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Bruce Montgomery, conductor of the Penn Glee Club, is retiring For the past 50 years, Bruce Montgomery has been a bastion of consistency in an ever-changing university. So it was only fitting that on Saturday night, when Montgomery conducted his very last Glee Club performance before a well-deserved retirement, nearly 1,000 of his closest friends and former students came to celebrate his long and much-admired career. The beloved Montgomery -- known to friends as "Monty" -- has conducted both the Penn Glee Club and Penn Singers for decades. For about two hours, Zellerbach Theatre was pervaded by a familiar yet bittersweet tune. Montgomery had the chance to witness Glee Club members past and present, as both the Grand Alumni Chorus -- made up of current students and alumni -- and the current ensemble performed songs from Monty's reign. For Monty's swan song, few in the auditorium were left with dry eyes. Around him sat an assemblage of friends and admirers, and before him stood a living retrospective of his life at Penn. Indeed, men who sang during Montgomery's first year as conductor stood beside current freshmen tied in sentiment and song. "I guess Lou Gehrig said it best on the day he retired when he said, 'Today, I'm the luckiest man in the world,'" Montgomery told the audience at the beginning of the performance. The show itself was a warm recap of Montgomery's musical career, with most of the pieces either written or arranged by the conductor himself. The repertoire combined traditional pieces, folk songs and a flamboyant Broadway-like number, "By The Sea" -- performed by the current Glee Club -- complete with tumblers, backflips and a human pyramid. Yet rather than end on a grand theatrical note as might be appropriate for a half-century of musical service, the show quietly finished with a mellow tribute to Penn, entitled "Afterglow," that Monty had written. Throughout the show, rather than acknowledge his own achievements, Montgomery consistently directed the applause toward the singers and musicians themselves. Still, while the show celebrated Montgomery's music, a reception afterward showcased the man. Accolades flowed freely at the invite-only reception, as Glee Club members and academics of various ages and backgrounds expressed what the music of Bruce Montgomery meant to them. Even University President Judith Rodin made an appearance, prepared with a short poem to honor Montgomery's departure. Robert Suskind, a 1954 Penn graduate and current member of the Grand Alumni Chorus, was a student when Montgomery first arrived at the school. "You can't find a more wonderful human being," a teary-eyed Suskind said. "He is the heart and soul of the Glee Club. It's a terrible loss." College senior Aaron Perlis, the current Glee Club president and one of several members who has worked with Montgomery for four years, remarked that he was a "72-year-old guy capable of joking around with 18- to 22-year-olds." "Bruce has been an absolute friend and mentor who has always been there," Perlis added.

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