Travel back to Asia in 1967 through photos taken by Matt Hobbs ’68
on the Harvard Glee Club/Radcliffe Choral Society 1967 “Round the World” Tour.


In the summer of 1967, ninety-plus singers from the Harvard Glee Club and Radcliffe Choral Society embarked on a nine-week choral tour of Asia and Eastern Europe under the direction of Conductor Elliot Forbes ’41. In the years since, members of the 1967 “Round the World” Tour group have gathered on a regular basis, to reconnect with old friends and reminisce about the shared experience that many still regard as a lifetime touchstone moment. The most-recent of these gatherings took place in April 2017 on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Tour. 

Among the tour members who returned to Cambridge for the 2017 gathering was Matthew H. Hobbs, AB ’68, MCP ’70. Now retired after a career in public finance investment banking, he currently lives in San Francisco with his wife, Consuelo, and serves as a member of the Harvard Glee Club Foundation’s Board of Directors. 

During the semester preceding the 1967 Tour, Hobbs took a photography course at Harvard’s Corbusier-designed Carpenter Center. There, he was introduced to Pentax cameras, hand-held light meters, black-and-white Tri-X Kodak film, and the creativity made possible from doing your own printing in the well-stocked darkroom. He was able to put these skills to good use while on tour in documenting some of the unique views he had of Asia beyond the footlights of the concert stage. 

Hobbs has kindly allowed the Glee Club Foundation to showcase some of his photos which are assembled into the “Faces of Asia” gallery (click HERE). The photos -- some joyful, some harrowing, all vibrant and arresting -- consist largely of close-up portraits of individuals Hobbs encountered while in Asia. A few depart from this pattern, including a stunning black-and-white image of a Chinese ship and rowboat with two men, a photo of a man walking through a shadowed colonnade, and the image of a Japanese temple reflected in a pool of water. Shot in various styles and with an eye to technique that betrays Hobbs’ photography training, the photos are as fascinating as they are aesthetically pleasing.

One of the observations that Hobbs makes about photographing faces around the world is differences in “comfort zones.” In India, for example, he found he could approach his subjects to within an arm’s length without raising alarm as they are simply used to high density. Taking a similar photo of subjects in the West, however, would require him to operate from two or three times the distance.

Hobbs purposely timed many of his photos to capture his subject’s direct engagement with the camera. Many of these photos exhibit a direct personal acceptance of the photographer. It is no wonder that Hobbs refers to many of the subjects in his collection as his “friends.”

Looking back on the 1967 Tour, Hobbs remembers it as being a “life-transforming experience” filled with new adventures each day. Like members of all Glee Club tours, he looks back fondly on memories of his fellow singers and musical experiences. His photographs of Asia and some of the people he encountered there, however, provide a creative glimpse into the unique 1967 Tour experience. 

We are thankful to Matt Hobbs for taking these photos and sharing them with us.

Posted on August 13, 2018