Month: May 2010 (page 1 of 2)

Old classes go, new classes come*

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:

* The opening lines of Radcliffe’s 1911 Class Song, written by Alice Hunnewell.

– Kerry Masteller

Glamorous Nights and Music in May

Ivor Novello, LOC LC-B2-6025-8
Ivor Novello. Bain Collection,
Prints and Photographs Division,
Library of Congress, LC-B2- 6025-8

As May washes over Cambridge, no fan of Jeeves-era British popular music can pass a garden without thinking of Ivor Novello, who gave us several ravishing songs about lilacs and Spring. Novello ranked with Noel Coward as England’s top triple threat of the light spectacular. When not writing, scoring and starring in a procession of backstage comedies and Ruritanian extravaganzas which reigned over Britain’s stages for twenty years, Novello launched careers, fed out-of-work show people, fostered every kind of talent, threw thrilling parties and displayed his faultless profile to best advantage in a range of films.  His death in 1951 gave rise to public grief as intense as that for Princess Diana half a century later.

Ivor Novello. The Dancing Years, I.ii, p.2 (Loeb Music: ML50.N934 D3 1939)
The Dancing Years, Act I.ii, p.2
Loeb Music: ML50.N934 D3 1939
(click to enlarge)

Loeb Music Library recently acquired Novello’s personal rehearsal libretto (ML50.N934 D3 1939, typed on carbon paper in a clip binder) for his  1939 smash hit The Dancing Years. The pages explode with notes, eliminations, elaborations, mapping Novello’s legendary theatrical insight at work. If you can read his writing, he inserts a fairly important plot point – a scene in which Maria, the heroine, tells Rudi, the hero, that she has had his child – in longhand on the back of the previous scene.

It’s much easier to follow the final dialogue for the 1951 film version (PN1997.D362 1950.) Daringly for a show produced in Neville Chamberlain’s England, the stage version of The Dancing Years had concluded with Rudi and Maria’s last meeting in an Austrian prison, where Rudi is under arrest for aiding refugees.   By 1951, political defiance was slightly passe, and the film ends poignantly rather than tragically, with Maria introducing Rudi to his long-lost son.

For Novello, the “joy of giving” Maria sings about was not just a figure of speech: his time, his talent, his influence, his money, his company, he gave them all freely and gave great joy in the process.

For Further Reading, Viewing and Listening: Continue reading

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