Glee club

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The term glee club derives from the word glee, which originated in Great Britain (approximately 1603) and does not refer to the mood of the music or the singers, but to the glee, a specific form of English part song.

The first specifically named Glee Club appeared in the Newcastle Coffee House in London in 1787, after which glee clubs became very popular in Britain until the mid-1850s, after which they were gradually replaced by more encompassing choral societies.

In a later development, glee clubs would become popular in most American schools in the late 19th century, and become established as a vested tradition in American high schools till this day. However, the USA understanding of the word is a musical group or choir group, which specializes in the singing of short songs — i.e. glees — as trios or quartets. The term is not really used in this sense in South Africa.

The British term occurs in South Africa in the Garrison theatre tradition, e.g. with such groups as the Lanarkshire Glee Club (1869).


F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p.263

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