After last night, it's hard to remember The Yale Glee Club as the old Male Yale Glee Club. Sure, the Yale singers still sing elaborately without music scores. They still sing serious music and take time to kid Harvard, Princeton and, of course, themselves. They still uphold the high standards set for decades by Marshall Bartholomew, and since 1953, by Fenno Heath. They still hit the concert road when New Haven gets a bit dumpy.
For most of its history, the 130-year-old club never knew the likes of senior soprano and Glee Club soloist Anna Meek, who sang a Scottish folk song "Ca the Yowes" with beautiful delicacy last night in a concert at Kraushaar Auditorium, Goucher College.
Nor was Meek alone. She and four other soprano soloists sang with varying effectiveness but equal in overall impact to the harmonies of the 62-member chorus in the first stop on its annual winter tour.
The other Yale sopranos were Sandhya Subramanian, in a lovely Heath setting of a William Blake poem, "The Tiger"; Anne Johnsos in the spiritual "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands"; Carla Anne Weiss, in Cole Porter songs and Kimberly Corrall's in the spiritual "Ride the Chariot."
It's been 20 years since the Yale men and women singers joined forces but only in more recent years has there been parity.
Director Heath, for one, is happy. Set to retire after next season when he is 65 and after 39 years in the job, Heath says Yale women make up half the club roster and are better than outsiders for heavy duty works like Brahms' "German Requiem."
Before 400 appreciative fans, the singers ranged in more than 20 mostly polished offerings from the sweet to the sweaty, from two Ave Marias to football fight songs. One of their trademarks under director Heath last night was the ability to sing quietly with great power and clarity as though that were the norm. This tone was set in four opening pieces and carried throughout. A Brahms motet in German was effectively done. A boisterous piece such as a Hungarian melody "Dana-Dana" was fun but mainly served as a kind of program counterpoint.
The Club's Chamber Singers sang several serious melodies sensitively and an a cappella group, Out of the Blue, had fun with a bouncy rap song.
But a high point was reached when alumni joined singers on stage for songs and a 1948 alumnus, Bob Johnston, heard his 42-year-old original "White Shoe Blues" sung around the piano. He recalled composing it as a senior and sending it over to that sophomore whiz Heath. Luckily for Yale, he said, Heath [Yale '50] never left the place.