That was the clincher. It was predictable which way the group would go. No one wanted to lose Steve or any of the other Glee Clubbers in our group, so they voted, a few somewhat reluctantly but unanimously, to go with the Glee Club. I pleaded with Og Tanner to call another special meeting and give me a chance to be heard.
As Business Manager, I felt I deserved that opportunity, and Og agreed, though he warned me that the group had already made up its mind. Remembering how difficult it is to make a case in an open discussion, when everyone is interrupting and continually diverting the train of thought, I decided to write out my presentation.
That proved to be the case, as I presented all the reasons for our going with the Triangle Club. I wish I still had that hand-written speech, but I have no idea where it is. It could be somewhere in whatever files have been saved from that first year. Be that as it may, I can remember the gist of my presentation. I acknowledged the difficulty of the choice with which they were faced and expressed my appreciation for their sensitivity to the conflicting obligations imposed upon Steve and the other Nassoon Glee Clubbers.
I acknowledged the traditional relationship we had with the Glee Club and the enjoyment that the Nassoons had derived from that relationship. Then I proceeded to make the case for being in the Triangle show. The featured billing and the broad public exposure on tour would be tremendous assets in establishing ourselves as a separate and legitimate entity on campus.
I and others had been working hard to obtain a charter from the University. I Tigertown Blues that going with the Glee Club was a step backward from becoming an independent organization. Before they were the Nassoons the original group had been a Glee Club octet. Such a relationship was quite different from being the featured singing group in a Triangle show. They had hoped we would be able to establish the Nassoons as a chartered organization. I acknowledged again the difficulty of their choice, but appealed to the Glee Clubbers to consider their relative value to the two organizations.
The loss of three or four members would be much more devastating to the Nassoons than to the Glee Club. It would be hard enough to lose Steve, let alone anyone else. We had heard about the fabulous parties in the different cities —as one Triangle show veteran put it, "ten days of wine, women, and song!
I urged them to rescind their previous decision and vote again. When I had finished speaking the group was quiet. I think we should rethink our decision. They had done a complete Tigertown Blues around, and it was unanimous! There were eleven of us present. Only Steve Kurtz was missing.
In my recent telephone conversation with Jack Pemberton he remembered having resigned from the Glee Club. Jack Taylor, though he had supported the decision to go with the Triangle show, recalled that he was under some pressure academically and felt that Tigertown Blues could not afford the time to go on tour with the Triangle show. So we had lost a second bass soloist and a star tenor, but there would be ten Nassoons singing in the Triangle show, and the remaining voices were distributed evenly enough to get the blend we needed.
Steve Kurtz was very gracious about our decision, and he and I had a chance to rehash the whole process together. Steve bore me no hard feelings for having persuaded the group to reverse their previous decision, and I certainly understood why he had to remain with the Glee Club of which he had been elected President.
Music Prof. Merrill Knappwho happened to be Director of the Glee Club! A member of the Yale Whiffenpoofs in his undergraduate days, Prof. Knapp had helped the original Glee Club octet get started, and he had a special place in his heart for the Nassoons.
As I remember, he was also a member of the University's committee responsible for granting charters to non-athletic organizations on campus. I am sad to report that of the original twelve reconstituted Nassoons, only three of us are still living. Later in this article I have included links to obituaries for some of the deceased members.
It has been hard to lose such good friends over the years, and each death has stirred wonderful memories of that first amazing year, when twelve men from several different classes, including mostly returning veterans, had to start from scratch and develop a repertoire in a few short weeks.
Along with our own new arrangements we wanted to include some of the favorite songs of the pre-WWII Nassoons, whose "modern" harmonization had distinguished them from other college men's a cappella groups like the Yale Whiffenpoofs, with their traditional four-part harmony.
The accomplishment was all the more remarkable considering that we had never sung together as a group, and we had no members of the earlier Nassoons to serve as a nucleus to build upon. We would concentrate on singing to the focal point of our arc, melding our voices into one smooth sound on every chord. We would hold notes until we could feel the blend, nodding in delight to one another as we achieved just the right effect. With five- six- and even some seven-note chords each one of us had to be right on pitch!
Our rehearsals were strictly private. We wanted no one to hear us until we were ready for our public debut. Some of our group had been chosen by a group of the original Nassoons, who returned I believe it was on Friday afternoon, May 17,to recruit a new group of Nassoons.
I had been back on campus a few times and had learned that the Nassoons were going to be holding tryouts. Knowing how important that was to me, my very obliging superior officer, Cdr. Frank Levy, gave me shore leave that afternoon, Tigertown Blues I could be there for the tryouts.
I took a train to Princeton Junction and caught the "Dinky" into Princeton in plenty of time. I was both pleased and somewhat intimidated by the large number of students who were there for the tryouts.
Each of us was grilled by our Nassoon judges, who checked our pitch and range and interval accuracy, and then had us sing our appropriate part in a quartet with three of them. The song was "My Sweet," to which they had the sheet music for those who needed it. That song will always have a special place in my heart! You can imagine how thrilled I was at the end of the day to learn that I was one of the fortunate few to be chosen.
The older Nassoons did not select a full complement that day, but charged the eight or nine of us who had been selected to hold tryouts at the beginning of the fall semester to round out our group.
That we did, and again a surprising number of undergraduates showed up for the tryouts. I can't trust my memory as to who was selected at this time, but Jack Pemberton '48, a wonderful first tenor, told me that he was one of them. Jack Pemberton, Jack Taylor, and I are the three surviving members of the original twelve, many of whom had accomplished amazing things in their lifetime.
But that's another story. We also selected eight candidates, two for each part, as alternates. They were to be what we called a "feeder octet," who would practice our numbers and be available as needed. It was predictable that the feeder octet would enjoy singing together, so much so that they decided "Who needs the Nassoons? The song was an immediate hit, even though I was chosen to sing the opening solo that first year.
Later on it became a Nassoons' tradition for the current president to sing the solo. When I wrote the lyrics Princeton was an all-male college. Schirmer, Inc. Still the Nassoons!
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