Members of the Highland Glee Club performed indoors Dec. 5 for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic with “A Holiday Songfest,” a concert featuring genres ranging from Gregorian chants to a jazz remix.
Dick Wulf, a tenor singer and the club’s former president, said he was eager to sing without a mask at the event, which was held inside Christ Episcopal Church of Needham.
“Singing for the first time without masks was invigorating,” Wulf said.
Jerry Grimm, a bass singer in the club, said it was difficult for the group to adapt to COVID-19 safety measures.
“We couldn’t sing in unison, as a glee club,” Grimm said.
Last year, Sarah Telford was elected as the first woman director of the all-men club in its 113-year history. The club was founded in 1908 in Newton and has hosted hundreds of performances. Telford said she and the choir had chemistry from the beginning.
“Sometimes, in a transition like that, there’s a period where a new music director has to prove him or herself to the singers,” Telford said in an interview. “To me it seemed like a perfect match, after that I just hoped they felt the same.”
Wulf said he appreciated Telford’s directing and engagement.
“I like Sarah’s obvious enthusiasm,” Wulf said. “It shows through how she communicates with us and the audience.”
Grimm said Telford did a “magnificent job” of preparing the club for the performance. He said the sound was vastly improved when they sang with their masks off for the first time.
“After COVID, it was especially meaningful because people had been denied that kind of connection for so long,” Telford said. “For singers, it’s really crucial. When we finally got back to it, it was intense.”
Maxim Lubarsky, the piano accompanist for the club, said he thought the performance went well due to Telford’s commitment to practicing.
“She did an incredible job with the performance, holding it together through the pandemic,” Lubarsky said.
The club couldn’t perform as a group during the early stages of the pandemic. Instead, individual performances were recorded and rehearsed through video calls. They also had an outdoor performance in the spring at the Hyde Community Center pavilion, just steps away from where the group had its first concert in 1909, Telford said.
“Having to rehearse together under those circumstances, it brought us together in a way that maybe, if everything had been all perfect, might not have been realized so intensely,” Telford said. “So when we did finally perform, it was a very big deal.”
Telford said there’s a strong camaraderie with the members of the club that they kept alive through the pandemic despite the difficulty of socialization.
“There’s really nothing like making music, particularly singing,” Telford said. “That act of joining your voices with other voices in this artistic endeavor, it’s just a wonderful way of communing with your fellow human beings.”
Telford said she is hopeful for the club’s future and eager to recruit more members. The club has two performances currently planned for 2022 with rehearsals beginning in January.
“I think this club is on the rise. We’re about to take off,” Telford said.”There’s nothing quite like being a part of it as it grows, and contributing to that growth and feeling the excitement of when the music improves.”
Colin Boyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.