Songs in Red and Blue

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It will have all the standards—“Hail, Pennsylvania!” “The Red and Blue,” “Drink a Highball”—as well as some numbers you probably never heard of, such as “Evening Song in the Triangle,” “The Pennsylvania Girl,” and “The University of Pennsylvania Café.” Not to mention the stories and musical history behind them.

0113arts_04For years, the late Bruce Montgomery had been urged by trustees and other University officials to produce a new Penn songbook—after all, there hadn’t been one since 1923. When he retired in 2000 after a half-century at Penn, most of that time serving as the charismatic director of the Penn Glee Club, he finally had time to concentrate on researching, historically annotating, and editing more than 50 songs for the book that would be called Songs of Penn.

Monty had basically completed the work by the time he died in June 2008. But publishing it would take a good deal of time and effort, not to mention the formation of the Bruce Montgomery Foundation for the Arts [“Arts,” Nov|Dec 2011]. Even finding the perfect software program to engrave the music, and a printer who could do the job just right, turned out to be a challenge, and one that has delayed the publication by several months.

But sometime in the coming weeks, Songs of Penn will be available through the Penn Bookstore, catalogues, and the foundation’s website (www.brucemontgomeryfoundation.org). Sponsored by close to 150 individuals, the songbook will feature 55 songs that Monty considered essential for posterity as well as a foreword from Penn President Amy Gutmann. There will also be an abridged, softback version that has eight to 10 songs “every Penn student should know,” which will be available to “anybody who wants it,” in the words of Elizabeth Montgomery Thomas, Monty’s sister and the foundation’s president. (That includes incoming freshman and transfers during New Student Orientation.) All proceeds will go to support the foundation’s grant program, the first recipient of which will be, fittingly, the Glee Club. —S.H.

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