With the tradition of the Alma Mater and other Cornell songs dating back to shortly after students first arrived in 1868, music has had a very rich history at Cornell University. Between the women's Chorus, the men's Glee Club, and an abundance of musical ensembles and courses of study, Cornell University has cherished this art and watched it flourish. As one of the esteemed music ensembles of the university, the Chorus helps to keep the tradition of song and Big Red pride alive through the inclusion of Cornell Songs at the end of every concert, informal performances of the Evening Song and others around campus, and, most recently, recording for the Cornell Songs 150th anniversary album.
Words: Wilmot Moses Smith, Class of 1874, and Archibald Croswell Weeks, Class of 1872
Music: H. S. Thompson
Written: 1857 (music), 1870 (words)
Written by two roommates around 1870, the Cornell Alma Mater is considered to be the most widely copied alma mater in existence. The original melody is taken from a typical song of the time, Annie Lisle, a melancholy ballad of a heroine with tuberculosis written by Boston musician H. S. Thompson in the late 1850s. Although Cornell is believed to be the first school to have used the melody for its alma mater, it has since been copied by high schools and universities around the world, including Indiana University, University of Missouri, University of Georgia, University of North Carolina, and even the American University in Beirut, many of which contain lyrics similar to the Cornell lyrics.
Cornell's lyricists were Wilmot M. Smith 1874 and Archibald C. Weeks 1872, who lived at 60 North Tioga Street in Ithaca while attending Cornell. Interested in creating a popular school song, the two quickly sketched out six verses by alternating each line between the two. The currently accepted lyrics differ slightly, likely the result of an arranger named Colin K. Urquhart who revised them for publication in the late 1800s.
Far above Cayuga's waters,
With its waves of blue,
Stands our noble alma mater,
Glorious to view.
Lift the chorus, speed it onward,
Loud her praises tell;
Hail to thee, our alma mater!
Hail, all hail, Cornell!
Far above the busy humming
Of the bustling town,
Reared against the arch of heaven,
Looks she proudly down.
Words: Henry Tyrrell, Class of 1880
Music: Traditional (O Tannenbaum)
Written: 1877 (words)
Along with the Alma Mater, The “Evening Song” holds a special place in the pantheon of Cornell songs. Written by Henry Tyrrell and first published in 1877 in the Cornell Era and sung to the tune of “O Tannenbaum,” the “Evening Song” is performed directly before the Alma Mater at most Chorus and Glee Club performances. It is often also heard across campus being played on the chimes of McGraw Tower or being sung by the Chorus and Glee Club in between the groups’ rehearsals on Wednesday evenings as the sun sets over the beautiful hills to the west of Cornell’s campus.
When the sun fades far away
In the crimson of the west,
And the voices of the day
Murmur low and sink to rest,
Music with the twilight falls
O'er the dreaming lake and dell;
'Tis an echo from the walls
Of our own, our fair Cornell.
Welcome night and welcome rest;
Fading music fare thee well!
Joy to all we love the best,
Love to thee our fair Cornell!
Words: Albert William Smith, Class of 1878
Music: George Franklin Pond, Class of 1910
Written: 1921 (words), 1928 (music)
I wake at night and think I hear remembered chimes.
And mem'ry brings in visions clear Enchanted times.
Beneath green elms with branches bowed,
In springtime suns,
Or touching elbows in a crowd
Of eager ones.
Again, I'm hurrying past the tow'rs
Or with the teams,
Or spending precious idling hours in golden dreams.
Of the kindly heart,
The friendly hand,
My love burns clear for you in distant land!
O fates that shape the lives of men,
Vouchsafe that I,
Before I die,
May tread "The Hill" again!
Give My Regards To Davy
Words: Charles Edward Tourison, Class of 1906, W. L. Umstad, Class of 1906, and Bill Forbes, Class of 1906
Music: George M. Cohan
Despite somewhat racy subject matter, “Give My Regards to Davy” has become one of the best-loved Cornell songs. Sung to the tune of George M. Cohan’s “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “Davy” relates the story of a student being expelled for drinking too heavily. The student assures his fellow “pikers” (freshmen) that he will return to campus to join them at the local bar, Theodore Zinck’s. The student also tongue-in-cheekily requests that his friends send his regards to David Fletcher “Davy” Hoy, the notoriously strict registrar, and Thomas Frederick “Tee Fee” Crane, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who were responsible for his expulsion.
Give my regards to Davy, remember me to Tee Fee Crane.
Tell all the pikers on the hill that I'll be back again.
Tell them just how I busted lapping up the high highball.
We'll all have drinks at Theodore Zinck's when I get back next fall!
Words: Robert Shapiro, Class of 2004
Music: Robert Shapiro, Class of 2004
The newest addition to the collection of Cornell songs, "Quarter Bells" captures the magic of one of the most ubiquitous Cornell experiences: hearing the chimes that ring from McGraw Tower every quarter of an hour. Written by an anonymous contributor to the Cornell Yearbook in 1990 and composed by Robert Shapiro, Glee Club alumnus, for the Chorus, "Quarter Bells" has swiftly become a mainstay in Chorus concerts. Along with "The Hill," Shapiro's 2004 contribution to Cornell's rich musical history, while only performed by the Chorus, occupies a special place in the hearts of Chorus and Glee Club members alike.
