Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Singing out against bullying


Yale Glee Club to perform in concert with Darren Criss

The Yale Glee Club is coming to SF.
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Choral groups have become a lot more popular recently, thanks to the hit Fox show Glee. One of America's most prominent choral groups, the Yale Glee Club, doesn't need a TV program to boost its reputation. The Yale group will sing at Marines Memorial Theatre in San Francisco on Sat., May 14.

Although they've been wowing audiences for 150 years, the Yale Glee Club might be momentarily overshadowed by their guest singer, Darren Criss, whose performances in Glee as Blaine, the gay love interest to Kurt, have grown millions of fans. At the heart of both the TV show's storyline and this Saturday's concert is a serious topic: bullying. With a flood of suicides resulting from teen bullying, fighting antigay violence has become a notable cause for many, from online videos to benefits.

Along their busy national tour, Michael Dobbs, Director for Major Cities for the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), replied to a few e-mailed questions about the upcoming concert, as did Artistic Director Jeffrey Douma.

Dobbs described the Yale Glee Club as fairly competitive, with about 150 people auditioning for 80 positions. With perhaps a dozen Glee Club members who are also music majors, Dobbs said, "Our best undergraduate musicians are majoring in other fields, and chose Yale because they knew they would have many opportunities to sing."

The repertory is somewhat demanding, a broad spectrum of choral music from the past 400 years, from the Renaissance to the present day. "Because this is our 150th anniversary year, we also have a set of pieces premiered by the Glee Club in recent years by composers like Dominick Argento and James Macmillan," said Dobbs.

While Artistic Director Jeffrey Douma decides on the music, "I always listen to the club's suggestions, and take their ideas into account when I decide. I want to be sure they are engaged by the music we sing."

Asked how their work with No Bully came about, Dobbs said that the AYA, Yale GALA and Eli's Mishpacha researched Bay Area organizations that work on bullying in the schools, and decided that No Bully and the Youth Aware programs at New Conservatory Theatre Center had extensive and complementary programs that deal with this issue.

The concert was organized by Yale alumni from the Bay Area in Eli's Mishpacha: Yale's Jewish Alumni Group, and Yale GALA. Yale's LGBT Alumni Association decided to have a benefit to support anti-bullying programs in the public schools as part of Yale's Annual Day of Service ( They invited the Yale Glee Club, the SFGC Alumni Chorus, the Duke's Men of Yale University and Darren Criss to be part of the benefit.

Gay awareness has long been a part of the choral group

Glee star Darren Criss.
's activities. Yale GALA: Yale's LGBT Alumni Association was founded in the early 1980s. Yale GALA has chapters all around the world, including seven U.S. cities and London. Last week, Yale GALA hosted an all-Ivy LGBT leadership forum in San Francisco to train alumni from various schools to be volunteer leaders in the LGBT community of the Bay Area.

A recent highlight was the Club's 150th anniversary concert at New York City's Carnegie Hall, which Douma called "an amazing time. The first half of the program consisted of recent Glee Club premieres and a new choral orchestral work composed for us by Ted Hearne called Partition. The second half was a piece by Vaughan Williams, Dona nobis pacem. The Yale Symphony performed with us."

Asked to make comparisons between the historic Yale club and the fictional TV high school glee club, Douma said he thinks the show has definitely increased young people's interest in ensemble singing.

"Even though we perform a different kind of music than what you hear on the show, I think the Yale Glee Club has gotten more attention this year because we share that word with the show." But Douma doesn't think the pop version on the TV show diminishes the impact of a more traditional ensemble like his. "I think there's plenty of room in the world for all kinds of music. The existence of Lady Gaga in no way diminishes the existence of Stravinsky, and in many cases, the worlds of pop music and classical overlap and augment one another."

Such is the case with Darren Criss, who first performed with the Yale University Whiffenpoofs in a Los Angeles benefit concert in March. Fans of Criss' solo music may know the songs he'll be singing, including "Not Alone," which he also performed at the recent Trevor Project benefit in LA. The song has become an informal theme song for the anti-bullying movement. Criss composed it years earlier, and it's among the songs in his co-written show A Very Potter Musical, and on his solo EP.

"It was such a great partnership that he agreed to perform with the Yale Glee Club in San Francisco for this benefit to end bullying," said Dobbs.

Tickets for the May 14, 8 p.m. concert, at 609 Sutter St.,  are $75-$250 (with 6:30 p.m. VIP reception). Call 771-6900 or go to

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