"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

UMM men's chorus music preserved online

How grand they were!
I had forgotten how thrilling it was to listen to the University of Minnesota-Morris men's chorus.
Men's chorus? Many of you might not know such an entity existed. It was a headlining attraction at our campus in its earliest years. It put out a vinyl record album. Director Ralph E. Williams took them to two World's Fairs, in Seattle and New York. Wow! They wore maroon blazers.
I am pleased to now have about 40 minutes of their music online in three YouTube posts. You will see many archived UMM images. Part 1 is the highlight because it includes the "UMM Hymn" which was written by Williams. Williams wrote this at UMM's inception along with the fight song.
I invite you to click on the link below which is to Part 1 of this trilogy. Parts 2 and 3 can be found using the standard search methods.
I don't recall the exact year when the UMM men's chorus ceased to exist. Why did it become defunct? It's not hard to speculate. It was exclusive by definition. Advocates of such a chorus would say men's voices have a certain quality that makes such a group defensible. This makes sense to a degree and there was a time when society would not have quibbled. The term "political correctness" did not exist in the 1960s.
had its start in 1960. Our family came here and put down stakes. UMM's first dean, Rodney Briggs, wanted my father Ralph Williams to write both the Hymn and fight song.
We don't hear the Hymn very often any more. Ken Hodgson directed it for a Garrison Keillor appearance a few years ago. The UMM Hymn with all its sentiment was right up Keillor's alley! I remember him starting the applause before the last note ended.
It would be nice to hear the Hymn for graduation again. It might even make me get out my checkbook for UMM music next fall. Just saying.
John Stanley Ross wrote an arrangement of the Hymn maybe ten years ago. I think that was for both the band and chorus. I was very busy working for the newspaper in those days and I have to admit I didn't hear it. Is that arrangement still in the UMM library?
Click on the link below to read a post I wrote about the UMM men's chorus trip to the Seattle World's Fair in 1962.
Click on the link below to read a post about the trip to the New York World's Fair in 1964.
Click on the link below to see a photo of my mom and I at the New York Fair, with the grand "Unisphere" in the background.
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day festivities for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. One of the men's chorus members was James "Doc" Carlson who would go on to create the UMM Jazz Festival. The Fest under Carlson was just as important in its time as the men's chorus was in its time. I would suggest there were generational differences in the appeal of the two. The men's chorus was traditional and structured with a sense of uniformity and discipline. There was that "political correctness" issue - men only - that older people of the mid-20th Century didn't give a mind to. My father was a military man from WWII.
Lots of things changed in the late 1960s through the '70s, obviously. Jazz was more celebrated by cultures of color. The musicians could dress "grubby" and no one cared, in contrast with those maroon blazers of my father's singers. The military-style discipline was pushed aside.
The young generation developed reservations about the military culture and its discipline, due to the horrible unraveling of the Viet Nam War. "Do your own thing" became our collective mantra.
We had the celebrated generation gap.
For the record, my father had pointed reservations about the Viet Nam War. Though he'd never join an organized protest - people of his generation were temperate - he expressed skepticism around the house. He had been a gunnery commander in the Pacitic theater in World War II.
The Viet Nam war was nothing like the "good war" of WWII. I use quotes. There is nothing good about any war.
We can try to find nostalgia about UMM's early days despite the horror of the war and conscription in the background. How wonderful that decade might have been without that war. At any rate, the UMM men's chorus under Ralph Williams was truly wonderful. No one can ever dismiss that.
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be, as they say.
Listen and enjoy. You will definitely enjoy it.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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