Madison Stone, Arts Editor
As one of the oldest music groups at OBU, the Bison Glee Club has performed countless concerts, visited dozens of churches, and proven their distinct love for worship and community. On Thursday, April 28, the group will cap off yet another year of music and service with the Glee Club Choral Concert.
The concert will take place this Thursday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Yarborough. In typical Glee Club fashion, the selection will include a mix of both famous secular and sacred song selections, including “Bring Him Home” from the musical “Les Miserables” and the traditional Glee Club songs “Dry Bones and “Ode to Friendship.” The concert will also feature the University Ringers, OBU’s exemplary handbell group, as they join the club in their opening song, “Ad Amore,” which is taken from Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”
“The selections we have for this semester are a very balanced mix of fun and challenging,” brotherhood chair of the Bison Glee Club Benjamin Badgett said. “Our director, Dr. Steven Sims, has worked very hard with us on the healthy singing skills needed for these pieces. Though it is challenging, my favorite part is when all our hard work comes together to make beautiful music.”
While challenging, the concert’s repertoire carries an important theme, one the Glee Club has stood for since its inception over 80 years ago: perseverance against all odds.
“A major theme of this year for the ensemble has been perseverance even in the face of what seems like diminishing prospects,” senior Glee Club member David Goforth said. “My mind draws to key pieces titled ‘God, Thou Art Love’ by Craig Courtney and ‘Ad Amore’ by Lee. R. Kesselman. Both pieces reflect on that prevailing aspect of our Creator—His love, and how it remains even after all things fall away. Especially in the former piece, we remind ourselves that ‘[we] dare not fear since certainly [we] know that [we are] in God’s keeping, shielded so, from all that else would harm.’ Our performance is another testament to the dedication of the ensemble to doing what we love.”
Beyond the upcoming concert, the Glee Club has spent years culminating a community of brotherhood, music, and service. The group was founded in 1938 when a group of non-music majors approached Dr. Warren M. Angel and asked him to teach them to sing. He agreed, and OBU’s famous Bison Glee Club was officially formed. Since then, the values of the group have remained the same; as the club approaches its 85 anniversary, its members have the opportunity to reflect on and imitate the accomplishments and values of years past.
“Since [its start], the BGC has gone on to do some incredible things, such as winning several national-level choir competitions and (if I recall correctly) even singing for former president John F. Kennedy’s brother,” Goforth said. “Unfortunately, the group doesn’t do much of that anymore, but at its core, the BGC is all about fostering brotherhood through excellent music… The BGC inspires men who don’t necessarily have the formal training that other ensembles on campus do to still strive to better themselves artistically, socially, and spiritually.”
While the pandemic greatly limited the club in what outward impacts they had on the community, their inward goals and spirit stood strong, and the group looks forward to performing once again.
“[Since the beginning], our goals have remained the same: to praise God through the singing of music both secular and sacred and [to] cultivate brotherhood between the members,” Badgett said. “The way we did this changed a lot during the Covid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, this semester we have begun to get back into the Glee club tradition of visiting churches to help lead them in worship. All and all we are a group of guys that love to worship God through the gift of music that He has given us, a group that genuinely cares about each other, and a group that loves to have fun (especially when we are rehearsing).”
Glee Club has also experienced both loss and gain. While their ranks have decreased over the last few years, the group has had the pleasure of gaining a new face in director Dr. Stephen Sims.
“[T]he BGC has suffered a serious reduction over the last two years in particular, and much effort has been put into keeping spirits up, but despite that (and according to the feedback we’ve received from prior public performances) our sound is still strong!” Goforth said. “It’s sometimes upsetting to lose guys that have been an integral part of the group for several years because of the inevitability of life, but we press on… Dr. Sims is still relatively new, but he is passionate and that makes a world of difference.”
Sims himself represents the past, present, and future of the Glee Club, as he was a member of the group when he was a student at OBU.
“I was a member of the Bison Glee Club when I was a student at OBU from 1996-2000,” Sims said. “It brings back a flood of great memories to be standing on the other side of the podium in each rehearsal and performance. To be entrusted with leading this group over 20 years later is incredible. I never thought I’d get to do this. Getting to be a part of the musical/spiritual/personal growth process has [really] impacted me.”
Given its long history and recent challenges, it is fitting that the club’s upcoming concert carries with it the theme of perseverance—of finding a strong foundation in music, community, and God.
“Any support that the community can provide us in attendance is worth its weight in gold for those of us who have sacrificed and struggled much to be on that stage on Thursday,” Goforth said. “I’d like to thank my brothers and their commitment and patience—we can only ‘run the race marked out for us’ (as the writer of Hebrews says) by running it together.”