On Nov. 7, the voices of Dartmouth’s Glee Club reverberated around the halls of The Church of Christ on 40 College Street. Each pew was filled with audience members of all ages — including supporting students, visiting alumni and older community members.
Glee Club is a premiere co-ed choir at Dartmouth College directed by conductor and faculty member Filippo Ciabatti, according to the Hopkins Center for the Arts website. Composed of approximately 40 student singers, Glee Club performs with a wide range of musical works across time, languages and genres, focusing primarily on classical and choral pieces.
In addition to performing at the homecoming and commencement ceremonies each year, Glee Club typically hosts one concert per term. However, without being able to perform together and in-person in nearly two years, Glee Club vice president Min Hur ’24 described this Sunday’s concert as “something very special” — pointing out that this was the first time Glee Club had performed altogether and in-person in nearly two years.
“The difference this time is the fact that, due to COVID, we’ve just missed out on so much,” said Glee Club president Breanna Boland ’23. “And now, we’re going into the performance with a new appreciation for making music and being together. The concert itself might not appear different from previous concerts. But . . . how the performers are going into it is different.”
Singing masked, Glee Club performed a total of 13 songs in just under an hour. Covering a broad range of styles and composers, the club performed works across time — from the 17th century “Sicut Cervus,” by Giovanni Pierlugi da Palestrina, to Ola Gjeilo’s 2020 release titled “Northern Lights.”
According to Boland, when it came to choosing which songs to perform, it was important that the interests of the choir were represented. Songs like the “Alma Mater,” “Danny Boy” and “Dark-Eyed Sailor” are a few that the Glee Club consistently performs, but other songs are often submitted to the director at the request of students. For example, “Nella Fantasia” was a suggestion that Hur had submitted to Ciabatti over the summer.
Joanna Olagundoye ’24 said that Ciabatti and Boland polled the choir to gauge student interest and perspectives on what they would perform. The diverse interests of the Glee Club are clearly reflected in the breadth of Ciabatti’s selected works for this concert.
“I was really adamant about getting their viewpoint and sharing that with Filippo so he could then choose based on what students were interested in,” Boland said. “So it was definitely a collaborative effort in [the] sense that he was choosing based on what the students desired.”
In preparation for the concert, Glee Club met three times a week: rehearsing as a whole on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then in smaller sectionals — based on vocal part — for an hour over the weekends.
Glee Club often performs songs in different languages such as Latin or Italian, which many new members — such as Olagundoye, who joined the choir this fall — find an enjoyable learning experience.
“When we get a new piece, if it’s in a different language, we’ll just go through it like a reading: no rhythm, no tune — just saying it and pronouncing it,” said Olagundoye. “And Filippo is Italian, so when we’re doing either Italian — or sometimes Latin pieces as well — he’ll do the pronunciation, which is really cool.”
Erma Gattie Mellinger, assistant director and vocal coach of Glee Club, also worked closely with the choir to improve their musicality and intonation.
“Filippo [Ciabatti] and Erma Mellinger, are wonderful directors and they have a focus [on] musicality and intonation — making sure that is on point — because we definitely want to be a premier choir,” said Boland.
As the concert was nearing its end, Ciabatti invited audience members to sing along to the last song of the afternoon, the “Alma Mater.” A few enthusiastic alumni and students were more than happy to chime in.
Emma Johnson ’24 was one such audience member. Though she went to the performance to support her friends in Glee Club — many of whom she had met through the theater department and the Dartmouth Opera Lab — she left the concert pleasantly surprised.
“Having an in-person concert indoors and seeing everything come together in a beautiful space — and the acoustics are wonderful in this church — far exceeded my expectations,” said Johnson.