The grass is growing along the edges of the paths in Harvard Yard; the banners are hung in Tercentenary Theatre; seniors are making last rounds of their favorite haunts in Cambridge: it’s time for Commencement and class reunions.
Anyone who works in a college or university music library or archives is used to requests from alumni for copies of their favorite college songs; while for years we faxed blurry copies of “Fair Harvard” all over the world, we’re very glad to say copies of both the 1922 edition of the Glee Club’s Harvard Song Book and the 1909 edition of A Book of Radcliffe College Songs are now available online.
The 1922 Harvard Song Book, like many other university anthologies, is a combination of songs specific to the University, and especially to sporting events (“Soldiers Field,” “Poor Old Yale,” and others), with songs from Glee Club concerts and revues (“The Skye Boat Song,” “Good Night, Ladies,” “Jingle Bells”). Certainly, there are many other places to get a copy of “Gaudeamus Igitur,” but with this volume and a cadre of willing singers, all you really need are two football teams and an arena to recreate your own Harvard-Yale game.
The 1909 A Book of Radcliffe College Songs is a new addition to our digital library; its editors collected not only songs about the college, but some of the standard choral repertoire being performed by the students’ music clubs and songs composed for Radcliffe’s vibrant tradition of amateur theatricals. Later editions of the college song book – not yet digitized – reveal intriguing changes in the music that was most associated with the school by its own students: in the 1916 songbook, for example, most of the choral works were replaced by Radcliffe songs, and a new section of rally lyrics provides evidence for the popularity of basketball at women’s colleges.
Whether you’re graduating and leaving Cambridge, or returning to Harvard after a long time away, we hope that these collections will remind you of your own college experiences.
For further exploration:
- While it’s impossible to fully recreate online the print (and image, and object) collections of the Harvard University Archives and the Radcliffe College Archives at the Schlesinger Library, The Harvard Radcliffe Online Historical Reference Shelf is a fantastic starting point for research about the University.
- For those of you searching for more music, HOLLIS includes a selection of digital facsimiles of other 19th- and early 20th-century student songbooks…even Yale’s.
* The opening lines of Radcliffe’s 1911 Class Song, written by Alice Hunnewell.
– Kerry Masteller
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