Volume 18, Number 3 | JUNE 10 - 16, 2005

Old club sings for the young

The Down Town Glee Club, a male group dedicated to preserving the tradition of choral singing in New York City, will perform various jazz classics and for the first time, songs for children, at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on June 16 at 7 p.m. to benefit the Downtown Little School and New American Youth Ballet, who will also perform.

The repertoire will include classics by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, the Platters, Eric Clapton, Elton John and a theme song from “Spongebob Squarepants.”

Jerry Osterberg, the glee club’s president, said the origins of the benefit go back two years when the Downtown Alliance awarded the group a “Good Neighbor Grant.”

“We’ve done a lot of concerts, we’ve done a lot of them pro-bono,” said Osterberg. “We proposed that we would use the money from the grant to cover the expenses of future concerts.”

With the help of Jennifer Hensley at the Alliance, the Down Town Glee Club was able to get another grant from the Port Authority, which allowed the club to pay for their events and donate the proceeds. This year, the glee club extended its spring season, which usually ends in May, making the benefit concert their last one until winter 2006.

Osterberg thinks the concert will be the group’s largest one since the ‘70s when they performed for 2,000 at Carnegie Hall.

“Our opportunity is to do good and generate a new audience,” said Osterberg. “We have to start with young people. That’s why we will perform songs such as ‘YMCA’ and the Spongebob song and give out kazoos to kids. It is only a gamble of time and energy.”

The group began in Lower Manhattan almost 80 years ago and was founded by Channing Lafebvre and Arthur Schwartz, who served together on a U.S. Navy ship. Glee club membership is reserved for men only, since traditional choral singing uses only male voices.

— Cathy Jedruczek

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