March 2010

(OSU) GLEE (Club) Comes to Hilton Head

Author: Paul deVere

The Ohio State University Men’s Glee Club and the Fox Television smash hit, Glee, have two things in common. Both are located in Ohio (Glee in Lima, OSU’s Glee Club in Columbus). And both have Glee in their names. From that point on, their similarities fall off the proverbial cliff.

“When I watch Glee, I must respond in the same way a physician responds to Grey’s Anatomy, or an attorney responds to Boston Legal. It isn’t even close to reality,” said Dr. Robert J. Ward, OSU Glee Club director. But like doctors who watch Grey’s Anatomy and lawyers who watch Boston Legal, it’s easy to tell Walsh gets a dose of Glee once in a while by the smile in his voice.

For another dose of reality (N.B. Glee fans: there is no McKinley High in Lima. The show is filmed in Hollywood.), Glee is fiction. And it’s about high school students. But The Ohio State University Men’s Glee Club is very real. More than 100 of the singers, performers and directors will be visiting Hilton Head Island for a performance, Monday, March 22, at 7 p.m., at Hilton Head Island High School’s auditorium. The event is being sponsored by the local Ohio State University Alumni Association, which has lined up host families for the students. Susan Obenauf, president of the alumni club, said the proceeds from the performance go to a scholarship fund for students in Southern Beaufort County.

Islander and Ohio transplant Dick Knowlton, though a Miami of Ohio alumnus, is acting as a local point man for the group. “They’re just terrific,” he said of the glee club. Knowlton and wife, Peggy, are well-known supporters of music organizations on the island. Knowlton acted in the same “point man” capacity when he helped arrange a performance in January by the Miami University Men’s Glee Club on Hilton Head. But he admits he is a staunch Buckeye fan. “I’ve been going to Ohio State football since I was nine,” Knowlton said.

The OSU Men’s Glee Club does have something on the football team, too. It’s older. Ohio State was founded in 1870. The Glee Club formed in 1875. It has had a long record of striving for the highest quality of performance. Throughout its storied history, it has accumulated display cases full of national and international awards. As an example, in 1990, the Men’s Glee Club participated in the International Musical Eisteddfod (competition) in Llangolen, Wales and was declared “Choir of the World,” the first American choir to win such an honor.

At Monday night’s performance, the audience will witness the extraordinary range of the group’s repertoire. Included in the concert will be such pieces such as Leos Janácek’s Veni Sancte Spiritus (sung in Latin) and Veljo Tormis’ Kolm mul oli kaunist sona (sung in Estonian), to Resonent in laudibus (sung in Latin) and Solstice, both composed and arranged by the club’s assistant director, Tim Sarsany.

There will also be solos, like “Moving Too Fast,” from the critically acclaimed, Off Broadway one-act musical, The Last Five Years, and “La Calunnia,” from Rossini’s opera, Il barbiere di Siviglia (Barber of Seville).

Sarsany, a doctoral student at OSU is a prolific composer and arranger. He arranged half of the vocal pieces to be presented. He is also the director of The Statesmen, a group of 16 singers within the OSU Men’s Glee Club who specialize in acapella performance. “They can walk into a room with their little pitch pipe and they are off and going,” Ward said of The Statesmen. “Tim arranges it all and writes into the vocal part the percussion instruments. We explain it along the way,” he added.

When not on tour, The Statesmen have another purpose. “As Doctor Ward explains it, sometimes we have more than 100 guys in the glee club. If someone wants to hire us out for say, ‘Come and sing happy birthday to my spouse,’ or ‘Come sing something romantic,’ or ‘Come to my party,’ different things like that, The Statesmen are very good for that,” explained Matthew Zabiegala, the public relations chair and one of the club’s tenors. “It’s hard to fit 100 guys into someone’s living room.”

Zabiegala explained the difference between a glee club and chorus. “A glee club is generally all of one gender. A chorus would be more like a soprano, alto, tenor, bass—a mixed choir. Usually that distinction isn’t made too much. ‘Glee’ is more a collegial sort of term,” he said. Zabiegala also pointed out that there are only about 10 music majors in the club. Open auditions are held at the beginning of the school year and hopefuls are tested on musical and vocal skills. Not everyone makes it. “We have members from just about every school. These guys just want to sing,” Zabiegala said.

There is, of course, a final distinction between dramedy, Glee and the OSU Men’s Glee Club. These guys want to play golf. “Right now [mid-February], I’m looking out my window at six inches of snow on the ground,” Ward said. Just prior to heading for Hilton Head, the club will be competing at Miami University of Ohio with 18 other groups. Then they drive the 14-hour trip to the island. Ward confirmed his enthusiasm about taking the show on the road – along with his clubs. As for the day they begin their journey to Hilton Head, Ward spoke for the entire club when he concluded: “I’m outta here.”

