The oldest continuously functioning performing arts group in Oregon will soon be 100 years old
If you have recently been at a Eugene Emeralds or Drifters game, or a UO basketball game or track meet, you may have seen and heard a group of men wearing yellow shirts printed with the words "Eugene Gleemen" singing the national anthem.
Or, you might have attended a Eugene Gleemen concert, such as our recent Spring concert where we sang songs from early Rock & Roll and the Doo Wop era: Blue Moon (the Marcels' version), Sincerely, Goodnight Sweetheart, Blue Suede Shoes, Shake Rattle & Roll and others. The audience enjoyed singing along with us--maybe you did too?
We sing a variety of music, selections from recent to traditional, such as Broadway, gospel, folk, classical, sea shanties, rock & roll, country and more. What we sing changes from the Fall season to Spring season, with Christmas songs during the holidays and romance around Valentine's Day.
Most folks don't know that the Eugene Gleemen is the oldest continuously operating performing arts group in Oregon--perhaps it is the oldest such group on the West Coast? The Eugene Gleemen was formed on January 14, 1926. Our 100th Anniversary is coming up soon.
The Eugene Gleemen is woven into the tapestry of our community, past and present. The song, "The Oregon Trail", was written for the Eugene Gleemen; we still sing it as the final number at our concerts. The National Anthem is still part of our tradition. In television's early days, those of us of a certain age can recall listening to the Eugene Gleemen singing the National Anthem at each broadcast day's sign-off. Then, we knew that mom and dad would tell us that it was time for bed.
It's part of our tradition to serve the community. We are a non-profit group, donations are tax-deductible--and appreciated. We use the money generated from our concerts and donations to fund gifts to local schools' choral groups. During the holiday season, we sing Christmas carols for the residents of retirement communities--they love to sing along. We perform the National Anthem at sporting events such as Ems and Drifters games, basketball games, track & field events, etc. When the new Hayward Field was inaugurated, it was the Eugene Gleemen who sang the initial National Anthem (virtually).
You may know a Eugene Gleeman without realizing he is one. Such men as: Jeffrey Ogburn who hosts "Jazz Sunday" music 6:00-8:00 PM on KLCC. Dr. Richard Loescher who performs as "Ricrdo the Remarkable". He donates his magic shows to non-profits and provides entertainment for schools, care facilities, and YMCA preschool classes. Other Gleemen are the florist who creates. bouquet for your celebrations, your financial advisor, your real estate broker, your attorney, etc.
Families participate along with the men who sing; we have the Valentine's Day Ball, where we sing romantic songs and a live band serves up dance music. Our picnics involve the families as well. Several Gleemen are part of a lengthy family tradition of singing with us, such as Dr. George McCulley, a Eugene dentist, who followed his father and grandfather into the Eugene Gleemen.
Other Gleemen can boast of longtime membership. Gerry Keener, now in his 62nd year as a Gleemen, has been a member since 1962. Others have been members for decades.
We are fortunate to have as our Musical Director Dr. John Jantzi, of the UO Music faculty. With input from our members, he selects our songs. We are also privileged to have professional musical accompaniment at our rehearsals and concerts. For nearly 100 years, this professionalism has been a feature of the Eugene Gleemen.
Our motto is "For the Sheer Joy of Singing". We sing also for the companionship with others, the joy of singing, the health benefits (singing has been found to be beneficial to health), the fun of performing around town, the social interaction, especially after the isolation during the height of the pandemic. There are many reasons to sing.
We are inviting men of all ages who love to sing to join us in meeting our 100 Year Anniversary Goal and to continue our 100 years of tradition.
That goal is, when our 100th anniversary arrives, we want to have 100 members.
Come sing with us--to help us meet our goal, to become part of our proud tradition and, most importantly, to sing.
If you love to sing, but have not sung in a while and feel a little "rusty", we have a no audition policy. Just show up at a rehearsal. We rehearse on Tuesdays, 7:00-8:30 PM.
Published Article on the Eugene Gleemen from the early 1950s
The birthday of the club was January 14, 1926. On that day, according to the official records, "a meeting to organize a Eugene men's chorus was called to meet at the noon hour in the Chamber of Commerce rooms. The meeting was called to order by George McMorran, who spoke briefly upon the desirability of organizing such a chorus to utilize in concerts and during conventions and other occasions."
One week later the first rehearsal was held, and within two months the club had chosen its name and adopted its by-laws. Initial financial backing was given by the Chamber of Commerce, the Elks Lodge, and the Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary service clubs. Gleemen members began paying membership dues in October 1926, and the club has continued to be financed by the dues of the active and associate members. Even so, the organization nearly expired during its first two years, due to financial straits, departure of the first conductor, and apparently a persistent indifference on the part of Eugene's musical public.
