With November rolling in, the holidays are just around the corner, but one merry staple will be missing at UNI.
The UNI Varsity Men’s Glee Club will not be holding its annual Christmas Variety Show this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the scheduling challenges caused by the early conclusion of the fall 2020 semester.
Junior math education major and Glee Club head of merchandising Bob Lockhart said, “We were also worried, even if the space could work out, what happens if we go home early? There goes our audience.”
Choral conducting professor and Glee Club director John Wiles expressed his emotions when realizing the big event wasn’t going to be happening.
“I was just super disappointed for the students,” he said. “It’s something the students look forward to, and that opportunity being taken away is just another opportunity students have lost because of COVID.”
Nonetheless, Wiles quickly created a plan to ensure the show would go on for the group, deciding to view the situation “as an opportunity, instead of a lost opportunity.”
His final idea: the Glee Club will release a CD featuring 21 Christmas Variety Show hits as well as newly recorded tracks from the current members of the group.
The CD’s total cost is $12 and can be preordered on the Glee Club’s website. Those interested can also find more information on the Glee Club’s Facebook, which has been tracking their progress.
While most may have assumed a video would be the way to go, Wiles explained his thought process behind the CD.
“The atmosphere of a Christmas Variety Show doesn’t capture well on video,” he said. “I have watched playbacks — it’s like looking at something black and white. The magic just isn’t there.”
Wiles said that the audio-only format of a CD “engages imagination” differently from a video.
“You can hear the audience laughter, and that’s really where it came from,” he said. “It was an attempt to recreate a listener’s imagination as much as possible, with what a Christmas Variety Show tries to be.”
Senior music education major and head of music for the Glee Club Cole Flack thinks the CD is overdue, since the Christmas Variety Show is what the group is best known for.
Additionally, he added, there are some benefits to a CD format.
“There’s no coughing in the audience, or not that someone who is feeling really inspired in the Glee Club and wants to sing that First Noel like it’s their last,” he said. “This one is the best one for the Glee Club.”
Lockhart was a little more hesitant about the idea, but soon changed his mind.
“For a while there I was like, ‘what is this CD going to look like,’” he said, “but once I understood what it was all about, I was like, ‘This is good. This is a good substitute for the show.’”
Recording a CD during COVID-19 is no easy task, however, and the Glee Clubbers have certainly hit a few obstacles.
Each member has to record their part on their own, and then send in a recording to a shared drive between them all.
“It’s definitely different (because) we’re all our own worst critics,” Lockhart explained. “It’s a lot of extra independent practice and being brave and doing the recording and sending it in with confidence.”
That being said, the group is still optimistic.
“I wish it was normal, we all wish it was normal, but I gotta take in what I can take in,” Flack said. “I just gotta show my love of music with my brothers.”
Typically, the Christmas Variety Show’s funds go to the Glee Club itself. However, this year, the Glee Club elected to have all of their funds go towards the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, a decision that was easy to make for the members.
“We are creating something that we knew would generate revenue, so it only made sense to try to connect that platform and the ability of the Glee Club with people in need,” Wiles said.
Flack added, “We’ve already raised over a thousand meals for our CD, when we’ve only sold maybe two dozen. The very little money makes such a big impact for the food donations. One in every five kids in the Cedar Valley is food insecure, so I’m glad we’re doing something about it.”
Like Flack, Wiles has an immense amount of gratitude towards the group.
“There’s not a part of my life that isn’t better because of Glee Club,” he said. “Glee Club has made me a better teacher, the Glee Club has made me a better colleague, the Glee Club has made me a better father. The guys love each other, and they love what they do and it’s just the best thing in the world.”
Lockhart voiced the same sentiment.
“Glee Club has meant to me, absolutely everything,” he said. “I care about everyone who comes into Glee, regardless of how long they’re there.”
In the end, Wiles hopes the CD brings people together in a time where it’s needed the most.
“It’s an opportunity for the university community and the Cedar Valley and really people from all over Iowa to just celebrate each other,” he said.