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    • Teddy Glover ’21 plays at Commencement in 2018.

    • Concert Choir performs at Commencement in 2018.

Decades of Music: Commencement Songs

Anjali Subramanian ’22
Each year at Hopkins Commencement, one of the many school songs, such as “Marching Song,” “Pomp and Circumstance,” and “O Hopkins School,” is performed by musicians in Concert Choir and Orchestra.
One of the first and most well known Hopkins songs is “Marching Song.” “Marching Song” was composed by former Music teacher, Mary P. Reid, and former English teacher, Victor Reid, in 1942. Performing “Marching Song” became a tradition to wish seniors off, but it is not the only song played. Hopkins instrumentalists and vocalists perform pieces of their choosing, some of which have been performed for years.

The history of “Marching Song” began when it was published in 1942 and shared with students and faculty members. According to school archivist Thom Peters, the Head of Hopkins Grammar School at the time, George Lovell, was “quite fond of singing and thought everyone should know how to sing.” However, “Marching Song” was not played as much after Lovell retired in 1953. Peters said the song was only “repopularized around 2006 by School Psychologist Josh Brant, and former faculty member Silas Meredith when Meredith heard a recording of it and rewrote the harmonies.” While Meredith reinitiated the performances of the “Marching Song,” he wasn’t the one to discover it; instead, it was discovered by a former Hopkins teacher, Dana Blanchard. English teacher Ian Melchinger explained: “Meredith heard the song because Blanchard, who once headed up the Admission office and taught English in the 1980s, sang it to him over the phone. Meredith then invented the three-part harmony arrangement that was sung at Prize Day before the unfurling of the banner.”

Peters remembered the song was “first performed at Prize Day in 2007 with a voluntary group ensemble of faculty members. When Meredith retired, former Head of School Barbara Riley did not want to see the tradition die. She asked Melchinger to take the reins and continue the tradition of assembling a group of faculty singers to rehearse and then perform ‘Marching Song’ at Prize Day.” However, after eight years the tradition ended because Melchinger “asked Dr. Bynum to let go of this not-yet-firm tradition, so we have some room to create new traditions.”

Since the end of “Marching Song,” the Hopkins Arts Department developed new musical traditions. Students in the Hopkins Orchestra join the Commencement program by playing a combination of both traditional and popular songs.

According to Arts Department Chair Robert Smith, “Before the Hopkins Orchestra existed, we used to have a brass quintet play all of the music for Commencement. The group’s name was Colonial Brass, and it consisted of professional
brass players from the New Haven area.” He continued, “At that time, JoAnn Wich was the choral director and her late husband, Bill Wich, played trumpet with the quintet. The Orchestra took over that duty back in 2011 or 2012 and has played ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ for the procession ever since.” The Orchestra also plays a recessional piece which Smith chooses “based on student interest.”

The Hopkins Concert Choir also performs at Commencement. Choral teacher Erika Schroth and her students prepare “two pieces that change from year to year, and for both of those pieces, seniors in the choir come up in their robes
to join in the singing.” Her singers also perform “Irish Blessing” in which “the seniors remain in their seats, and the remaining freshman, sophomore, and junior vocalists sing to the graduating seniors.” Schroth noted that students “really love” the performance of a Hopkins song at Commencement, and find it “very meaningful.” The “Marching Song” represented the Hopkins community for many years and is remembered by many. According to Peters, its “references to battle” and “defying rivals” made it sound “like a song to be sung by fans in the stands.” Although “Marching Song” is not played at Commencement anymore, new musical traditions have caused Peters to believe that Lovell’s “legacy as a
promoter of singing for everyone will continue.”
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