Once more I sit me at the feet of
Thoughts that have never died;
While college memories sad and sweet,
In eternal bond are tied.
Then, knowing me of today
From study of We before
I leave the college door.
And the bells in the tower say
“Ding dong, ding dong.”
The hour is filled.
I’ve sung the college song.
Song of the Classes
Words: Frank Addison Abbott, Class of 1890
Written: 1890 (words)
Sung to the tune of Friedrich Flemming’s hymn “Integer Vitae,” “Song of the Classes” has evolved over time with the groups that sing it. The original text was written by Frank A. Abbott in 1890, though the refrain is the only part of the song not to have undergone significant alterations to accommodate changes in student habits since it was first written. For instance, the original junior verse was: “Oh, there is the junior, he’s smoking his pipe,/His mood mellows out over lager and tripe;/He knows about Zinck’s and the others full well,/ He’s not been a-wasting his time at Cornell.”
Over the years, numerous variations of the song have appeared, as have extra verses for alumni, for women—as well as a full separate version, which has fallen out of use, for the Chorus—and even a verse for the members of the Glee Club who have beards. Always a source of humor, “The Song of the Classes” preserves some generations-old lyrics while changing and evolving to suit its audience.
Oh, I am a freshman, I’ve been here one week.
I arrived feeling brilliant, important, and chic.
But somehow I’m already eight weeks behind.
I’ve gained 30 pounds, and I’m losing my mind!
Oh, I am the sophomore, with charm, grace, and looks.
The things I can teach you, you won’t learn in books.
I joined a sorority; the parties are swell,
But I fear that my grades are going to--
Oh, I am a junior, I’m taking my ease.
I go to my classes whenever I please.
I frequent the bars, bartenders as well.
I ain’t been a-wastin’ my time at Cornell!
Oh, I am the senior, tormented with doubt.
My time at Cornell has almost run out!
The world situation has me quite annoyed.
You see, I'm magna cum laude, but still unemployed.
Oh it’s one, two, and three, four,
We all fall in line,
To the tune of our profs
We must always keep time,
And it's work like a jerk
‘Til your eyes ache like hell,
In this grand institution, this school of Cornell.
Strike Up a Song to Cornell
Words: Richard Henry Lee, Class of 1941
Music: Richard Henry Lee, Class of 1941
Strike up a song to Cornell
And let the swelling chorus rise before us,
Strike up a song to Cornell
And set the campus ringing with our singing.
Fill the glasses with a song,
And drink the magic music spell;
We will sound the joy of life intense
In a rousing toast to Cornell.
Strike up a song to Cornell;
Come let us strike up a song to Cornell;
Strike up a song to Cornell!
The Big Red Team
Words: Romeyn Berry, Class of 1904
Music: Charles Edward Tourison, Class of 1906
The work of two students, Romeyn Berry '04, who was responsible for the lyrics, and Charles E. Tourison '06, head of the Glee Club, who composed the tune, the song "The Big Red Team" has made perhaps the biggest influence on Cornell culture of any song, except perhaps the "Evening Song" and "Alma Mater." Penned in 1904, "The Big Red Team" was submitted to a contest organized by one of Cornell's cheerleaders, who offered a reward to anyone who could write an original football fight song for Cornell. The song won the competition and quickly caught on as one of the most popular Cornell songs. In fact, the song became so popular among the students that Cornell began to use the name "Big Red" for all of its sports teams. While it is widely believed that Berry had written "The Big Red Team" to celebrate the Cornell Big Red, it is in fact the team's name that celebrates the song!
See them plunging down to the goal,
See the ruddy banners stream;
Hear the crashing echoes roll
As we cheer for the Big Red Team!
Hey! Hey! Hey!
Cheer ‘til the sound
wakes the blue hills around;
Make the scream of the north wind yield
To the strength of the yell
From the hills of Cornell
As the Big Red Team takes the field!
Ten thousand strong
We march, march along
From our home on the grey rock height,
Oh, the vict’ry is sealed
When the team takes the field
As we cheer for the Red and White.
Where the towers rise o’er the lake,
There our fires in the night shall gleam;
And the ivied walls shall quake
As we cheer for the Big Red team.
Hey! Hey! Hey!
Fight for Cornell
Words: Kenneth Roberts, Class of 1908
Music: Theodore Julius Lindorff, Class of 1907
From rocky height
We come to fight
For the name Cornell has made,
And we will cheer
Without a fear
That her good name will ever fade.
Fight to the end,
Don’t break or bend
Until our team has won the game;
And fight for might, for right, for Cornell’s name
For the glory that brings us fame.
Make all advances strong and sure today.
Take all the chances fate throws in the way.
Fight for the glory that is earned so well;
Victory makes history so fight for Cornell!
My Old Cornell
Words: Will A. Dillon
Music: Will A. Dillon
I am dreaming tonight of my old college days.
My dear alma mater is with me always.
Something is calling me back once again.
Back where I want to remain.
Oh, I want to go back to the old days,
The good old days on the hill.
Back to my Cornell, for that’s where they all yell Cornell.
I yell Cornell.
Far above Cayuga’s waters I hear those chiming bells.
I’m longing and yearning and always returning to my old Cornell.
I can see the old chapel way up on the hill.
I hear the chimes ringing and calling me still.
Four years are over, diplomas are in,
When will we all meet again?