A New Home for One of Yale's Oldest Student Clubs
The Yale Glee Club holds a special place at a University known for its dedication to the arts. Few undergraduate organizations command the lifelong bonds that connect Glee Club alumni to each other and to Yale. When the School of Music announced plans to renovate and expand Hendrie Hall, where Yale’s vocal groups have practiced since 1937, members of the Glee Club community were among the most enthusiastic donors.
The Cornelia Cogswell Rossi Foundation has announced a generous gift to refurbish the Glee Club Room, a rehearsal space located on Hendrie’s second floor. The contribution was made at the request of Foundation directors Charles B. Kaufmann III '66 (a former president of the Glee Club) and John R. Raben, Jr. '67 in memory of Dr. Joseph G. and Cornelia Cogswell Rossi, friends of Yale who were committed to the Glee Club for many years.
Following eighteen years in the navy before retiring as lieutenant commander, Dr. Rossi was a pediatrician in New Haven. He then joined Yale Health Services, where he was employed until his retirement. He was also an accomplished pianist and organist who served as the Glee Club's doctor on its 1965 world tour and 1968 Latin American tour. During their time in New Haven, Dr. Rossi and his wife Connie were devoted to the Club and numerous other Yale organizations, as evidenced by the Foundation’s contributions to the Yale University Art Gallery and the Law School. Both Rossis died in 2003.
"To Connie and Joe, the Yale Glee Club was family," Kaufmann said. "They had an impact on generations of Yale students, and they would have been thrilled to see the renovation of Hendrie Hall. We are very pleased that we can name the Glee Club room for them, and we know that many other Glee Club members and those of other Yale musical organizations share these feelings."
Celebrating a rich history
Choral music has long been an integral part of Yale's musical culture. The Glee Club is not only Yale's oldest musical organization, but also the third-oldest collegiate chorus in the country. From its origins as a group of thirteen men in the Class of 1863 to today's eighty-voice, co-ed chorus, the Glee Club has created some of the best performances in collegiate choral music. The group attracts students from all majors and academic interests, with a repertoire that spans the sixteenth century to the present—including Renaissance motets, contemporary pieces, folk music, spirituals, and traditional Yale songs.
The Club also supports original works through premieres of newly commissioned pieces and its sponsorship of two annual competitions for young composers. The Connie and Joe Rossi Glee Club Room will be both "a vast improvement for the Club and a tribute to Yale's musical past," according to musical director Jeffrey Douma. Designs call for vital updates to acoustics and technology but preserve the room’s historic character. When the new Glee Club suite is complete, it will serve as a gathering space for both current students and returning alumni.
"The Glee Club Room is not only a rehearsal space, but also something of a museum of Yale singing," said Douma. "The walls hold portraits of each Club going back to 1893, including when Cole Porter was president in 1913. The Club also possesses the oldest known photo of a Yale singing group, the oldest printed Yale song, and a section of the original fence where informal singing groups gathered."
Transforming Hendrie Hall
The planned renovation and expansion of Hendrie Hall will dramatically redefine the building’s capabilities and character. A 28,500-square-foot addition will increase Hendrie's capacity by 80 percent, housing optimized rehearsal rooms, a digital studio, a common area, and event facilities. The new north wing will feature a courtyard and an enclosed walkway connected to Leigh Hall.
Inside, the rehearsal space for the Yale Philharmonia and Yale Symphony will incorporate technology for live musical exchanges around the world. Other rooms will boast state-of-the-art acoustics ideal for groups like the Yale Camerata and the Schola Cantorum, and there will be improved spaces for classes, seminars, choral conducting instruction, instrument storage, and alumni groups returning to campus.
A passion for singing
Eli Mitchell-Larson MC '13 and Miriam Lauter BR '13 have been members of the Glee Club for four years, and both are passionate about their experience. Miriam, the Club's stage manager, first saw the Glee Club as an eighth grader in Los Angeles during its 2005 tour. "I was so impressed that I began singing in a choir, and I was overjoyed to become a member of the Club at Yale," she said. "It came to define my time at Yale. I have learned an incredible amount and traveled the world, and the Club has become a home—a family of singers and friends."
"Being part of the Club has meant a great deal," echoed Eli, the Club's current president. "We made beautiful music at our rehearsals, traveled, and sang in fantastic concert halls. There were a thousand memorable moments, with Jeff [Douma] admonishing us to sing 'never louder than beautiful.' It was singing at the memorial for Fenno Heath '50, '52 MUS.M. that made me realize we were part of a tradition that touches so many people.
"I never thought I would join the eager Yale alumni choristers who swarm city streets every summer, but as I contemplate leaving Yale and the Club in a few short months, it's no longer a question of whether I'll join them but how soon I can. Whether I'm back for my fifth or fiftieth reunion, I know I’ll be singing before I do anything else," Eli said.