I returned to Mass State a few days early for fall semester, 1938."Ma" Goodwin had selected me as headwaiter at her popular boarding house at the campus end of Fraternity Row, but as I walked to Ma's that first afternoon the wind was blowing so hard I could barely stand up. Rain was coming down in torrents. The biggest storm in campus history, "the Hurricane of '38," had arrived.
This was a truly notable current event, but it was surpassed by another. When my room-mate, Bob McCartney, arrived from Salem he had with him his old friend Doric Alviani. In those Depression-era days, Bob was one of the few on campus who owned a car -- a 1937 Mercury. Doric joined him with a classic of the period, a Packard convertible. The Packard and the warm, furry, Wombat-skin coat worn by its driver became familiar sights. Massachusetts State College would never again be the same. It became dominated, most pleasantly, by Doric Alviani, whose mission was to create a full department of music and a full schedule of musical activity.
I had come from Central High School in Springfield where we had a fine musical tradition, including a 125-voice glee club that had made what were then called "coast to coast" broadcasts. I had worked as vocalist with a big band of the swing era, and just generally loved music. However, when I arrived at Mass State in 1936 I found music low on the list of activities. In fact it was all but non-existent except for band. Things got so bad that I sang regularly with the "Lord Jeff Serenaders" at that college at the other end of town.
Then came Alviani! In short order he scheduled auditions in Memorial Hall and began creating real men's and women's glee clubs. He made such masterful additions as the Statesmen Quartet -- Milton Auerback `39, Myron Hager `40, Stuart Hubbard, and John Osmun `40 were first up -- which, as early as January, 1939, traveled to Pittsfield for a concert.
Then Alviani announced that he was going to do a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, The Mikado. On Feb 16, 1939, the Collegian announced that "Fletcher Prouty [`41] and Betty Moulton [`42] Have Leading Roles." She was "Yum Yum" and I was "Nanki Poo." Neither of us really looked the part, but with Doric's classic guidance we lived through the show, and loved every minute of it.
By this time hurricane repairs had been completed, and the 1939 Index had been dedicated to Doric Alviani. A rare honor for a new arrival, but well-deserved. Alviani had taken his glee clubs to Springfield, where they appeared before more than 3,000 people, and in May, 1939, the men performed at the New York World's Fair. As club manager I arranged to make an album of our college songs in the old RCA studios. My father was an undergraduate when F.D. Griggs '13 wrote some of the best Mass State songs: "Dear Old Massachusetts, "Farewell to Bay State," "Fight on to Victory," "Lead On, O Massachusetts," and the beloved "When Twilight Shadows Deepen." I had known and loved those songs since childhood; Alviani re-arranged them and made them everyone's favorites.
After that busy first year, Doric announced a series of five out-of-town concerts beginning Feb 23, 1940, followed by a full program, with more than 100 singers, in Bowker Auditorium March 1. More new Alviani arrangements of college songs, featuring soloists Margaret Stanton `43 and Ken Collard `43, were followed by a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Gondoliers with sets by Professor James Robertson. Manager Bob McCartney voiced the sentiments of two capacity audiences when he presented a baton to Director Alviani in token of the esteem in which he was held.
The first joint concert of the Amherst and State Glee Clubs, in April of 1940, was a great success: "The enthusiastic audience warmly applauded directors Alviani and Oatley for their splendid work." The Collegian of May 2, 1940, averred that "Alviani has led the rebirth of music on State Campus in his two years here. He has created a general student awakening to musical activities. This whole situation is due to the personality and ability of Doric Alviani and the cooperation of his students."
Doric was outstanding not only on campus. He and I traveled to many places as guest tenor and baritone; he had a marvelous voice and great stage presence. One weekend we were invited to sing at Easter services at a beautiful cathedral in Providence. We drove down on Friday, in that Packard; joined rehearsals on Saturday, then sang to a full church on sunday. This was a typical weekend with Doric. Often Bob McCartney would be with us.
On February 6, 1941, the Collegian reported that the glee clubs would make three records in February, "a climax to the rapid rise of the Glee Club under the direction of Mr. Alviani and a new mark in the musical history of the college." That spring brought the third Gilbert & Sullivan operetta under Alviani. May 20 began "Annual Music Week." And the Glee Club traveled to New York to make another album of State songs. By June 5th the albums were on sale, and the class of '41 prepared to bid farewell to the campus and to one of the finest and most memorable professors any class ever had, for any subject, anywhere.
Now we read in the Summer issue of Massachusetts that our beloved and revered Doric Alviani has passed away, and that shortly before he died he asked us to "Sing a Song for Me." It is altogether fitting that he requested "When Twilight Shadows Deepen." Today that beautiful song remains on a shelf in my office, just as we made it, in all its loveliness, for that album in June 1941.
Farewell Doric, may you rest in peace. We all learned so much of life and beauty from you. You taught us "To lift up hearts and voices in the songs we love so well." We thank you and the college that made all of this possible.
-Fletcher Prouty `41 lives in Alexandria, VA.