• Dartmouth Aires Singing Group

    Photo Credit: Naina Bhalla ’22

    Dartmouth Aires Celebrate 75 Years with an “Infectious Spirit”

    Thursday, May 26, 2022
    News Type


“It’s hard to describe why the bond is so strong in this group. Partly it’s singing together but it’s also sharing different kinds of music across generations.” 

-John Sadd ’70

The lush vocal harmonies of “Dartmouth Undying” filled the enormous atrium, marking a milestone event in Dartmouth history. After the singers hit the last chord, the audience—a packed house—erupted in cheers, giving a standing ovation for the Dartmouth Aires.

It was the group’s 75th anniversary concert—a tour de force featuring over 120 Dartmouth Aires alumni from every decade since the 1960s, plus the current Aires themselves. They sang a range of songs from the contemporary pop hit “Brand New Jones” with inventive dance moves and vocal sound effects to the 1930s classic “Mood Indigo,” plus familiar, beloved Dartmouth songs, and a tribute to members who have passed on titled “Calling Our Children Home.”

The Aires’ reunion committee, headed by Matthew Schwartz ’06, organized a three-day event to commemorate the group’s 75 years, on May 12-14. It included a festive Friday night dinner with small-group singing and a Saturday afternoon concert in the Class of 1982 Engineering and Computer Science Center with its massive atrium, followed by a celebratory dinner at the Dartmouth Skiway.

“As music director of the current Aires, I was nervous how what we were doing would be perceived by the older alumni,” says Patrick Howard ’23. “All of that concern melted away. Everyone was very respectful of the current group, and very adaptive to how we did things. We also learned a lot from the older alumni. For example, when we rehearsed “Mood Indigo,” it was conducted by Greg Fisher ’75. He took it faster than we had been used to with a dramatic swell at the end. We loved what he was doing and decided to incorporate it in our current rendition. It was exciting to share musical ideas with different alumni.”

Dartmouth Aires was founded in 1946 by Paul Zeller as a small spinoff of the Dartmouth Glee Club, with a focus on Broadway show tunes. Since that time, the group has gained a plethora of quirky, fun traditions: brightly colored jackets and ties and special nicknames ending in “o.” Their signature song, “Somewhere (there’s a place for us)” from West Side Story, is sung for each new member when they first join.  

For Steve Severson ’74, the song “Ruins” is one of his favorites and a staple of the ensemble. A formal choral piece by the composer Kodaly, it has a stunning build in the middle that is both haunting and triumphant. “It reflects a time of devastation and war in Hungary. The message is about striving together for a better future and never losing hope, so relevant today. It was a very emotional experience singing this with so many other Aires.”

“There’s absolutely no experience like standing next to a 19-year-old you’ve never met before and singing,” says Aires alumnus John Sadd ’70. “I mean really singing. There’s an infectious spirit. And it’s not just Dartmouth songs but arrangements that have stayed with the group since the ’50s and ’60s and learning new songs that the current Aires are doing.

“It’s hard to describe why the bond is so strong in this group. Partly it’s singing together but it’s also sharing different kinds of music across generations.”