Tuesday, November 28, 2006

HUMMER

When I was a freshman (in the late 1950’s) and lived in Wheeler Hall facing the Green. I greatly enjoyed, through an opened window, the fraternities rehearsing for “Hums” on the steps of Dartmouth Hall on those ever-warming spring evenings. And finally, during Green Key weekend, would come the full-blown Hums competition with every available member of each fraternity dressed in black shoes, black chinos and white shirts singing their hearts out just for the honor of winning this age-old competition. And there were some spine-tingling performances as well-harmonized groups sang a capella many of the old-time pop classics, Dartmouth favorites, and an occasional new composition. As I remember it, the judging was based on percentage participation, song selection, group appearance, and quality of performance.

Then, when I was a member of a fraternity, I too became part of this tradition and savored it immensely. Even though I was most often a “sandbag” – someone who had to learn the songs but, because of poor vocal quality, was not allowed to actually sing – I had to just lip-sync the words. (This was a nod to the percentage participation judging factor.) I still recall most of the words to “All the Things You Are” (even though I never uttered a sound) which was one of the highlights of Sigma Nu’s 1959 performance led by Mike Melvoin, now a music industry poobah in Hollywood.

I’m not exactly clear why this beautiful custom has disappeared under the waves but this website has a clue:

http://www.dartreview.com/archives/2004/05/11/green_key_history_those_were_the_days.php

Apparently, home-grown songs became the norm at Hums in the early 1980’s and eventually they became too raunchy to tolerate. So … another sweet tradition obsoleted itself due to lack of monitoring and attention to its original purpose.

2 comments:

Any Stray Marks said...

"Another sweet tradition obsoleted itself due to lack of monitoring and attention to its original purpose."

The original purpose of Hums was not to hold a singing competition. It was to teach students the school songs so that they could sing them at football games, and it became a performance/rally in which each class would advance from one side of the Green and pause to sing a song before meeting in the middle.

George W. Potts said...

We Zetes used to sing “The Hanover Winter Song” at “The Hums” competition. We were Good!! We generally placed in the top two or three in my day. Great attendance at this a capella choral competition, aka "fraternity hums", going back to 1899, pitting the various fraternities against each other on the steps of Dartmouth Hall in the spring. Misogynistic lyrics in 1975 apparently ended this truly delightful tradition. Pity. “Lest the old traditions fail.” Apparently this one did??? The Lyrics are absolutely classic and totally to the point when “the great white cold walks abroad.” And we were by the fire “mixing drinks for the heathen in the goodness of our souls” with “the wine witch glittering in the glass.”



Fabulous song when done by all male voices a capella in 4 part harmony. Remember it with the “zum, zum, zum, zum” as a backdrop to the Chorus, starting with “But here by the fire we defy frost and storm.” . Hope you remember this one. Written by Richard Hovey and Frederic Field Bullard. And Guess what; the “Song” is about MALE FELLOWSHIP (heterosexual, of course) AND GOD!!! , HOWEVER HEDONISTIC?? Damn!! Not politically correct today don’t ya know!!


Ira F. Archer III, Class of 1962.



"Ho, a song by the fire;
Pass the pipes, pass the bowl.
Ho, a song by the fire
With a skoal, with a skoal.
Ho, a song by the fire;
Pass the pipes with a skoal,
For the wolf-wind is wailing at the doorways,
And the snow drifts deep along the road,
And the ice gnomes are marching from their Norways,
And the great white cold walks abroad.

But, here by the fire, we defy frost and storm;
Ha, ha we are warm, and we have our heart's desire.
For here, we're good fellows, and the beechwood and the bellows;
And the cup is at the lip in the pledge of fellowship.
Oh, here by the fire, we defy frost and storm;
Ha, ha, we are warm, and we have our heart's desire.
For here we're good fellows, and the beechwood and the bellows.
And the cup is at the lip in the pledge of fellowship,
Of fellowship

Pile the logs on the fire;
Fill the pipes, pass the bowl.
Pile the logs on the fire
With a skoal, with a skoal.
Pile the logs on the fire;
Fill the pipes with a skoal,
For the fire goblins flicker on the ceiling,
And the wine witch glitters in the glass,
And the smoke wraiths are drifting, curling, reeling,
And the sleigh bells jingle as they pass.

But, here by the fire, we defy frost and storm;
Ha, ha we are warm, and we have our heart's desire.
For here, we're good fellows, and the beechwood and the bellows;
And the cup is at the lip in the pledge of fellowship.
Oh, here by the fire, we defy frost and storm;
Ha, ha, we are warm, and we have our heart's desire.
For here we're good fellows, and the beechwood and the bellows.
And the cup is at the lip in the pledge of fellowship,
Of fellowship

Oh, a God is the fire;
Pull the pipes, drain the bowl.
Oh, a God is the fire
With a skoal, with a skoal.
Oh, a God is the fire;
Pull the pipes with a skoal,
For the room has a spirit in the embers,
Tis a God and our fathers knew his name,
And they worship'd him in long-forgot Decembers,
And their hearts leap'd high with the flame."



Note

Hanover Winter Song. Page 24, Dartmouth Lyrics, by Richard Hovey, edited by Edwin Osgood Grover (Boston: Small, Maynard & company, c1924): This song was written at the suggestion of the editor of the present volume for the first edition of "Dartmouth Songs," published by him in 1898. As Hovey's profession was that of letters, he was paid for this song, also for "Eleazar Wheelock" and other songs written for the editor. Hovey arranged for the musical setting by his classmate, the noted composer Frederick Field Bullard. Bullard provided the music to several other Hovey poems.