For some, it will be the notations—the delicious stories behind each song. (Or maybe you already knew that the tune of “Hail, Pennsylvania,” Penn’s official alma mater, was originally czarist Russia’s national anthem. And that “Drink a Highball,” which came to Penn via two Wesleyan transfer students in the early 20th century, was probably an old British army-barrack song dating back to at least the Boer War. And that after John Phillip Sousa conducted the Penn Band in a performance of “The University of Pennsylvania Band March,” he called it “one of the best band marches, aside from my own productions, I have ever conducted.”)
For others it may be the full-color sheet-music covers of songs like “Old Pennsylvania” and “Houston Club March,” and the Maxfield Parrish-designed program cover to the Mask and Wig Club’s “No Gentleman of France.”
But for those who want to sing (or just learn the lyrics to) the 55 Penn-related songs collected within, Songs of Penn: Honoring Musical Tradition at the University of Pennsylvania is flat-out essential. The first Penn songbook in 90 years was compiled, written, and edited by the late Bruce Montgomery, longtime director of the Penn Glee Club, who died in 2008. It was published, justin time for this past Alumni Weekend, by the Bruce Montgomery Foundation for the Arts, headed by Elizabeth Montgomery Thomas, Monty’s sister. Songs of Penn can be purchased from the foundation’s website (brucemontgomeryfoundation.org) or the Penn Bookstore, and revenues from it will benefit students in the performing arts through the foundation’s fellowship & grants program. —S.H.