Where the leafy Maple grows…..You know the rest. At least, you think you do. Or maybe at least the chorus.
Still, it’s a pretty good guess that you were not aware of the changes to the Goshen College Alma Mater that happened two years ago. President Brenneman and the Alumni board voted on changes, made with the help of the Music Department, to update the language of our college theme song to better reflect GC values and current vernacular.
“These are small changes that we thought honored the legacy of the Alma Mater but also made some relevant updates,” Bev Lapp, music department chair, explained. “We wanted to indicate our connection with the full city of Goshen rather than just ‘Parkside’ which is just one small section of Goshen and not a very well-known reference today.”
Another change reflects the way we reference first-years, a move away from ‘freshman’ that was used in the original second verse.
“We also…changed ‘Though our talents may be slender’ to ‘With our talents marked for service,’” Lapp said. This change also comes in the second verse. “In the notated version, we also pitched down from E-flat major to D major, to avoid a high F for the sopranos.”
These changes come at a time in Goshen College history where most students don’t know the Alma Mater by heart. The text of the song was originally written in 1911 by M.E. Miller, and the music was composed by J.D. Brunk, according to Susan Fisher Miller’s Centennial History of Goshen College.
“I helped initiate this process [of changing the Alma Mater],” Dr. Jim Brenneman commented, “[and] the Alumni Board approved of the changes as well, since the song is more known among older alums than recent grads or even current students.”
Part of the difficulty in making the Alma Mater a well-known song among students lies in the difficulty of singing the piece. Composed in two different times, a difficult key,and four-part harmony can mean that the song is only sung by a select group of students that can navigate these particularities.
“I recall that there was discussion in the music department and elsewhere over the years as to whether we needed a whole new Alma Mater, in part, because it is a very difficult piece to sing due to its odd timing – 4/4 to 5/4 – and harmonies, especially for those who do not sing four parts,” Brenneman said. “Because of its difficulty in singing, it was falling by the wayside – not really being sung at graduations or convocations – and, was mostly sung at alumni gatherings.”
The changes made to the Alma Mater, which you can see in full above, are meant to make the song a bit more inclusive in order to make the song somewhat more familiar and accessible to all Goshen College students.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our fans knew the Alma Mater well enough – first verse and chorus or chorus only – to do the same near the close of soccer games, basketball games, etcetera?” Brenneman said. “I think replacing the custom of singing the old ‘606’ hymn at the end of some soccer matches with singing the Alma Mater each and every time would be a wonderfully more inclusive way of including all the GC fans who come to the matches and would add to the learning of the Alma Mater by everyone over time.”
This idea for a new tradition would hopefully bring the Alma Mater into the new millennium and create a body of students that both knows and takes pride in their school song.
“We ought to easily learn the GC Alma Mater and bring it back to awesome acclaim, ‘GC ever singing. . . alma mater we love you,’” Brenneman concluded. “I can hear it now!”