as the Souths Sweetest Singers, thirty
members of the Emory Glee Club performed across Europe
during the summer of 1953, singing in the open-air gardens
of Edinburgh, at the University of Frankfurt, and in a
melodious voices were broadcast from the studios of the
British Broadcasting Corporation, the Voice of America,
French National Radio, and the Armed Forces Network of
Emory performers were also trapped on a train at the French
border due to a railroad strike, slept on mattresses laid
out on the floor of a school, and made do with mostly
memories came rushing back to Kenneth
F. Murrah 55C-58L, an attorney in Winter
Park, Florida, when he was cleaning a closet and found
a stack of yellowed newspaper clippings and posters in
various languages publicizing the Glee Clubs European
goodwill tour was fifty years ago this summer, Murrah
says. Some members have died, and Ive lost
touch with others. But it was one of the most pleasant,
enriching thirteen weeks Ive ever spent.
summer of 1953 was a time of looking forward in America.
Dwight Eisenhower was president, From Here to Eternity
had just been released in theaters, and the Korean War
The idea of performing throughout Europe came from the
Emory Glee Club members themselves, as a way to honor
the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1928 Glee Clubs
tour of England and Holland.
all-male chorale raised their own money to fund the three-month
tour. We are about the luckiest Glee Club in the
history of Emory, said club president Joe Freeman.
the guidance of Malcolm Howard Dewey, professor emeritus
of fine arts and director of the Glee Club since 1920,
and his wife, Maybelle, the students left New York harbor
on June 10, 1953. They settled into their stateroom bunks
on the Holland-America liner S.S. Zuiderkruis for
the week-long ocean voyage.
Glee Clubbers mingled with other passengers and warmed
up with a series of ship concerts. They also attended
lectures by on-board professors on topics such as, World
Peace and International Understanding, Sightseeing
in Paris, and The Meaning of the Creation
and Downfall of Man.
day, we moved on across the deep waters and through the
fog about another four hundred miles . . . pins were stuck
into a map mounted in the lounge to indicate our progress,
wrote Glee Club bass Jackson P. Braddy 54C-57T,
now a retired Methodist minister and information technologist,
who sent dispatches back to his local papers, Georgias
Manchester Mercury and Talbotton New Era.
June 18, the group arrived in Southampton, England. Their
travels during the coming weeks would take them through
England, Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands,
Switzerland, Italy, and France. The Club performed a variety
of selections, from Bachs My Spirit be Joyful
to Stephen Fosters O Susanna, although
the most popular with European audiences were the Southern
German newspaper lauded the high vocal quality
of the club after its performance in Cologne, and said
the students refuted the popular German idea that
all Americans are gum-chewing, jazz-loving people.
Germany, and many other countries were still showing the
ruinous effects of wartime bombing, said Murrah, a Glee
Club tenor. We stayed in cities that had been liberated
by American soldiers less than a decade before,
he said. The devastation of [World War II] was still
very apparent, even though the Marshall plan had been
a huge success.
performing fifty-five concerts at universities, military
bases, parks, and amphitheaters, the Glee Club returned
to New York in mid-September. Emory is proud of
its reputation for excellence, Emory President Goodrich
C. White wrote in a letter to each singer. And we
well know that the Glee Club is one of our best channels
for transmitting that ideal of excellence to the world
at large. Murrah and Braddy (kneeling, far left)
still count that letter, and memories of the tour, among
their most precious possessions.
three months across Europe were indeed a life-shaping
experience, Braddy says. The achievement,
the inspiration, the confidence of that summerall
are still with me fifty years later.M.J.L.