Many fans will be glued to their TV sets tomorrow for the season premiere of the hit series Glee. The show about high school students and staff singing and dancing their way into the hearts of millions has garnered a large following over the past few years, but did you know that the University of Manitoba has its own Glee story that goes back somewhat further into Winnipeg history? Glee at the U of M
The University of Manitoba Glee Club was founded in 1924. It held its first meeting on October 9th of that year when it elected its first president, F.W. Armstrong, the “Will Schuester” of that era. Back then, the U of M Glee Club had 25 members. Within three years the club grew to about 60 members and became the second-largest on-campus organization, second only to the Debating Union.
“It’s amazing how this tradition of singing and performing on university and college campuses has been revived through the popularity of a television show, and become so appealing to a new generation,” says Shelley Sweeney, head of archives. “It shows the intrinsic value of musical and dance performance to students of all ages.”
The U of M Glee Club put on various musical and dramatic performances at the university and in theatres off-campus. Comedic operas and operettas appear to have been of particular interest to the group. Gleeful history at the University of Manitoba goes back even further, since the Glee Club’s predecessor, the University of Manitoba Dramatic Society, performed on campus before 1917.
The University of Manitoba Glee Club was active for several decades and garnered many accolades for its musical performances and set designs. The Glee Club did not put on shows in 1972 or 1973, and an article in the Alumni Journal from 1973 discussed the imminent demise of the club, which folded that year.
The University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections holds records donated from the Glee Club itself and memorabilia collected by University of Manitoba alumna Rosemary Malaher. The University Relations and Information Office fonds also contains photographs of Glee Club performances and group shots of the Dramatic Society. It was from these fonds that the images in our exhibit were selected.
Anyone can now “flip through” glee club memorabilia digitally on the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections website at: http://umanitoba.ca/libraries/units/archives/digital/glee.html
For more information, please contact Tyyne Petrowski, acting digital archivist, at: 204-474-8243