Joint Performance by Morehouse College and Purdue Varsity Glee Clubs – March 10, 2020

Morehouse College Glee Club

Morehouse Glee Club

The Morehouse College Glee Club is the premier singing organization of Morehouse College, traveling all over the country and the world, demonstrating excellence not only in choral performance but also in discipline, dedication, and brotherhood. Through its tradition the Glee Club has an impressive history and seeks to secure its future through even greater accomplishments, continuing in this tradition through the dedication and commitment of its members and the leadership that its directors have provided throughout the years. It is the mission of the Morehouse College Glee Club to maintain a high standard of musical excellence. 

In 1911, Morehouse College, then under the name of Atlanta Baptist College, had a music professor named Georgia Starr. She served the College from 1903-1905 and again from 1908-1911. Mr. Kemper Harreld, who officially founded the Morehouse College Glee Club, assumed leadership when he joined the College’s music faculty in the fall of 1911. Mr. Harreld became both, Chair of the Music Department and Director of the Glee Club. After faithfully serving for forty-two years, he retired in 1953. Mr. Harreld was responsible for beginning the Glee Club’s strong legacy of excellence that has since been passed down to all members of the organization. 

The Glee Club’s history continues in 1953 with the second director, Wendell Phillips Whalum, Sr., '52. Dr. Whalum was a prized student of Kemper Harreld. He served as Student Director during his tenure in the Glee Club. Dr. Whalum, was more commonly known as "Doc", and served Morehouse College and the Glee Club with the continued tradition of excellence through expanded repertoire and national and international exposure throughout his tenure at the College. Dr. Whalum took a sabbatical in 1961-1963 to finish doctoral studies during which Albert T. Perkins served as Interim Director. Dr. Whalum continued this fine legacy his passing in June, 1987.

In the fall semester of 1987, David E. Morrow, '80, assumed directorship of the Glee Club. David Morrow was a prized student of "Doc", just as "Doc" was of Mr. Kemper Harreld. He earned his Master's degree in 1981 and then returned to his alma mater, joined the music faculty, and served as Assistant Director of the Glee Club. During the 1992-1993 school year, Harding Epps, '74, served as interim Director, while Dr. Morrow finished doctoral studies. Dr. David Morrow continues to serve as the Director of the Morehouse College Glee Club which has gained world recognition through national and international tours.

On January 18, 1993, the Glee Club, as part of the Morehouse-Spelman Chorus, sang at Atlanta's Symphony Hall, with soprano Jessye Norman, in a concert celebrating the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. The Glee Club also performed the National Anthem with Natalie Cole for Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994. The organization participated with Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, and Trisha Yearwood in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia. In February 2002, the Glee Club performed for the Witness Concert with the Plymouth Music Series (now Vocal Essence), where the work, Of Dreams and Other Possibilities, written by Patrice Rushen was premiered. In 2004, the Glee Club performed with Take 6 at the Rialto Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2008, the Glee Club recorded the spiritual, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, for Spike Lee’s movie, Miracle at St. Anna. Earlier that year, the organization performed with mezzo-soprano, Denyce Graves, for the inaugural concert for the 10th president of Morehouse College, Dr. Robert M. Franklin. In 2011, its Centennial year, the Glee Club performed commemorative concerts in Atlanta and New York’s Avery Fisher Hall, for events leading to the dedication of the King Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and recorded Zachary and the Scaly Bark Tree by Bill Lee for his son, Spike Lee’s movie, Red Hook Summer. In 2013, the Glee club performed at the 129th Commencement Exercises at Morehouse College, where President Barack Obama was given an honorary degree. In 2015, the Glee Club performed with Demetria McKinney at the “Portraits of John Lewis: Celebrating the 75th Birthday” festivities at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia, for the 83rd birthday celebration of Ambassador Andrew Young. and the Glee Club performed original works from musical composer, James Olivero, in a collection entitled, Songs from the World House. The Glee Club was featured on an American Family Insurance commercial with the famous recording artist Jennifer Hudson. The Glee Club recently performed concerts with the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra featruing the work Seven Last Words of the Unarmed by Joel Thompson. The Glee Club has performed internationally on several different occasions: African Nations – Senegal, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, and Nigeria (1972), Russia (1996), Poland (1998), Bermuda (2001), the Bahamas (2005), South Africa (2008) Canada and Puerto Rico (2011) Honduras (2018) and Algeria (2019).

