For most students, the Harvard-Yale game is about donning a “Harvard Sucks” sweatshirt to tailgate, and maybe even cheer on the football team. However, there’s more to The Game than football. “When you think of the Harvard-Yale game, you always think of tailgating first, but there are lots of musical traditions as well,” Glee Club member Rachel Protacio, PC ’15, said. In fact, competitive (and collaborative) performing arts events jointly put on by Yale and Harvard have been a tradition for over a century, and as Yale’s football skills grow more suspect by the year, it’s nice to fall back on the strength of our performing arts programs.
Jeffrey Douma, associate professor of conducting and director of the Yale Glee Club, states that the Yale and Harvard Glee Clubs have had a joint annual concert during The Game since 1901. Douma explained that the only years the concert did not take place were once in the 1940s during the height of World War II and again in 1963, when the concert was to have taken place on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Performances with other Ivy League schools are a longstanding Glee Club tradition: this year will be the 100th anniversary of “triangular” joint concerts between Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Yale performed with Princeton last weekend before the Princeton-Yale football game.
For the Harvard-Yale game, it would seem that pranks are as much a part of the tradition as the concert itself. “We either prank Harvard while they are singing their football medley or while we are singing ours,” Protacio said. The Glee Club even has prank chairs, responsible for organizing and orchestrating the events. Last year, they paraded banners directed at the all-male Harvard Glee Club with slogans such as “Feminism: The Radical Notion that Women are People.”
Of course, joint concerts are not just limited to Glee Club. Yale a capella groups, too, have a tradition of collaboration with Harvard groups—for example, the Whiffenpoofs perform every year with the Harvard Krocodiloes, Harvard’s oldest a capella group. And though the Yale Precision Marching Band (YPMB) prefers pranks to collaborative shows, they host a yearly joint party with the Harvard University Band before The Game.
The real excitement, however, comes from being able to share the fruit of months of practice with students from both schools. As Kebra Sedam, SM ’13, one of the YPMB managers, said, “We look forward to The Game not only because of the rivalry but because we get to perform in front of the biggest audience of the year and make our school proud.” Douma adds the Glee Club perspective: “Between groups, there is always a healthy mixture of rivalry, fun, and mutual appreciation for good music.” It almost sounds better than football.