Uni’s Alma Mater: History, controversy and apathy
[Posted September 15, 2017] We got an enormous amount of response to our September 4 post about Uni’s school song. We shared a Uni “Spirit Song” sheet passed on by UHEF co-President Ivan Finkle ‘50, which included our alma mater as follows:
Standing high upon the hill-slopes
By Pacific’s pounding blue,
Mother of our fondest memories,
Alma Mater! Hail to you!
May we never prove unworthy,
Bow your head, or cause you tears,
Let your radiance shine upon us,
Seen through mist of space and years,
Let your radiance shine upon us,
seen through mist of space and years.
We got more reaction to this than just about anything else we’ve ever published! Some of the most noteworthy responses:
“I remember the Alma Mater. I later learned that the music is the German National Anthem. I don’t know the name of the composer. I am sure this was our Alma Mater during the War. I have always wondered about the Alma Mater origin. I don’t know if it is still the German National Anthem. Years ago I listened to German folk music on the radio, and heard the anthem often.”
~ Marv Tanner S ‘51
“We were singing the Alma Mater in 1952. We were taught it by the Music Teacher Edith Provan. Was a great teacher.”
~ Lloyd R. Hurst S ‘52
Re your question about the Alma Mater, we sang it during my tenure at Uni (Fall ’52 thru ’55). The tune is ‘Austria,’ by Haydn,1797, found in most hymnals, and familiar as the German national anthem. I still remember it, though I always thought the line was ‘…Pacific’s bounding blue…,’ not ‘pounding’ blue.”
~ Al Gunby, S’ 55
“The ‘Alma Mater’ and ‘On to Victory’ were current 1952-1955; I don’t know how long before or after those years but we sang them at all games during that period. The tune for the ‘Alma Mater’ is ‘Deutschland Uber Alles,’ which was the German National Anthem and – as you can imagine – there was some controversy about use of that tune, Notwithstanding, it was a good Alma Mater. You can hear the tune here.”
~ Jim Kurtz S ’55
“Greetings, my fellow Warriors/Wildcats. The music was composed by Franz Joseph Haydn in 1797. It was later hijacked by the Nazis, but it’s a good tune and deserves to be brought back.”
~ Rosine Reynolds S ‘55 Grecians
“The Alma Mater music comes from an old hymn, ‘Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah,’ written by Welshman William Williams in 1745. It was translated from Welsh into English in 1771. He was an Anglican priest and died in 1791.”
~ Susan (Demerjan) Hansen Van Derripe, S ‘60
“The Alma Mater was still sung regularly at Uni when I was a student. I graduated with the class of 1964. The band played it at graduation each year.
“I have attached a copy of the music from the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal. The last line of music was repeated in order for the words to fit.
The tune was also used as the Austrian National Anthem, and I suspect it may have been discontinued because of the Hitler association. This didn’t seem to be a problem at the end of World War II. It seems a shame to let Hitler ruin a perfectly good piece of Haydn.”
~ Bill Beck ’64
“My answer is YES. I absolutely knew Uni has an Alma Mater, and we used to sing it when I was at Uni (S ’66).
“The first line was slightly different. Instead of ‘Standing high upon the hill slopes…,’ the version I learned said ‘…hill side…’ The song can be found in church hymn books under the name ‘Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,’ and it is noted as an Austrian hymn — music written by Franz Joseph Haydn.
“It is also known as the German National Anthem. The only consolation I have about that is that Uni came into existence prior to World War II, and hopefully began using the tune before all the heinous activities began. I’m surprised that they didn’t find a new tune later on, but apparently they didn’t because it was still in use when I was a student.”
~ Carol Cherman S ‘66
“The ‘Spirit Song’ brings back the memory of standing in the original auditorium at Freshman orientation and singing this for the first time
“The tune is by Wagner (German composer); you were made to stand and raise your right hand and sign this song that had the SAME tune as the German Anthem, sung during WWII by the Nazis! I remember going home and telling my Dad how uncomfortable I was.”
~ Rebecca (Piatt) Gonzalez S ‘66
“I was a member of Uni’s W ’66 class and we stood and sang the alma mater at the conclusion of every football game. I recall the first line as ‘Standing high upon the hillside.’ The tune was, unfortunately, the same as the German national anthem. Legend had it that a teacher who had fled Germany during the rise of Nazi-ism came out of the classroom building while the students were standing with arms raised in a victory salute singing the alma mater. Supposedly she heard the tune, saw the students with their arms raised and had a breakdown as she flashed back to Nazi Germany. I have no idea if there is any truth to this tale.”
~ Diane (Adler) Feldon W ’66
“In this newsletter you have the song sheet with words to Uni alma mater. I graduated in 1967 and my father(child of survivors) was shocked to hear the song sung to the tune of ‘Deutschland Uber Alles’ which frequently was played for Hitler.
“Perhaps a bit of info that only an older grad would know!”
~ Valerie Neufeld Gebroe ‘67
“Yes that was our Alma Mater while I was at Uni from ’67-’70. However we were standing on a hill side instead of a slope. I remember the song very well even the tune, as it was sung at every football game. You mean that they don’t sing it any longer? What a shame, school pride.”
~ Tracie Thayer Ireland ’70
“The music for the Alma Mater is the same as the one-time German national anthem, ‘Deutschland Uber Alles.’ It was rumored to have been adopted in the mid 1930’s. My class was still using it. I don’t know when it was dropped by Uni. Proud Warrior.”
~ Albert Wong ‘71
The extra-credit award for the most complete response goes to Marc Rosen ‘64:
“With regards to the Unihi Alma Mater, we were quite familiar with the song. It is the music that the went with the lyrics that stopped everyone!
“The Alma Mater was sung to the tune of the Emperor’s Hymn by the Austrian composer, Franz Joseph Haydn in 1797. It was meant to be the German version of ‘God Save the King’ for Emperor Francis II (1768-1835).
“The Emperor’s Hymn became the music for the German National Anthem, Das Deutschlandlied, in 1922. The tune became all too well-known during the Nazi occupation of Germany.
“Today, the first three stanzas are no longer part of the German National Anthem. The original lyrics at the start of the national anthem were as follows: ‘Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt . . .,’ translated: ‘Germany, Germany above all, above all in the World . . .’
“Needless to say, the Alma Mater has never had much of a following at Unihi.”
~ Marc Rosen S ‘64 Prometheans
Rosen notes that Haydn’s music is still used for the German anthem, but that the recognized lyrics start with the third verse, which begins “Unity and justice and freedom / For the German fatherland!”
The Alma Mater is not in use at Uni today; it faded from interest in the mid 1970s and was phased out – as far as can be remembered – by 1975.