Groups bring Glee to singers

Throughout January, The Seattle Women's Glee Club, The Metropolitan Glee Club and The Off Beats Vocal Jazz Ensemble (all part of the Seattle Glee Clubs) will hold auditions to prepare for their upcoming productions.

The Seattle Glee Clubs give adult amateur vocalists the chance to perform pieces in front of live audiences at venues ranging from retirement homes to jazz clubs.

Music director Bert Gulhaugen, started the club in 1993 to teach vocal lessons in a class setting.

"The idea was that I would teach people who had never sung in choirs choral technique," Gulhaugen said. "This was so that they could prepare to at least get into some community choir."

The Seattle University music major explained that at the club's first meeting, only one man showed up who couldn't match a pitch and was there primarily to meet women. Thus, he decided to form a women's glee club called the Greenwood Women's Glee Club, which later became The Seattle Women's Glee Club.

From this spawned a second group: a mixed ensemble in West Seattle that became The Metropolitan Glee Club. Eventually, the club decided to put on a vaudeville-type show called an Olio show, which created The Olio Players.

The fourth ensemble created within the Seattle Glee Clubs formed in 2003 as The Off Beats Vocal Jazz Ensemble.

"We are trying to create an organization that accommodates a wide rang of abilities," Gulhaugen said.

To do this, some ensembles require more experience than others. The Metropolitan Glee Club is looking for men and women, and no experience is necessary.

The Off Beats Vocal Jazz Ensemble, which has performed at the heralded jazz club Tula's in downtown, seeks basses only, while The Seattle Women's Glee Club will hold auditions for experienced singers.

Gulhaugen and his partner, Jerry Halsey, give voice lessons to those who desire to improve their singing. The music director believes that singers, especially soloists, tend to have strong personalities because performing in front of an audience takes courage, he said.

It is often challenging to deal with these personalities, but he is not tyrannical in his teaching methodology, as singer Deb Ching attests. She is a member of The Seattle Women's Glee Club and Off Beats Vocal Jazz Ensemble, as well as a board member of the group.

"He has infinite patience and extreme passion and love for music," Ching said, "and he has an uncanny way for dealing with a lot of women."

"What I really like about this group is that it is an opportunity to sing again." said Swanson, the Seattle Glee Clubs' marketing director and member of several group. "A lot of us sang in high school and college, and we didn't pursue it. So this club gives us a chance to explore that side again."

According to Gulhaugen, men tend not to join the group's glee clubs, but he is encouraging them to take part as was the tradition when glee clubs originally started in England during the 18th century. Clubs that performed the three-part chorals that repeat had initially consisted of men who were non-musicians.

The Seattle Glee Clubs productions are divided into three sessions: fall, spring and summer. New members pay $20 a month for the first session and then $40 a month for the following.

In the future, Gulhaugen wants to expand the number of ensembles and create a beginners' group that members can advance from. But he still encourages everyone regardless of ability to audition, because he believes art is very important.

"People need to create art, not just listen to it, but create it themselves because it enriches their lives and makes their lives better." Gulhaugen explained. "Whether or not they can create art really well is not the point. The point is that they're doing it."

What can one expect from the auditions?

"Usually those auditioning come to a rehearsal of one of our productions, and I talk to them afterward," Gulhaugen said. "We meet and talk about the organization, run over a few scales and listen to the person's voice. Unless you can't match a pitch at all, we'll try to find something for you."

For more information about auditions, including locations and times, call the Seattle Glee Clubs at 363-3389 or visit

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