The 1936 Concert on the Lawn of the Virginia Glee Club, Harry Rogers Pratt, director, was the first modern occurrence of the Concert on the Lawn concept, including free admission and less formal program.
The concert, held May 4, 1936 at the end of the 1935-1936 season, was actually performed as a community sing on the steps of the Rotunda, in which all who could sing were invited to join the Glee Club. Pratt directed and performed from a "mighty melodeon" borrowed from St. Paul's Memorial Church. The event was modeled after similar events traditionally held at Princeton, Harvard, and Yale.
Pratt told College Topics regarding the performance: "Ability to sing is not a pre-requisite. Those who think they can sing are wanted especially. Tenors will be protected by Beta and Captain Mack. Baying, bellowing, and booing will be allowed. 'Sweet Adeline' will be sung as often as demand warrants."
A review of the concert in College Topics gives the atmosphere of the concert:
With beer in front of them, beer in back of them, beer inside of them, "Pratt's Boys" went to town last night and lifted the skies from the steps of the Rotunda.Some say the interlude was caused by a shortage of foaming brew, but whatever it was, either the Lure of the Lawn or the Radiance of the Rotunda, it was good!
The flitting ghostly figures that came running out of the nowhere to see what had happened to the quiet solitude showed conclusively by their applause that it was good. Whistles, cheers and stamping in between songs was sufficient proof to the Glee Club that their final gathering was their greatest success. It further showed that informal "step-singing" (and it was informal) has a great future.
Beerly dampened steps may have been the cause for the stimulating effect of the Gleemen, but it's doubtful, for spontaneous song cannot be dampened even by "soft" drink. With Mr. Pratt leading and Guy Hope substituting here and there, the "Boys" started off with "Swanee River." Before it was finished, the Rotunda stpes started filling up with astonished, but highly pleased onlookers. The concert was on! Between gulps of beer (carried from the party in Dixie cups) "Ten Thousand Voices" and Massa's in Da Cold, Cold Ground" were heard. In the interlude (while Mr. Pratt sounded pitch) cries and shouts for "Hospodi" were heard. Finally the mob ruled and "Hospodi Pomilui" got under way. We didn't know quite what it was either, but when the final rendition was done (we say final for a few "beer soured notes" first held sway) we knew that we had heard some first-class singing. If you've never heard "Hospodi," a Russian anthem, get "Pratt's Boys" to sing it.
"Old Harry Pratt, he ain't what he use to be" was the next unexpected offering and it continued until all the members of the retiring staff had received their "song of recognition." By this time, the Gleemen thought that perhaps "the other keg" had arrived and they were anxious to get "Bock." So, with a fitting climax to a very extemporaneous concert (and probably their best) "The Good Old Song" rang out loud and clear. Then signing, humming, whistling and harmonizing, "Pratt's Boys" wandered down the lawn and to those on the steps, strains of "Good Night Ladies" and "One Keg of Beer" drifted back through the night. Once again the dignity, silence and [unintelligible] of the Lawn held sway!
- "Rotunda Step-Singing to be Inaugurated This Coming Sunday". College Topics. 1936-04-30. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ng4tAAAAIBAJ&sjid=52kEAAAAIBAJ&dq=university-of-virginia%20glee-club&pg=2161%2C2342434.
- Strauss, F. Robert (1936-05-05). "Happy Beer-Filled Gleemen Render Own 'Step-Singing'". College Topics: p. 1. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ng4tAAAAIBAJ&sjid=52kEAAAAIBAJ&dq=glee%20club&pg=6056%2C2397346.