Finalists for College song competition offer range

While only one of the three songs will officially accompany ‘The Mountains’ next Mountain Day, all will be added to the new songbook. Photo courtesy of Williams College.
While only one of the three songs will officially accompany ‘The Mountains’ next Mountain Day, all will be added to the new songbook. Photo courtesy of Williams College.

Back in October, students at the College were treated to the suspense and excitement of the large and very professional stage being built in front of Sawyer Library, wondering for what exactly it was being built. Paresky mailboxes held bracelets for a “Weekend for Williams,” which we later found out was the official launch of Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams. And though there was no scheduled performer (or one that couldn’t make it), the College was able to bring forth its best and brightest – student groups from Sankofa to the Ephlats performed throughout the night.

Teach It Forward was, as Society of Alumni President Leila Jere ’91, Director of Alumni Relations Brooks Foehl ’88 and President Adam Falk described, for students. So it was fitting that they announced a competition for a new song for the College, to accompany and stand alongside “The Mountains,” which was written by Washington Gladden, class of 1859, and set to the tune of “Yard By Yard,” the College’s “fight song” for sporting events. The competition would be open to all students past and present – the Record reported on the details in its Winter Study issue (“Song contest provokes unique reflection on College values,” Jan. 27, 2016). Now, the songs submitted and passed through review by the judging panel, three finalists have been presented on the College website. Voting is open through May 23, and the winner will be introduced to the College community at Commencement and Reunion activities in June. All songs are presented anonymously and have been recorded by current students who are members of the Williams Concert Choir and/or select singing groups on campus. The Record shares some thoughts on each song’s ability to stand beside “The Mountains.”

“Climb High” opens with a simple acoustic guitar chord pattern, instantly calling to mind a campfire song – pleasant, middle pitch and easy to sing along to. “From the rolling of the ridge/ To the steps of Chapin Hall” the song begins, soon following with a chorus decree to “Let your passion be your guide” and “Climb long, climb far/ Climb high.” The lyrics, equally simple, flow well with the strum pattern – but perhaps a little too well, as the song isn’t too memorable. A strong contender nonetheless, “Climb High” will be well-suited for the new College songbook to be published this fall – however, the song to accompany the ubiquitous “The Mountains” may need to have a bit more bravado and pride.

Thankfully, we find that in “College in the Corner (We Are Williams),” a hopeful song that begins with a piano progression and rightfully builds up to a bright chorus. “We are Williams/ Climbing higher, Climbing far…” the chorus culminates. There’s a theme of “climbing” in all three songs – referencing, of course, the plaque on the gate of West College – but “College in the Corner” transfers that feeling of pride best, with echoing refrains and increasing pitch. It does seem more harmonically involved and may very well be harder to sing, but the result is a song, I think, on par with “The Mountains” – I imagine students gathering together singing solemnly and pridefully, a nice counterpart to the unabashed song that is “The Mountains.”

“Echo of Williams” may share the same quiet, choral quality that “College in the Corner” has, but it does stay within that genre for its entirety, reminding listeners of “Silent Night” and perhaps not as varied and uniquely recognizable as “The Mountains” and “College in the Corner” would be together. Given that there hasn’t been a songbook published since 1959, the addition of all three songs to the book (as they are finalists) will be a nice addition to a Williams so focused on student pride, past and present.

Come next Mountain Day, we’ll have two (College-related) songs to sing atop Stone Hill, and a songbook full of others for games, alumni gatherings and future campaigns. Give all three songs a listen, and vote now. It’s worth it.

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