102-Year-Old Cache Valley Men's Chorus Attracting New Audiences
The Imperial Glee Club has been performing for 102 years. The Cache Valley-based group performs show tunes, religious songs, patriotic pieces and of course Christmas classics. But according to some, audiences for this type of music are going away.
“As the years go by, our audience has kind of died off. So we’re trying to keep it revitalized and relevant in today’s world,” said Craig Mortensen, a 25-year member of the Imperial Glee Club.
Mortensen has held nearly every position in the club including president, and has arranged over 60 pieces of music. He said over the years other genres of music have become more popular and new performance groups have emerged in the valley, taking talented singers and making it harder to compete.
“That’s one reason why I’ve been arranging so much music because if you go back in our files, the stuff from many years ago is not as relevant in today’s world,” Mortensen said. “So as I hear new pieces, things that touch me personally, then I write those for four part male chorus.”
When the movie Les Miserable came out, the songs became popular so Mortensen arranged music from the movie to perform in spring concerts. He even arranges music relevant to current topics of discussion.
“For instance, right now relevant would be, Put Your Hand Over Your Heart When The Flag Goes By, which is a song and the music by Janice Kapp Perry and the words by Orrin Hatch,” Mortensen said. “They gave me special permission to arrange that and perform it.”
For this time of year, Mortensen is arranging new and popular Christmas songs to perform like Mary Did You Know? and Born Is The Light Of The World.
The Imperial Glee Club is even recruiting young talent like Benjamin Krutsch from Utah State University to help attract new audiences.
“I feel like it can be very effective because I study opera,” Krutsch said. ”It’s an antiquity kind of, if I’m using that word correctly. Combing the old styles and the new styles, it helps to have something that’s available for everyone and it allows for younger listeners to hear the older material and I think there’s a lot of value to be had there.”
Krutsch isn’t singing full time with the Club.
“Right now I’m focusing on my solo work and I’m applying to graduate programs,” Krutsch said. “But I do have plans to be involved in community music for my entire life.”
Spending time with members of the Imperial Glee Club has reminded Krutsch why music is so important to him.
“It’s been really fun to see how much the members love music and how much they enjoy being there,” Krutsch said. “It’s kind of nice because being a student it starts to get into the business aspect and you kind of lose that magic. These men in the Glee Club, they just want to be there, you can see the twinkle in their eyes and it’s kind of inspiring. “