A Brief History

The influence of 'Doc' Davison

America's oldest college chorus, the Harvard Glee Club was founded in March 1858 by the president of Harvard's Pierian Sodality and several of its College friends. Over the rest of the 19th century, HGC numbered about a dozen or two men and sang a repertoire ranging from old European and American college and folk songs to contemporary art songs to popular operetta/show tunes, often combining with banjo and mandolin ensembles and local bands. Its performances were not limited to metropolitan Boston but extended throughout the Northeast.

In the early years of the 20th century, many HGC members were also singing in the Harvard University Choir. They appreciated the advantage of the vocal training and of learning sacred music, and they gradually convinced the Club to ask the University Organist and Choirmaster, Dr. Archibald T. Davison, to coach HGC. From 1912, "Doc" Davison expanded the Glee Club's musical horizons and improved its vocal/choral abilities, as a larger HGC performed solo concerts as far afield as the Midwest. During this period, Doc began combining HGC with the women of the Radcliffe Choral Society for large choral-orchestral works; and in 1917, HGC and RCS began singing these works with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The men of HGC liked these new experiences and in 1919 asked Doc Davison to become HGC's first conductor. He agreed, with the proviso that the choice of repertoire would be his. By the end of the 'teens, HGC was singing sacred and secular pieces from the renaissance times till the present, folk songs from around the world, and college songs and had ceased its relationships with the mandolin clubs and popular music.

 More on the Harvard Glee Club website



Steal Away

Recorded March, 2012


The HGC Today

Today's Harvard Glee Club consists of about 65 men, mostly undergraduates at Harvard College, plus a few students from Harvard's graduate schools, from all over the USA and abroad, very few of them majoring in music or destined for a musical career. This HGC continues to flourish, singing good music well, demonstrating the persisting vitality of men's choral music on campus and all over the world, in concert halls and schools and churches, live and on recordings, for novices and for the knowledgeable choral community. By itself and with the Radcliffe Choral Society and the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, HGC is a first-rate representative of Harvard to itself and to willing ears around the globe.