The Whitin Male Glee Club

Announcement: Glee Club Concert
"The Whitin Male Glee Club will present its first concert Monday, February 13th, at 8P.M., in the Whitin Memorial Gymnasium. Included in the program will be religious music, folk songs, and popular numbers. The proceeds from the concert will go towards the Whitinsville Hospital. Tickets at $1.00 (reserved seats, $1.50) may be obtained from members of the chorus, at the Personnel Office, and at the Gymnasium." (source: The Whitin Spindle, Jan. 1950, vol.III #1, p.17)

Sponsored by the Whitin Machine Works, the Glee Club held a superb concert debut and raised a tidy sum of $1201. (A.U.S. admissions tax of $193.84 had been deducted, that left a balance of $1007.16 donated to the building fund of the Whitinsville Hospital.). The Shop also assumed all costs and concert expenses connected with the concert.

Prior to its initial debut, the Whitin Male Glee Club, organized specifically by Mr. C. Alexander Peloquin, a classical composer as well as gifted conductor and director, started rehearsing in September of 1949 for its very first public appearance. The concert committee, organized by Mr. Bryant Nichols set Monday, February 13 of the following year, as its debut. All was in readiness with the Whitin Memorial Gymnasium (now the Whitin Center basketball floor). It had been transformed into a magnificent concert hall with specially built platforms and stage area having unique lighting effects and flowers galore. Two concert grand pianos were provided for the accompanists, who were Leo Robinson and Cynthia Brown Fournier.

The evening was set for grand entertainment. Ushers, who stood crisply in black tuxedos well supplied with freshly-printed programs by The Shop’s own presses, stood prepared to welcome the entire audience. Soon many persons arrived and even though there was snow in the air, the gymnasium was filled to capacity with a thousand listeners eager to hear and judge the newest musical organization in Whitinsville. Much anticipation was felt as to whether or not this glee club would rise above the mediocrity of many other choral groups in the area. All 73 of the singers began to file in, with tuxedos adorned with red carnation boutonnieres. As one watched each member worker of the Whitin Machine Works, one could not help but wonder how each was a representative of the entire Whitin Machine Works family, consisting of foreman and operator, engineer and clerk, skilled artisan as well as apprentice---all blended into one unit with a single desire to entertain in song.

As the director, C. Alexander Peloquin ascended the podium amid an opening applause, the very first notes of Handel’s "Let Their Celestial Concerts" rang out and presented a promise of a rich and rewarding night of performances. It was told that their initial numbers reflected very good tonal quality, precision, sureness and diction. After the thunderous opener was the softer and mysterious "Let Thy Holy Presence" by Page 2 Tschesnokoff, highlighted by three female soloists: Alice M. Bloem, Marion Gonlag McCooey and Luella M. Ballentine. These ladies sparkled in their white evening gowns and added a nice touch to the musical program. The next two selections were "Here is Thy Footstool" from The Gitanjali by India’s poet, Rabindranath Tagoxe, and Randall Thompson’s "The Testament of Freedom," an American composition. Words of the pen of Thomas Jefferson had been set to music by this piece and it was wonderfully interpreted by the chorus.

During the second half of the concert, there were four folk tunes. The first was Scotland’s "Turn Ye to Me" and Oscar Erickson voiced a remarkable solo rendition. The next, a Kentucky folk song, was entitled "Old Tom Wilson." The chorus had a jolly good time with a most lively melody, but they did not blur the diction. The third selection, for the ladies’ trio was "Tutu Maramba," a song about the bogeyman of Brazil. This was well received and it was followed by the final folk tune called the Bohemian "Reaper’s Song." It was this tune which stirred up melodious syncopation within the audience as members of the audience became provoked to sing and dance along!

After a short intermission, a real virtuoso performance resulted. C. Alexander Peloquin startled the entire audience by playing five difficult piano solos. Starting with "Wedding Day, by Grieg, he went on to do "The Engulfed Cathedral" by DeBussy,

"Alborado DeGracioso" by Ravel, "Pastourelle" by Poulenc, and finally ending by playing eloquently, the well-known and elaborate "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin. A prolonged applause resulted after Mr. Peloquin’s performance. He had a complete mastery of his musical scores and played, not only with exceptional skill and authority, but with deep perception and great emotion.

The final section of the evening’s program was devoted to a bunch of musical numbers of a lighter venue. They included the following: "Zigeuner" from Noel Conrad’s "Bittersweet," "Dance A Cahuca" from Arthur Sullivan’s "The Gondoliers," " A Love Story by Heinz Provost’s "Intermezzo," and "The Marines’ Hymn" arranged by Roy Rinwald. After these selections were sung, with the use of many chords, marching staccatos, and treble ensemble of the ladies’ trio, it was reported that the program had a rousing climax and evoked many "BRAVOS" from the audience.

Perhaps Mr. Raymond Morin, the distinguished music and arts critic of the Worcester Telegram said it best:

"The audience’s interest, close attention, and enthusiasm were well founded. This is particularly so in view of the program itself. More often than not, choral organizations that are recruited from employees of industry seek harbor among songs and tunes that require a minimum of imaginativeness and skill. Not so last night. The opening group was extracted from solid pages of classic and modern literature. There was also included folk tunes of genuine interest but of rare vintage, and familiar songs of lighter variety. It was obvious that the chorus has been well schooled. One of the outstanding features was such diction that words could be easily understood. Another conspicuous accomplishment was the maintenance of full resonance in prolonged phrases and crisp, unanimous endings." Page 3

And of course, Mr. Morin highly praised the expertise of C. Alexander Peloquin, as both conductor and piano soloist. And he also commended Miss Bloem, Miss Ballentine, and Mrs. McCooey for their "bright performances," and he found Mrs. Fournier’s and Mr. Robinson’s accompaniments "alert and efficient."

Read what Mr. Thomas "Tad " Wallace had to say concerning his relationship with C.Alexander Peloquin : "Alex and I were almost brothers. We had an exemplary rapport. He was inspiring, and a master of motivation. He knew what he wanted and how to get it. In addition to the Whitin Glee Club, I sang for 14 years with the famed Peloquin Chorale,(known worldwide).I also did stints with the Woonsocket (R.I.) Civic Chorus,the Beethoven Club, and the Greenwich Community Chorus. Those were (other) groups that he directed. His musical knowledge was so profound, it rubbed off on everyone who sang with him…"

Words cannot express what it meant to my father to be considered a good tenor as a member of the Whitin Male Glee Club. I continue to sing in his memory, as I enjoy my membership as a tenor with the Northboro Area Community Chorus. At the time of this article’s composition, I have practiced for a spring concert entitled: The Works of George Gershwin and Jerome Kern," scheduled for May 16th, of this year……

--contributed for the BLACKSTONE VALLEY VIRTUAL MUSEUM, Eleventh Article of a series, by : Donald E.Gosselin, Researcher, Web Author, and Former Employee of the Whitin Machine Works June 1,1999

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