In September 1927 the directors felt compelled "to canvass the membership as to their desire to continue the Gleemen as an organization, and also to ask support from each member to clean up indebtedness." Somehow most of the members remained loyal and the club continued.
The substantial growth period of the Gleemen started in the fall of 1928. Partly the improvement came because things could not get worse, partly because the new officers now better understood the problems of running the club; also the financial problem was solved by calling upon an associate membership for support. But mainly the growth was due to the new conductor, John Stark Evans, of the University of Oregon School of Music faculty. With the warm and skillful help of accompanist Cora Moore Frey, Mr. Evans educated the members of the club to finer and finer music as he directed them in performances. Perhaps the Gleemen were touched with a new respect for what they were doing, and hence a new enthusiasm which inevitably improved their performances. The sixteen years with John Stark Evans and Cora Moore Frey clearly shaped the charadter and purpose of the organization.
Again in 1944 the Gleemen were able to draw leadership from the University of Oregon, when Mr. Evans moved from Eugene. Theodore Kratt, Dean of the School of Music, then became conductor, with Donald W. Allton of the School of Music faculty as accompanist. During the first pat of 1945-46 Dean Kratt served in the Army's overseas education program; for that period Mr. Allton served as conductor, and Stacey Green of the School of Music faculty was accompanist. With Dean Kratt's return, Mr. Allton resumed as accompanist for two more years and then resigned. Mr. Green then became accompanist in 1948.
The Gleemen have always been fortunate in their close relationships with the University, for few members of the club have training or experience in professional musical work. Especially now does this leadership bring insight and opportunities which could not come otherwise to a group of music-loving amateurs. Safely past the troubled early and formative years, the Gleemen are steadily advancing. With Theodore Kratt and Stacey Green, the members were learning more fundamentals and continuing to broaden their acquaintance and enjoyment in all types of good choral music.
In their first 25 seasons the Gleemen have presented more than 120 formal concerts, well over half of these outside of Eugene. At home the club has participated in pageants, in lodge programs, in conventions of service clubs, church organizations, American Legion and State Editors, in University of Oregon vaccalaureate services, in music festivals and Easter services, on the University concert series and with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Within Oregon the club has presented formal concerts in Albany, Brownsville, Camp Adair, Coos Bay, Coquille, Corvallis, Cottage Grove, Drain, Klamath Falls, McMinnville, Medford, Monmouth, Newberg, Oakridge, Portland (10 concerts), Roseburg, Salem (10 concerts), Silverton, and Sweet Home. Notable longer trips have taken the club twice to Victoria, B.C., to Seattle for the 1932 convention of Rotary International, and twice to San Francisco. Even wider recognition has come through nation-wide broadcasts, the club having sung over stations KORE in Eugene, KOAC in Corvallis, KGW and KOIN in Portland, KJR and KOMO in Seattle and KFRC in San Francisco. The publicity phase of the club's work has been thus recognized by Eugene officials:
"The Mayor and the Common Council of the City of Eugene extend to the Eugene Gleemen an
acknowledgment of the great civic service rendered to the city by their organization, an appreciation
of the labor and self-sacrifice which have been expended in bringing the organization to the degree
of perfection attained, a recognition of the fine leadership and of the loyal rank and file. Eugene has
a consideration and prestige that it could have obtained in no other way, due to the public spirit of
Members of the Gleemen cherish most highly the tangible benefits from their concert income. The club has raised money for playgrounds and other public activities in Brownsville, Cottage Grove, Drain, Eugene, McMinnville, Medford, Newberg, Salem, Silverton, and Sweet Home. Various community relief funds have been augmented in Albany, Eugene, Newberg, and Roseburg, Boy Scouts have profited directly from Gleemen concerts in Coos Bay, Corvallis, Cottage Grove, Eugene, and Salem. Service clubs' philanthropic activities have been aided in Corvallis, Cottage Grove, Klamath Falls, McMinnville, Salem, and notably in Portland where a series of concerts earned over $25,000 which Rotary gave to the Shriners' Hospital for Crippled Children and to other children's work. These financial results are possible because some local organization always assumes the expense of concert arrangements, the Gleemen receive only the bare expenses of the trip, and all other concert proceeds to go the service activity concerned. The Gleemen sing for the joy of singing, but also for the love of giving.
During this first quarter-century over 400 songs have come into the Gleemen library. The membership has usually been about 75 men, but at various times during the period some 425 men have belonged to the club. They have been from all types of occupation, with no distinctions as to religion or politics or temperament; they have fairly represented the men in Eugene and its neighboring communities with the nominal ability and the continuing desire to sing. The club is a working organization. The Gleemen are proud to stand on their record, but will not stop there--there are many more musical mountains to be climbed, each of them from another landmark in community service.