Morehouse Glee Club Performs at Swarthmore

Morehouse Glee Club 2017-18. Photo Courtesy of David Morrow. 

Morehouse Glee Club 2017-18. Photo Courtesy of David Morrow. 

Introduced personally by President Valerie Smith, the Morehouse College Glee Club performed a shortened version of their original program on the LPAC stage at noon on Thursday, March 22nd, after being rescheduled from the night before due to the snowstorm.  Students were able to meet and chat with members of the Glee Club during a shared breakfast held at Sharples early in the day. Come noon, the auditorium was filled with students, faculty and staff alike, many of whom were moved to clap, snap and dance throughout the arc of the performance.

After introducing the Morehouse Glee Club and their director, Dr. David Morrow, to Swarthmore, President Smith gave a special thanks to Professor Sarah Willie-LeBreton, chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department and incoming Provost. It was Willie-LeBreton who had the initial idea to invite the Glee Club to Swarthmore and who lead the organizing of their visit.

In her introduction, President Smith quoted Martin Luther King Jr., who himself is an alum of Morehouse and a former member of the Glee Club: “God has wrought many things out of oppression, he has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create, and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment in many different situations” (1964).

The Glee Club itself has been together for over 100 years, having performed across the country and world. They’re internationally renowned for their musical talent and their power to inspire and move audiences. “In their performances of songs of sorrow and of joy,” said President Smith, “The Morehouse Glee Club demonstrates the transformative power of human creativity and of the capacity of music to serve as an instrument of change.”

The performance included a wide array of spirituals with a couple of more modern songs. Songs of grief were intermingled with songs of joy and songs of courage to create an impressive repertoire of moving music.

“I was floored by how incredible they are and by their legacy,” said Sarah Dobbs, ‘18. “This campus needs more music in general and this was the kind of performance that got even Swatties out of the libraries and up on their feet clapping and moving to the music. Riveting!”

The performance was powerful for many who attended.

“All of the songs felt familiar,” said AynNichelle Slappy ‘20. “Those are negro spirituals. They inspired many to have faith that their liberation would come. This is what keeps me alive, song and hope. When you've been in the worst of worst situations, the only thing they can't take away is your song or your hope.”

The musical ability of the young men proved stunning as well. “I appreciate how much practice and planning must have gone into this to make them sound as clean and crisp and perfect as they did,” Dobbs continued. “They really filled the room with joy.”

This deeply connected group of young men carry the legacy of those that have come before. Some of the pieces they performed were explicitly dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., they also embody a legacy of hope and brotherhood in their presentation and presence.

“It was clear that every young man in the group took the responsibility of carrying on the tradition very seriously,” said Dobbs. “I was moved by their passion and filled with the sunshine of their music. It revitalized me and built community among all who attended just by virtue of sharing the experience!”