Monty in Full, continued...
Gazette: What other musical activities besides the Glee Club were going on when you began?
Monty: Nothing like what there is today.
At that time, about 400 members of the freshman class would line up on
the Schuylkill River and go into a great phalanx across the campus, trying
out for everything. I would always audition three or four hundred people
for a relatively few slots in the Glee Club. Nowadays, there are, I think,
36 extracurricular musical organizationswhich is astonishingand many
of them were started by Glee Club people. I directed Mask & Wig for
years, and I worked with a number of the smaller a-cappella groups and
arranged things for some of them. And Ive been musical director of Penn
Players and stage director for Penn Players for a number of their productions.
So Ive kept my finger in a lot of pies. Fortunately, I was one of those
first-cousin kids, so I have 14 fingers.
Gazette: But you dont monkey with the script.
Monty: No. Never. The closest I ever came
to that was in, I think it was 1972. We did Patience in the Zellerbach.
This is a show that literally laughed the Pre-Raphaelite movement out
of existence. Reallythe aestheticism of the Pre-Raphaelite movement,
and the affectations attendant thereto, were absolute parallels to the
flower children of the late sixties and early seventies, and Oscar Wilde
and Algernon Swinburne and people like that were the [Allen] Ginsburgs
and the others. And so, just for funI didnt change one note or one syllable,
but we did Patience with the two poets wearing pink turtlenecks
and pink jeans and sitting on a ladder with an electric guitar. Andagain,
not changing a single syllablethe women were the flower children of the
1960s and early 1970s.
Gazette: With the Glee Club, youve been described as someone who takes ordinary young men and molds them into an extraordinary program.
Monty: I appreciate that comment. There certainly has never, in the history of this University, been anyone who has enjoyed working with extraordinary people the way I have. And yes, they all pass an audition vocally to get in, but they end up being the most remarkable young men I can possibly imagine working with. And that was true, believe it or not, during the late sixties and early seventies, when it was the time of Do your own thing, and joining an organized group was taboo, verboten. And they continued to join, and we continued to do, I think, meaningful statements on the conditions of the world, on the Vietnam War, on prison riots, on pollution, on whateverand remained viable that way. So we never suffered the slump that other choruses around the country didglee clubs were rolling over like dinosaurs and dying, literally by the hundreds. I was on the board of the Intercollegiate Musical Council for years, and that was made up of the directors of all the male choruses in the country, and it got to the point where there just werent many leftenough of an attrition where we terminated the program. The IMC doesnt meet anymore.
Gazette: Beyond tradition, what is the appeal of an all-male glee club?
Monty: The sound. Its absolutely unique.
For years, earlier in the womens lib movement, I would get a visit every
year from the new head. And we would always chat amicably, and I would
mention that its perfectly possible for a fine tuba player to wish to
play with the Budapest String Quartet. It can be done, but it certainly
changes the sound. And theres something very special about the Budapest
String Quartet, or the Juilliard String Quartet or the Curtis String Quartet.
Theres something very special about the sound and the repertoire of a
male chorus. And we already have a bunch of other mixed choruses; why
destroy one just to be P.C.?