Last weekend, the UNI Varsity Men’s Glee Club hosted their 41st annual Christmas Variety Show. Filling the Great Hall at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center (GBPAC), the singers entertained a crowd of over 1,000 people.
Associate music professor John Wiles has served as the director of the group for the past nine years. He introduced the singers in his “From the Director” piece in the show program, writing: “The Glee Club has a long history of offering great performances designed to entertain and inspire.”
The Glee Club holds the record for the most sold-out GBPAC performances, according to the program.
Mr. Robert “Bob” Byrnes, who was the director of the Glee Club in 1974 and directed the group for 30 years, started the tradition of the Christmas Variety Show in 1978. According to the program, Byrnes’ goal for the group was that they would be “one of the best choruses on the planet.”
Following a high-energy entrance from all corners of the Great Hall, the Glee Club sang their traditional opener, “We Need a Little Christmas.” They also sang other Glee Club staples from the past 41 years, including “Silent Night” and a candle-lit rendition of “The First Noel.”
Molly Mingus, junior business administration and economics major, is a returning fan of the Christmas Variety Show.
“Each time I have gone [to the show] it puts a smile to my face,” said Mingus. “The Glee Club is so talented and their choice of a mix between comedy and music works perfect together. It is a show that is suitable for all ages and something I plan on going to again next year!”
The show features other performers from across campus. This year, the Orchesis Dance Company performed a modern piece set to a rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” UNITUBA, one of the oldest tuba and euphonium ensembles in the world, performed “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Jingle Bells.”
Also featured in the program was the “Legendary” Father Paul Peters, who has been accompanying the show on the Great Hall organ almost every year, and Paul Marlow, a Glee Club alumnus who has been the emcee for the show for the past 14 years. The SingPins, an auditioned acapella group within Glee Club, performed “Loch Lomond”’ by Jonathan Quick and “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”
One of the show’s annual highlights is a visit from Santa Claus, who talks to various children in the audience. Audience members at the Saturday matinee witnessed a Glee Club proposal during Santa’s rounds.
“I never expected [the show] to have so much fun and be welcomed with so much energy,” said Carmen Fritz, a senior majoring in leisure, youth and human services. “I go every year with my family and am still impressed with the show.”
Since the beginning of the Christmas Variety Show tradition, each year the Glee Club has performed a play written and directed by its members. This year, the Glee Club hosted a writing competition at Kingsley Elementary in Waterloo for the first time. Ten-year-old Corbany P. Greenmore won with her story titled, “Cocoa Man Saves Christmas… Maybe.” The play tells the story of an evil Santa stealing the real Santa’s Christmas spirit. According to the program, the heroes of the play were based solely on Greenmore’s love for hot chocolate and candy canes.
In the play, evil Santa and his gang of infamous “bad guys” including the Joker and Voldemort steal the real Santa’s magical underwear, planning to steal his socks next. Cocoa Man, Mr. Candy Cane and their team of “good guy” characters — including Batman and Harry Potter — come to the rescue and save Christmas.
“I think one thing they do well every year is community outreach, especially with the play competition this year. That’s pretty important,” said Logan Hoile, a senior athletic training major.
As per tradition, crowd favorite Arthur Murder Dancers performed the “Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairies” and “Christmas Can Can” to close the show.
“I love the opportunity to support my close friends while they dance on stage and sing in front of a sold-out crowd, while enjoying beautiful renditions of holiday music,” said Cassie Hallman, a graduate student studying clinical mental health counseling. “I think Glee Club Christmas show is something every student should attend at some point while in college. Plus, who knows which future Glee Club member is waiting in the audience!”
The Glee Club is comprised of over 100 students representing a variety of majors — nearly 90 percent of the group are non-music majors. The Glee Club is one of two non-auditioned School of Music ensembles, the other being UNI’s Women’s Chorus.
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