Ecce quam bonum, quamque jucundum, Habitare fratres in unum.
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.
These are the words of the anthem which has been fervently sung at the beginning of every concert of the Highland Glee Club since our inaugural performance in 1909. The sentiments expressed — of brotherhood and unity — are as meaningful for us today as they were at our founding.
The Highland Glee Club began at the home of James H. Turnbull on Columbus Street, Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, where 13 charter members elected Turnbull as their first president and formally chose Edgar J. Smith as their first music director. Shortly thereafter, they adopted a constitution with the preamble:
"We hereby associate ourselves as a musical organization under the name of Highland Glee Club for the purposes of advancing the musical interests of the community."
On March 2, 1909, twenty-nine members performed their first concert at the Newton Highlands Congregational Church.
The story of the growth of the Highland Glee Club is closely associated with the New England Federation of Men’s Glee Clubs. Herbert J. Burney conceived of the idea of having a federation of all of the glee clubs in New England, and with the nucleus of the Wollaston Glee Club, the Schubert Club of Malden, the Beverly Men’s Singing Club and Highland Glee Club of Newton, this movement was launched in 1920. Over 35 glee clubs joined the organization, and contests and joint concerts were given in practically every large city in New England, with as many as 700 men appearing on stage.
*From A History of the Highland Glee Club 1908-2008, compiled by John Gardiner and Merrill Mack. It is available for purchase by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Highland Glee Club Today
Today, the Highland Glee Club comprises 36 members from Newton and surrounding communities. Rehearsals are Tuesdays in Newton, and the Club performs regularly in Newton and Needham. Under the leadership of Music Director Sarah Robinson Seeber, appointed in 2020, the Club is growing and diversifying, with increasing numbers of men auditioning for the Club, as well as an expanding fanbase.
In April of 2021, the Highland Glee Club, frustrated with Zoom, began rehearsing in- person, masked and distanced in the chilly and often dimly-lit outdoors. Picking up on the sea chanty craze, they prepared their joyous, celebratory “Songs o’ the Sea” outdoor concert, becoming the first choral group in New England to perform live and in- person, post-pandemic.
To complement their core repertoire of classical part-songs of Schubert, Elgar, Brahms, and Mendelssohn, in June of 2022, the Club debuted a ground-breaking project: the best of classic 60s rock music featuring men’s vocals, not in choral arrangements, but close-cover, just as it is sung in the original hits. Dubbed “A Love-In with the Highland Glee Club,” the two free outdoor concerts were accompanied by Firefly, a rock band specializing in close cover.
That August, the Club had the honor of performing both the American and Canadian National Anthems for the Red Sox/Blue Jays game at Fenway Park. And that October, members donned kilts for a Scottish tribute concert, “Songs o’ the Highlands.”
Twice a year, in September and January, talented singers of all levels of experience are invited to attend Open Rehearsals. Thus the Club’s membership is constantly renewed and its future assured, as more men join in music and fellowship, continuing our beloved traditions. Ecce quam bonum!
Click the HGC founders picture to view