Tickets can be purchased at Mangiamo, 1107 Main Street on Hilton Head Island, or by contacting Ray Fahrmeier, 843-815-3366 (rayfahrmeier@bellsouth.net) or Susan Obenauf, 843-706-2209 (Obense@aol.com). Ticket price is $20.

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GLEE-ful Stage Glamour
Sidebar by: Paula Magrini

The Fox network’s breakout show, Glee, may be more dramady than quality programming. But for the performing arts program at one area high school, the popular teen TV show is at least part of the inspiration in elevating cast and costumes to a whole new level of performance.

The costumes for Hilton Head Prep’s upcoming production of the musical Grease will catch your eye, but maybe not for the reasons you might expect. >From bobby socks to leather jackets, all the fashion and flair of the 1950s will be there, yet unlike the flashy synthetic accessories that typically adorn a high school cast and accommodate its limited budget, these pieces will be the impressive results of a unique new online blog …and the 24-7 efforts of one devoted designer, school parent, fashion visionary and fan of Fox TV’s hit show, Glee.


Costume Designer, Caroline Noble

Costume designer Caroline Noble is assembling vintage costumes and accessories for Grease with the help of an ongoing dialogue she posts regularly via her blog known as “Madhouse Vintage.” The blog is loaded with personal insights and descriptions of desired items. “When I decided to costume Grease with original vintage clothing, I was very comfortable that I knew what I was doing and the finished product would be authentic rather than the very predictable offerings you usually see,” Noble explained.

Was she concerned about response to her novel approach and the use of a blog? Not at all. “The entertainment industry is made possible by generous people; it’s an act of giving,” she said. “I once likened it to cooking, pulling all the best possible ingredients together to create something for someone else to eat.”

Thanks to the tremendous feedback and tips Noble has received through her blogging, the Grease wardrobe is evolving into a bountiful feast, with the students’ participation as the icing on her cake. Below are some of Noble’s compelling entries from earlier days of Madhouse Vintage:

February 2
So it wasn’t a dream, it’s still here. Creating this weblog was like having a baby when you didn’t even know you were pregnant. Well here it is, and someone has to take care of it so…that would be me. Thinking along the theme of newborns I think the color of the day should be pink, especially as Grease has its very own Pink Ladies. I found this beautiful ice-cream-pink dress in a soft cotton with white floral crochet trim. The label is “Doris Dodson,” and it is “paper doll” shape with fitted bodice, nipped waist, full seep skirt and still has its original matching belt. Classic American ’50s. I’m thinking Frenchy…

February 4
An appointment in Charleston yesterday kept me tied up in traffic most of the day, but a quick trip to the Thrift Store on Rutledge yielded three more frocks—success! It led me to thinking about the adorable shape of these ’50s dresses and who was responsible for their popularity in the 1950s. The post-war world was recovering slowly, and people had been used to scrimping and saving. England had rationing of pretty much everything, including fabric. Women had become very resourceful making clothes out of parachute silk and feed sacks as well as reusing older garments…

February 10
So my neglected blog—sick children, car prang, broken HVAC, huge hole in bedroom ceiling etc., etc., etc. (Woody Allen needs to swing by someday) have kept me away from the very thing that keeps me going: CREATIVITY. However, on the plus side, I am inundated with parcels and packages from all over the world. It’s amazing to think how far these clothes from the 1950s have travelled in their lifetime. We live in such a throwaway world…how can our girls comprehend that women used to repair stockings with specially designed thread or even hair if they couldn’t find thread during the war?


Prep’s New Performing Arts Director, Benjamin Wolfe

With the arrival of Fox’s Glee on the high school radar, Noble felt her innovative approach would thrive in an environment where students and parents have never been more engaged in the performing arts programs offered at schools such as Hilton Head Prep. Though some of the Glee episodes play out more like soap opera than reality, the show has made an impact, according to Prep’s new performing arts director, Benjamin Wolfe.

“We had 76 students audition for the spring musical this year and that is remarkably high,” he said, adding that he had to expand the cast characters from the original 19 to 35 to accommodate the enthusiastic turnout. “We were originally concerned that we’d have trouble filling the male roles, but 23 boys tried out. Four out of six of our cast members are performing on stage at Prep for the first time,” Wolfe noted. “It seems that Glee has sent a message to kids, male and female—it’s cool do theater.”

Considering that the spring production of GREASE is the “word” in Prep hallways and after school hours, Wolfe is thrilled to showcase his new-breed young thespians in vintage costume couture. Together, he, Ms. Noble and an ardent group of performing arts supporters plan to continue raising the bar—and the curtain—on what seems to be a promising new era of youth theater.

For more information on the April production of Grease, please call 843.671.2286, ext. ART or visit hhprep.org

  1. That Ben Wolfes know what he is doing. He is a talent to watch and treasure.


    — Richard C. Wall    Mar 4, 08:59 pm   

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