Sunday, July 31, 2011

The West Point Glee Club Alumni Reunion July 28-31, 2011

More than one hundred West Point alumni who sang in the Cadet Glee Club have gathered for the second reunion of that group at the United States Military Academy (USMA), including five of us from the class of 1968.  The music of West Point has been a favorite of mine since I saw the movie "The Long Gray Line" and watched "The West Point Story" on weekly TV many years ago.  This weekend, it resonates from the USMA Band in concert with those Cadet Glee Club alumni singers who came back for the three day (or four day for golfers) event during which we get to do what we did as cadets- sing.

We are not aware of any other alumni group at West Point who get to replicate their cadet activity.  (Does the chess club have a reunion?)  Certainly, the football alumni don't play football during their reunions.  We are a proud group.  We love to sing.  Most of us participate in a singing group in our home areas, such as church choirs or the West Point Alumni Glee Club in the D.C. area (who sang for us at the Reunion dinner Friday night-July 29).  All are flooded with nostalgia during this reunion.  Thoughts of people, places, and music fill this weekend, culminating in a concert at Trophy Point July 31 at 7:30 PM.

The concert with the USMA Band will be conducted by current Cadet Glee Club Director Connie Chase and Band Director LTC. Jim Keene and former Cadet Glee Club Director Bill Cosby.  They are enthusiastic professionals who excel at conducting and teaching.  They will entertain while  directing the historic and patriotic selections.  The Official West Point March will welcome the Alumni onto the stage and a foot stomping, hand-clapping finale finishes the evening.  A Gershwin Medley allows the singers and musicians to echo some romantic tones at our "Rock-Bound Highland Home".  The marching boots of the West Pointers are definitely removed for the lyrical message of Gershwin.  Swooning will be allowed.

The singers then proceed to a nostalgia crescendo in a reception filled with singing and reflecting and libating (is that a word? Anyway, libation will be consumed by many attendees, according to tradition and intention).  The revelers proceed to their respective homes on August first, awaiting the e-mails three years hence about the next reunion (the first ever reunion of the Glee Club alumni was in 2007, including special honors for deceased long time director Col. William H. Schempf -1957-1974 and his always supportive family- Ruthanne was a highly skilled accompanist for the Cadet Glee Club for many years).

Fact-Hounds may be interested to know that graduates from six decades are represented in the attending Glee Club alumni, from the class of 1956 to 2001. The alumni group probably made the last recording of "The Corps" and "The Alma Mater" with the original words in 2007 before the "upgrade" to better recognize the West Point of the modern era.  The alumni will formally catch up to singing the more inclusive words to those songs this weekend and have expanded understandings of USMA glee Club activities thanks to a briefing by Mrs. Chase.  The alumni continue to be financially supportive of the Glee Club which recently received a special endowment of $750,000 from the Randall family.  Please click on the link below to the Cadet Glee Club web site for further information about the history and activities of the Club.
The Cadet Glee Club

Fond tellings of favorite Cadet Glee Club stories filled many of the conversations this weekend, including mention of the Ed Sullivan Show, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, Singing for the Medal of Honor winners, The Jackson, Mississippi Arts Festival in 1966 when we sang The Blue and The Gray Medley to a roaring standing ovation, "We Were Soldiers" movie inclusion of the Glee Club singing "The Mansions of the Lord", The Grand Ole Opry, Spring Leave trips to Texas, California and elsewhere.  All expect to generate more nostalgia and fulfill the glee club motto again this weekend: "No Fun Without Music, No Music Without Fun".

Special thanks to Larry Smith '62, Alan Salisbury '58 and Mike Hart '75 for their planning and leadership and to Fred Gray '64 for organizing the music.  Kudos to the West Point Association of Graduates for their successful efforts that support this opportunity.  Many thanks to the Academy for allowing it to happen.  I'm proud to be an alumnus of the Cadet Glee Club and to have an opportunity to participate in the Reunion and concert.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this - it's an incredibly moving experience to be a part of this group singing again at West Point

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  2. I think Rugby Club alumni come back to play against the Cadet Rugby Club. They all sing as well!

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  3. Thanks for the comments. It is thrilling for me,too, to sing with these people in this venue with the band and these conductors.

    Thanks for the Rugby point-Go Alumni! Who else comes back?- such as Glee Club and Rugby and the Old Grad March Back- to do the same activity they did as cadets?

    Pat Jonas '68

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  4. It sounds like you enjoyed your reunion :D What great memories.

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  5. George R. Robertson '58August 2, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    Pat: Many thanks for an excellent and timely report on the second reunion at West Point. Many of us "old timers" will remember a reunion set up by Fred Boots (GC director between Barry Drewes and Col Schempf) and I in '60 (or '61?). As CIC in '58, I had compiled a roster of GC alumni. Using the personnel records at USAEUR, we assembled 30 or 40 for a concert at the O'Club and an after-party at the Red Ox Inn. After Bob Dey's ('58) guitar amplifier blew the fuses twice, we sang acappella. Another memorable Glee Club gatheriing.
    George Robertson, '58

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