"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, July 13, 2015

"UMM Hymn" was seminal UMM showcase

The first thing I remember about UMM is the circle drive. The circle drive used to connect with the road in front of the Welcome Center. I'm not sure why it was necessary to cut that off. I really think UMM administration had plans of phasing out the circle drive completely. I heard that rumor about 13 years ago.
Money pours into colleges these days. They come up with extensive lists for how to tweak things and add things. How about a climbing wall? There, I started a rumor.
No one considered UMM to be blessed with riches in 1960. We were transitioning from an ag school campus to liberal arts - quite a shift in mission. We were like church mice at the start. There was constant fear over how our humble little experiment of a public liberal arts campus might be short-lived.
The "UMM Hymn" helped elevate our profile. It was an inspiring theme song for our prairie campus. Some people may have joked that even though we weren't at the edge of the Earth, you could see the dragons and serpents from here. Some people might even think that way today. A doctor left town because his wife had concerns about our apparent remoteness. I know because he told me. That was a charming doctor visit. I felt like I was the one dispensing advice or counseling!
No, it's not a reach to say UMM is a little remote, even today. I guess an ongoing issue for our campus is lack of job opportunities for spouses of new faculty members. As far as lack of amenities, this is offset by the relative safety felt here. You can take a walk after dark.
Anyway, the UMM Hymn was a signature song sung by the UMM men's chorus, the group that did more to elevate UMM's profile than any other. There is a wall exhibit remembering that group at the entrance to the HFA recital hall.
If I had my life to live over, I would get my hands on a movie camera and a high-quality 35mm camera and document the chorus' adventures. All that stuff could be online today. I'd persuade my dad, who wrote the UMM Hymn, to knock off hunting and fishing and buy me some media stuff. Reminder: camera equipment above the level of the Kodak Instamatic was very expensive in those days. I have heard the flash units were very limited. Still, if you spent enough money, I'm sure you could get decent equipment. We couldn't have imagined "selfies."
I was only seven years old for the UMM men's chorus trip to Seattle in 1962. And so I would have been nine years old for the New York City trip in 1964. I was actually along for the 1964 trip. I remember sitting in the "vista dome" car during the train ride. I got familiar with an African-American "porter," a quite nice man. He was the first "negro" I met. That term had currency then.
I invite you to click on the link below to listen to the UMM men's chorus of the early 1960s sing my father's "UMM Hymn." This is the first song in a lengthy YouTube posting. There are parts 2 and 3 also. Just use standard search methods.
 
Thanks to Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck for helping me get this material online. Brent Gulsvig took this off a cassette that had been digitized. Roger Boleman assembled the original cassette for us.
My preferred recording of the UMM Hymn was actually made in 2001 for UMM's 40th anniversary. I liked that version because it had both men's and women's voices. But my recording of this got destroyed by a new boombox I purchased. So instead we'll rely on the true archival version, sung by the men, which I think is quite fine and appropriate.
My father wrote two sections of lyrics for the UMM Hymn. You might say it had an AAA song structure but with only two A's.
The song appears to have been phased out at UMM. Last spring I blogged that if UMM were to perform the Hymn for graduation - it only takes a minute and 15 seconds to perform - I'd "get out my checkbook" for the UMM music department, as I've done in the past. Maybe the powers that be at UMM just don't like the song. Music is a very subjective thing. We all have a right to our opinions. I'm biased of course.
Maybe I'll contribute to Social Sciences this fall. Those are "my people" where I feel affinity based on the subject matter. I was once good at pretending I was a musician - that's all. Today I try to compose pop/country music. My father never encouraged me to do that.
The remainder of this post will be "the UMM Hymn: a new version." The first two blocks of lyrics are my father's. Then, after an instrumental interlude, we'll have some new lyrics, and these were written by me. A father-son effort. I included references and terms that my father could not have. Here we go:
 
The UMM Hymn: a new version
by Ralph E. Williams and Brian R. Williams
 
We salute our Minnesota
Morris our campus dear
We proclaim its destiny
Now sustain our loyalty
Varsity, varsity, hail thy fame afar
O guide our alma mater
Thee our shining star!
 
Hail to thee our Minnesota
Morris a beacon clear
Mem-ries of the plains and pines
Hills and waters, trees and vines
Varsity, varsity, 'neath our state's western sky
Cherish our alma mater
Hold her banner high!
 
It awakens each September
Leaves slowly turning brown
Football soccer volleyball
Cheer-filled faces on the mall
Varsity, varsity, peace in our prairie home
O Morris be that fountain
Brimming as we go!
 
We embrace our Minnesota
Morris a forward place
Treasures in this little town
Hail our jewel in the crown
Varsity, varsity, building blocks spreading far
O Morris help us try to
Set the highest bar
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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