For the first time in 24 years and only the third time ever, the Harvard Glee Club is set to make its long-awaited return to these shores. The 60-plus members of America’s oldest collegiate men’s chorus club will be embarking on a tour of Asia from the end of December that will include two shows in Japan, on January 10 in Osaka, and January 16 in Tokyo.
Weekender will be taking its seat for the former, and based on reputation we are expecting a hugely entertaining evening with a mixture of classic, renaissance and contemporary music, as well as the traditional folk songs for which the chorus group has become most well-known.
Now in its 158th year, the Harvard Glee Club continues to tour extensively, earning rave reviews wherever it goes. Live shows on this side of the world are rare, though, so we believe it’s an opportunity not to be missed.
A Bit of Background
The HGC was established back in 1858 by a group of students at Harvard University. Initially quite a small faction, it really started to grow in the early part of the twentieth century when Doctor Archibald T. “Doc” Davison expanded the club’s musical horizons and improved its vocal/choral abilities. He was named conductor in 1919 and led the organization on its first European tour following an invitation from the French government.
HGC and Radcliffe Choral Society (its all-female equivalent at Harvard University) then became the choruses of choice for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The two organizations continued to gain critical acclaim throughout the twentieth century, and in 1965 were both, along with other Boston choirs, nominated for a Grammy for their performance of Mozart’s “Requiem” at President John F. Kennedy’s funeral.
Notable former members of the Glee Club include President Theodore Roosevelt and his fifth cousin President Franklin D. Roosevelt, two-time Pulitzer prize winner Elliott Carter, composer Toru Takemitsu, and the man described by music critic Donal Henehan as “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history,” Leonard Bernstein. Patrick “Pakkun” Harlan, now a well-known comedian in Japan, first came to this country with the HGC in 1993. He is the official ambassador of this tour.
What to Expect?
The full repertoire for the two shows in Japan is still to be decided, however, what we do know is that there will be an eclectic mix of modern, classic and folk tracks as well as long-time favorites; “Harvard Fight Songs” and “Fair Harvard”. The hits that have been confirmed include “Winter Songs” by Harvard graduate and Pulitzer prize winner Paul Moravec, and “Glorious Apollo” by legendary British composer Samuel Webbe.
The live concerts will also feature the popular Japanese track “Hana wa Saku” (“Flowers Will Bloom”). Written by renowned director Shunji Iwai and composer Yoko Kanno, it was the theme song of the “TOMORROW” series of TV documentaries produced by NHK’s Great East Japan Earthquake Project. The song’s royalties were all donated to the recovery effort. The track reached number one in the Japanese charts and was covered by a number of groups in English, including Il Divo.
Hailed as “first rate,” by Boston Globe, “cohesive and exciting,” by Opera News, and “beautifully blended” by The Providence Journal, Andrew Clark is a highly respected composer who also works with the Women’s Radcliffe Choral Society and the mixed Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum. Choirs under his direction have performed at a number of high-profile establishments such as Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. He has been the HGC conductor since 2010.
Dates: Tuesday, January 10, 7pm at Izumi Hall, Osaka
Tuesday, January 16, 7pm at Kioi Hall, Tokyo
Seats: S – ¥ 5,000, A – ¥3,500 (tax included)
Tickets: Available at Harvard Glee Club Japan Tour Office (03-5454-2275)
WE’RE GIVING AWAY FREE TICKETS!
For the chance to win tickets to either the Osaka or Tokyo Harvard Glee Club performance, follow us on Instagram (@tokyoweekender) where we’ll be announcing details of the competition soon.