This weekend I am off to Burbank, California for my high school reunion, and as I read on another blog, it takes guts to attend a reunion. Why? Because physically we’ll all look different — we either have gray or (in the case of men, no hair!), maybe we’ve put on a few extra pounds, now we have wrinkles plus all the hazards of aging. But you know something? It’s important to attend because this is where we came from — the experiences we had in high school shaped our lives, and made us who we are.
I came from a big class — over 600 people — and I confess I won’t remember many people at the reunion. But a lot of people will know me, since I was the accompanist for the school’s choirs — that means I’ve been accompanying choirs for decades! Also early on, the administration found out I played the organ and had me accompany our school’s alma mater after every assembly. I even was pulled out of class to play for other grades’ assemblies. After all these years, I can still play my high school’s alma mater from memory.
An alma mater is a hymn associated with a school. According to Wikipedia, “An alma mater is typically slow, light in instrumentation and with lyrics that wax nostalgic about the college’s setting and affirm the singer’s devotion to, and fondness for, the school.”
At Iolani School, where I have been the chapel organist for 18 years, the alma mater uses the tune “Finlandia,” by Jean Sibelius. The melodic range is relatively small — it neither goes too high or too low.
But for Burbank High School, the range of the melody is an octave and a half, the same as for The Star-Spangled Banner. Like our national anthem, because of this wide melodic range, it is difficult for nonprofessionals to sing it. But my school’s song is mercifully short, so it’s not so hard to forget the words, like people do with The Star-Spangled Banner.
Here’s a little slide show I put together, using pictures of my high school class, with the music of our alma mater. (However, this is not me playing — and it’s a choir that was put together for a previous class reunion.) If you would like to view the original post, you can click here. (Yes, I am my class’s blogger!)