Behind the scenes with the historic Morehouse College Glee Club

The fall semester is busy for the 50 students in the 116-year-old club

Morehouse College Glee Club
The MCGC performs annual Christmas concerts with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Spelman College Glee Club

Photograph courtesy of Morehouse College

Members of the Morehouse College Glee Club nearly collide with each other rushing into place for 4 p.m. rehearsal. Students open their binders of sheet music, and those who can’t find today’s first song look over their neighbors’ shoulders. Their director, Dr. David Morrow, takes his station in front, and everyone stands tall. Morrow’s baton sets the tempo as he shouts, “Ready, and go!”

The MCGC sings: “Here we stand, surrogate voices—of those who have been silenced—by tragedy, indifference, and time—” Morrow stops the students before they breathe in for the refrain. “You don’t want it to seem like you don’t care. Here we stand,” Morrow says with force. “I want you to be proud of that line. Let’s sing together. Ready, and go!”

The fall semester is busy for the 50 students in the MCGC. They rehearse for 90 minutes at a time, four days a week, for a slate of performances in December, including the Morehouse-Spelman Christmas Carol Concerts from December 1 to 3 and Christmas with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra from December 9 to 10.

In the rehearsal room, the singing starts and stops, as Morrow makes small corrections to “See the Victory Before Us and Walk On!,” composed by Morehouse music professor Dr. Uzee Brown Jr. “I know the students are ready to perform,” Morrow says. “But it’s that time of year where they don’t want to sing to each other anymore.”

Morrow is the third permanent director in the 116-year history of the MCGC. He joined as a student in 1976 and returned as assistant director in 1981. Since Morrow became director, in 1987, the MCGC has made music for Atlanta’s greatest moments, performing at Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994 and the 1996 Olympic Games. They have also performed on the international stage in Russia, South Africa, the Bahamas, and, last summer, Nigeria.
The director believes that tradition is a recipe for their success. The rhythms of a new-member reception, senior banquet, and even the days and times of practices were adopted from his predecessor, Dr. Wendell Phillips Whalum. The songs they perform are MCGC classics, and Morrow never misses a rehearsal.

“He gives us 110 percent every day, and we have to make sure we are on his level,” says Coby Bennett, a senior tenor 2 from Memphis.

“I used to get so tired,” adds Jordan Stewart, a junior bass from Atlanta. “But you grow to love being with your siblings and creating music that helps people feel something.”

Bennett and Stewart especially look forward to the two-week Spring Tour. They have fond memories of running around New York City in 2022, trying out deli sandwiches between performances. “The Spring Tour is like a victory lap after your work,” says Stewart. “You can just jump up and sing your butt off.”

The final song of rehearsal is “Betelehemu,” a Yoruba Christmas carol composed by Morehouse graduate Babatunde Olatunji. The MCGC has sung the carol since 1965, and today, the students sing it well. Morrow lets the song ride out to its finish, and some students smile as the song ends.

“If we work hard and we have a good performance, I’m in heaven,” Morrow says. “That means it all works well: our rehearsal and how we represented Morehouse College.”

This article appears in our December 2023 issue.