Since the Glee Club’s origin, excellence through brotherhood, dedication and commitment and unselfish labors of love has continued in musical performance and in whatever the organization does. The current members come from all over the United States and even from other countries around the world. The Glee Club members all have different interests, which adds to the diversity of the organization. While some are music majors, members are in all academic divisions at the college. Even though some members take Glee Club as a course for credit, all members still sing as a labor of love and enjoy being ambassadors for Morehouse College.

Purdue Varisty Glee Club

Purdue Varsity Glee Club

For more than a century, young Purdue students have given their best in performance to audiences at the University, throughout the nation, and around the world. The spirit and success of the Varsity Glee Club also inspired the birth of Purdue Musical Organizations over 85 years ago. Today, as throughout its memorable history, the Glee Club brings recognition and honor to Purdue University.

As a part of PMO, the Glee Club shares the mission to make music that fosters camaraderie among students as they learn, rehearse, travel and entertain. The members of the Glee Club represent virtually all academic areas. As Purdue’s official ambassadors of song, their accomplishments are even more impressive in light of the fact that Purdue has no school of music.

In 1893, eleven Purdue students sang in the first Glee Club, directed by Lafayette organist Cyrus Dadswell. At that time, Purdue University was still building its foundation, giving more attention to agriculture and engineering than music appreciation. Despite its environment and numerous changes in leadership, the Glee Club persevered. In 1910, E.J. Wotawa directed the group and later composed the fight song “Hail Purdue.” During the 1920s, director Paul Smith brought to the ensemble a strengthened sense of purpose. However, it was largely due to the enthusiasm of the Glee Club’s first full-time director, the irrepressible Albert P. Stewart, director from 1932 to 1972, that music found a home at Purdue.

When Al Stewart first asked Purdue President Edward C. Elliott for funds to pay for Glee Club uniforms, he was met with a vigorous refusal. But as the Glee Club gathered admirers, Elliott yielded and generously formalized Stewart’s position, hired more staff members, and provided rehearsal space.

Under Stewart’s direction, the Glee Club increased in size to more than 60 members. Concerts took the ensemble to a variety of venues across the nation and abroad. In 1942, popularity of the Glee Club received an important boost when Purdue was a finalist in Fred Waring’s national Glee Club Sing-Off in New York. Other performance highlights were to follow, including U.S. presidential inaugurations, a goodwill trip to West Germany after World War II and a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1974, William Luhman succeeded Stewart as Director of PMO and the Glee Club. A man described as a “piano wizard with perfect pitch,” Luhman was a former Glee Clubber himself, graduating in 1949. Luhman’s career had developed at Stewart’s side, having accompanied the Glee Club for 17 years before taking the helm. While loyal to Stewart’s music philosophy, Luhman expressed some of his own interests by starting many Glee Club specialty groups.

When illness and an untimely death cut short Luhman’s efforts, he was succeeded by accomplished pianist William Allen in 1983. Under Allen’s direction and accompanied by assistant director, DeDe Thompson, the Glee Club continued to gain notoriety as they bolstered their reputation as some of the finest ambassadors for the University.

From 1989-2007, under the direction of Brian Breed, the Glee Club continued to share its eclectic and unique style of entertainment with audiences everywhere. Stunning venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Crystal Cathedral, and multiple trips to Washington D.C. to perform at the White House solidified the Glee Club’s prestigious reputation.

In 2008, William E. Griffel became Director of the Glee Club and began a new era for PMO. Today, these ambassadors of goodwill for Purdue University continue to entertain audiences throughout the world. Eleven European tours along with tours to Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, China, the United Kingdom and South Africa have served to showcase the talents of these fine student performers and carried on the storied legacy of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club.


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