Rogers, asked his singers to read the book “Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life, Love and Courage” written by editor and journalist, Richard Stengel. Kiessling mentioned that the book, the piece and theme for this year closely tied together. He said the book provided “an enriched background about Mandela. It helped set the stage for going to South Africa by allowing us to gain knowledge of it’s history.

As if the book and the musical piece were not enough, the group will also be touring numerous memorials and sights, including Robben Island, where Nelson Mandala was held prisoner.

“It’s very much going to be a cultural emersion and an educational experience,” Kiessling said when asked about touring Robben Island.

Additionally, the group will be visiting and performing in the cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Cape Peninsula, Robben Island and Stellenbosch.

“It’s like we’re going on vacation together,” Kiessling said. “We have all these amazing activities planned. It will be concerts by night and tours by day, and we hope to play a dynamic role in the South African community while there.” 

This year stands as the 156th year of the Michigan Men’s Glee Club, a club with rich history and a long legacy at the University.

“The alumni left the groundwork for this club, and we have a strong network of supportive people. We are built upon three pillars: tradition, comradery, and musical excellence,”  Kiessling said. “Our director always tells us: ‘Don’t just rehearse, tell stories.’ We will always be connecting with our audience.”

 Whether it is Michigan or South Africa, the Glee Club firmly holds on to these beliefs and hopes to share more stories upon their return.