The Maplewood Glee Club’s brotherhood of song and fun
If you find joy in singing, you’ve come to the right place. The Maplewood Glee Club is composed of men for whom music offers camaraderie, merrymaking and a shared passion for song.
At the heart of the endeavor is a group of dedicated men who put considerable effort into guiding the glee club, now in its 77th year: Josh Adler, club president; Bryan Kleppe, vice president; Steve Adamczyk and Kevin Weist, co-artistic directors and arrangers; Gregory Scimé, music director; and Dave Malyzsko, intrepid accompanist.
The affable Adler exudes enthusiasm. For him, the choir is a tightly knit brotherhood.
“It’s a shared passion for, and enjoyment of, music that brings us closer,” he says.
Adamczyk and Weist form the club’s artistic center. Their collaborative synergy shapes the choir into an ensemble known for arrangements that delight the ear. Adamczyk has been a part of the club for more than 17 years, and Weist boasts an impressive decade of service.
The two men’s journey with the group has been marked by innovation and experimentation. They’ve pushed boundaries, reimagined classics and introduced a more diverse repertoire. Their association with the club has been nothing short of a beautiful symphony.
“The club has been my musical home for 10 years,” Weist says. “In that time, we’ve grown together, creating performances that captivate audiences, challenge our members and, most importantly, celebrate the power of harmony.”
The club’s success is mirrored by its increasing membership. A decade ago, the club had 18 voices; today it boasts more than 60.
The club traces its origins to a group of World War II veterans, led by Columbia High School graduate Wes Pollitt who, after returning from active duty in 1946, wanted to celebrate the camaraderie and healing power of music. After getting the glee club started, he sang with the group for 25 years.
The glee club now features accomplished singers as well as everyday individuals, united by their shared love of song. Auditions are not required, and the club tries to ensure that new members receive the support and guidance they need.
“We may think about letting Harry Connick Jr. in this year,” Weist jokes. “He keeps asking to join.”
One of the pillars of the club’s success is the extensive exposure its members have to the music they sing. Adamczyk and Weist made a discovery that allows glee club members to practice wherever they are.
“Kevin and I take the time to create learning tracks for our songs,” Adamczyk says. “Each individual part has its own section mixed louder than the others, so members can accurately hear what they will be singing. Now members can listen to their parts between rehearsals. Even if you can’t read music, you can learn your part.
“The most important thing is to enjoy yourself,” he adds. “If you don’t smile, you are just singing notes.”
“A lot of the members don’t read music,” Adler says. “Listening to your own section mixed louder allows people without experience to practice and gain confidence.”
The club’s song choices are selected after careful consideration. The group’s broad repertoire includes Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” and the theme song from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The club concentrates on about 12 songs per semester.
Each season, Weist and Adamczyk provide a list of songs for the club to choose among, occasionally adding their favorites because they know certain numbers have the potential to shine with the voices the glee club currently offers.
“I want the playlist to have a beginning, a middle and an end,” Weist says. “There is a difference between a great song and a great song for a glee club concert.”
The Maplewood Glee Club includes two smaller groups: the Unusual Suspects, with eight members, primarily singing pop music with accompaniment; and the Doo-Wop Preservation Society, with 14 members, dedicated to a cappella music. The criteria for joining the two smaller groups aren’t based solely on vocal prowess but rather the ability to blend voices harmoniously, like crafting a well-balanced recipe.
The Covid-19 pandemic presented a formidable challenge to the club. For one thing, singing groups were considered significant spreaders of the coronavirus. The glee club found a way to keep its members healthy, and spirits high, by offering virtual concerts. Club members recorded their parts individually, and Adamczyk and Weist mixed the voices together. The project was a success.
Their virtual concerts provided an unexpected benefit. “When the group sings together, it’s impossible to hear every individual voice,” Weist says. “The virtual concerts allowed us to hear each member’s voice alone, and it was an amazing experience.”
The club regularly performs at local events and venues. Its holiday show, “Oh, What Fun!”, is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Dec. 10 in St. Joseph Church on Prospect Street. The Kent Place Chamber Singers from Summit are on the bill as well. Tickets cost $20 plus fees, with discounts for senior citizens and students.
“Our concerts usually include local high school choirs,” Adler says. “We sing. The students sing four or five songs, and then we all come together to perform one song. The reflected glow makes us all better.”
The glee club also leaves its mark on the community through its Plumer Memorial Scholarship, which awards $1,500 each year to a local graduating student pursuing a music education.
“We usually receive around 10 applications,” Adamczyk says, “so it’s a very winnable scholarship.”
Singer Sophie Havens of Westfield High School received the 2023 scholarship in the spring. Havens is set to perform at the club’s holiday show.
The Maplewood Glee Club is a story of friendships and harmony.
“Participation in the arts promotes long-term well-being,” Adler says. “We give members a chance to have a happy experience. We are glad to be together. It’s not about perfection. What we do is about celebrating the music.”
Right on cue, Weist jumps in to quip: “Just to be clear: We are very good, though.”
To see the club sing the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," at their spring 2023 concert, click below.
Freelance writer Adrianna Donat is hoping to hear “Deck the Halls” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You” at the glee club’s “Oh, What Fun!” show.