Resting on more than 150 years of tradition, camaraderie and musical excellence, the highly noted Men’s Glee Club will be mixing it up for its performance tomorrow at Hill Auditorium at 8 p.m. The concert is a send-off to Paul Rardin, the club’s conductor of six years, as well as a celebration of the group’s upcoming 2011 UMMGC Tour of the southeastern United States, including a stop in Cuba.
Men’s Glee Club: 151st Annual Spring Concert
Tomorrow at 8 p.m.
“Half the songs will be an American set, celebrating (Rardin’s) work as an American composer, arranger and conductor,” said Lee Quackenbush, a Business senior and president of the Men’s Glee Club. “The second half will feature a lot of Afro-Cuban pieces. That will be in celebration of our trip to Cuba.”
The show will also feature the director of the World Percussion Ensemble in the school of Music, Theatre & Dance, Ph.D. candidate Neeraj Mehta. The Glee club created a partnership with Mehta in which some of the Glee Club members accompanied his recent show, and in return, a number of his percussionists will accompany the Glee Club on Saturday.
“It will be cool to have so many percussionists and make it as authentic an experience as possible,” said Matthew Griffith, an LSA junior and the public relations manager of the Men’s Glee Club.
While this new destination may come as a shock to some, the Glee Club has a history of traveling to exotic places. The club has traveled all around the country, but has also jet-setted to Australia, Spain and Great Britain. Next year, the group plans to visit China for its international tour, which occurs every four years. The club also performed in Estonia in 1992, after it declared independence from the former USSR.
This trip to Cuba — which takes off May 9th and ends May 14th — is going to be a unique stop for the men of the Glee Club.
“It’s a ridiculously unconventional and rare occasion, and we thought that it would be great for us to invest time in making it happen,” Griffith said.
Historically, Americans have not been allowed to legally travel to Cuba. Some may even think it is dangerous, but the University’s help and financial support, combined with the fact that this trip is a cultural exchange, allowed for the visit to take place.
“It was much more of a struggle to make it happen, and that makes it that much more valuable,” said Raul Jimenez, MT&D sophomore and campus publicity manager of the Men’s Glee Club. According to Quackenbush, the obstacles included hiring a lawyer and filling out mounds of paperwork months prior to the trip.
The men of the Glee Club are performing in Havana, Cuba’s capital, and in Matanzas, a more traditional Cuban city. The club will be performing for both government officials and the public. The concerts will be free of charge because the men want to reach out to as many Cuban people as they can.
“We’re used to having our people who follow us, and it will be interesting going out there and performing for a group of people who speak a completely different language and have completely different customs,” Jimenez said. “I think it’s going to be really great.”
According to Quackenbush, Cuba has a strong choral tradition because the arts are completely funded by the government.
“They have exceptional choral conductors who, unlike here in the states, have a guaranteed living if they go into the arts — so it’s a kind of a unique setup,” he said.
Not only are the members taking part in two choral concerts during the visit, but they also plan to do community service, which according to Jimenez could range from crop work to helping with construction. They are also planning to work with schools to build musical bonds and have an enlightening sharing of customs.
“It’s sort of like our way to say ‘we’re here, we got here and we want to give back,’ ” Jimenez said. “I think it will be culturally eye-opening. Cuba is a very different country and is in very different conditions. But I think it’s very beautiful and has a lot to offer.”
The club prides itself on its community service and diversity, but also on its ability to stick to its “three pillar” adage: tradition, camaraderie and musical excellence, as the Glee Club slogan states. This trip will be nothing short of an homage to that — especially on the side of camaraderie.
“The fact that we’re doing this together makes it so rich and so meaningful and so absolutely fantastic,” Griffith said.
As the Glee Club will be representing Michigan and America on this trip, the members want to make a good impression on the country.
“And of course, we’re wearing our Michigan gear,” Griffith said.
—Daily Arts Writer Timothy Rabb is a member of the Men’s Glee Club.