F. JOHN ADAMS MEMORIAL LISTENING ROOM
The Memorial Listening Room currently has two sections: the WHRB Interview and the Festival of Men's Choruses. Check back periodically as we continue to add content to the Memorial Listening Room.
THE WHRB INTERVIEWS - 2011
In September 2011, several months after the death of former Harvard Glee Club conductor, F. John Adams AB ’66, WHRB, Harvard’s student-run radio station, broadcast a three-hour “orgy” of some of the best performances of Glee Club and other Harvard Choruses during F. John's tenure as conductor of the three choruses (1970-78) together with extended clips of interviews of F. John from the same period.
With help from Harvard Glee Club Foundation Director Adam Finkel AB ’79, we have made much of this broadcast available online (with the permission of WHRB) as part of the new and greatly expanded Memorial Listening Room. We would also like to thank David Elliott '64, who did the interviews back in the 70s and facilitated the "orgy" in 2011.
F. John led the Glee Club in some of its most productive and multi-faceted years of singing and touring as well as founding the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum and helping to revise the Radcliffe Choral Society. He placed an emphasis on Renaissance sacred polyphony, producing several albums and founding the Harvard Festival of Men’s Choruses in 1977 to showcase this and other repertoire. With the Glee Club, he cultivated a dark, legato sound with emotional gravity from the softest to the loudest passages; this sound is in evidence in several of the tracks now available on the Foundation website.
F. John left us far too soon, both in 1978 when he left Harvard for other teaching and conducting assignments and when he passed away in 2011 at age 66. This collection, which includes commentary from Adams in which he explains his interpretation of several of the pieces heard (notably Josquin’s “Ave Maria” and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion), is a link to a unique period in the Glee Club’s rich history.
Click on the music tracks below to hear the audio recordings.
Scroll through the bottom of the Soundcloud box below to see all the music tracks.
If you would like to download one of the tracks, please click HERE. This will take you to a Soundcloud page where all the tracks are listed. When you click on a particular track, 4 buttons will appear on the right side of the track entry (starting with a heart and ending with 3 dots). Click on the 3 dots button and a download option will appear. When you click on the download button Soundcloud will either directly download the track or ask for your email address or Facebook login and then you can download the track).
Introductions to the individual tracks:
This track is a live recording of the Gloria from the Mass for Four Voices by the English composer Thomas Tallis (1505-1585). The Glee Club performed this piece in St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge in the spring of 1976. The perfect introit was sung by Gordon (“Pere”) Pittard, the HGC President in 1975-76. Adam Finkel remembers well that the HGC performed the entire Mass many times during the Winter Tour of Sweden in 1975-6; it was the only piece he remembers where the imbalance between sections (in this case, about 8 first tenors and about 25 baritones) was so great that a “platoon” system had to be set up where several B1 were “benched” for each performance.
A live performance of the motet “Sibylla Europaea,” by Orlande de Lassus, one of the 12 Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Prophecies of the Sibyls), composed circa 1560 (Click HERE to view the Wikipedia page). This is, we believe, from a Christmas 1975 concert in St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge.
From March 1973, a performance of the motet “Ave Maria” by Josquin DesPrez (1450-1521). The first 10:20 of this track features a detailed explanation by F. John of his theories for interpreting Renaissance sacred vocal music, and is a “must-listen.” The performance is by the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, featuring additional male voices from the HGC, and was recorded in St. Paul’s Church.
Two choruses from Handel’s Messiah, sung by the three Holden Choruses (with the HRO) on December 12, 1976, in Sanders Theater: “All We Like Sheep,” and “Hallelujah.” If memory serves, this was the night after an epic dress rehearsal that did not go well and lasted past midnight, at which point Paul Scharfman ’76 (who ran a mountaineering guide service at the time) pitched a large dome tent in the back of the chorus, as an unsubtle hint that it was time to “seek medical attention for a rehearsal lasting more than four hours.”
A performance (details unknown) of the HGC singing the traditional glee “Glorious Apollo.” The first 30 seconds of the track include some interesting observations about the Glee Club’s history by the WHRB announcer.
Tracks 6, 7, 8, 9:
All from a performance of the Bach St. Matthew Passion, April 27, 1978 in Sanders Theatre, with the three Holden Choruses and soloists Karl Dan Sorensen (Evangelist), Francis Hester (Jesus), Nancy Armstrong (soprano), and Pamela Gore (alto).
· 6: The first 7:30 comprise an interview with F. John about the excerpt about to be played; the remaining 13 minutes comprise five movements near the end of Part I of the Passion(#s 24 through 28 in the Bärenreiter edition): (1) Recitative “Now He came to His disciples and found them sleeping”; (2) Chorale “What God resolves will He achieve”; (3) Recit. “And He came again and found them sleeping”; (4) S/A Duet (w/chorus) “Behold, my Jesus now is taken,” followed by the “Lightning and Thunder” chorus; and (5) Recit. “For they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.”
· 7: The concluding chorus of Part I of the Passion (“O Man, bemoan thy grievous sins”), preceded by approx. 2:30 of F. John’s introductory explanations.
· 8: First, 4:20 of commentary from F. John, and then three short movements from Part II of the Passion (#s 61-63 in the Bärenreiter edition): (1) Recit. “And from the sixth hour onward came a darkness” (this section features Jesus’s last words: “My God, why have You forsaken me?”); (2) Chorale “When I must part from you, be not far from me”; and (3) Recit. “And behold, the veil of the temple was broken in twain,” followed by the brief choral section “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
· 9: The final chorus from the St. Matthew Passion: “Here at Thy grave we sit weeping.”
A performance of “Gesang der Geister Über den Wassern” by Franz Schubert. The HGC is singing here in Sanders Theatre, on May 1, 1977, as part of the inaugural Harvard Festival of Men’s Choruses. “The soul of Man is like water: from Heaven it comes and to Heaven it climbs again.” [Click HERE to view a complete translation of Goethe’s poem]
A live recording of the (second half of) the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, featuring the HGC and the Smith College Glee Club, from February 24, 1973 in Sanders Theatre. The solo quartet that night was Vanessa Pace, Pamela Gore, Wayne Rivera, and David Arnold.
F. John conducting all the Holden Choruses in the final chorus (“Worthy is the Lamb that was Slain”) from Messiah (also on Dec. 12, 1976 in Sanders). Announcer David Elliott ’64 provides some final information about F. John’s achievements subsequent to his years at Harvard in the final minute of the broadcast.
FESTIVAL OF MEN'S CHORUSES - 1977 & 1978
This section of the Listening Room contains recordings from the 1977 and 1978 Festivals of Men’s Choruses, each held in Cambridge in the spring of those years [including performances by other participants], a recording of HGC’s concert in Toronto, Canada in July, 1978 during the 1978 North American Summer Tour that was broadcast by the CBC, and John’s final concert with HGC as its conductor upon the Tour’s return to Cambridge on August 2, 1978. This assemblage is dedicated in loving memory of Dr. F. John Adams.
Click on the music tracks below to hear the audio recordings.
Scroll through the bottom of the Soundcloud boxes below to see all the music tracks.