While doing some Wikipedia related research last night, I stumbled across something interesting. The record album Songs of the University of Virginia, which I’ve long thought was recorded in 1947 based on photographic evidence from the University archives, was apparently not released until 1951. How do I know this? From a 1951 Washington Post article, of all places.
If it seems funny that a Paper of Record would cover goings-on at the University, consider that the WaPo didn’t get that reputation until the time of Woodward and Bernstein. Prior to that, it was viewed as a sleepy society paper, and apparently not above covering the doings down Route 29.
Also interesting in the article was the following: confirmation of the 1871 founding date (the record was said to honor the eightieth anniversary of the founding of the Glee Club); identification of the Beta Chi chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi (the “national honorary band fraternity”) as the sponsor—an organization that, as far as I can tell, isn’t on Grounds any more; and identification of Thomas Jefferson Smith III of McRae, Georgia, as the co-chairman of the project (with Jack Hardy) and president of the Glee Club at that time. Plus, apparently, the Music Department was resident in Minor Hall then, rather than Old Cabell.
But the main point of the article for me was its claim regarding the aim of the project, which I reproduce here in its entirety:
Many songs which should be a part of University heritage have been lost, some because they were set to popular tunes of the times and died out when the tunes were forgotten, some because a college generation is a brief time in the life of the school. Words to these songs can be found in university publications, but no one sings them because the tunes have been lost.
The famous “wah-who-wah” [sic] of the University’s alma mater is an example of these lost songs. Once it was sung; then all the band music for it was lost. Now no one knows the music, and it has become a yell, used chiefly at football games.
So “Songs of the University of Virginia” will preserve songs which otherwise might be lost in future years. The album will help alumni of present and future to recreate the days of “purple shadows” on the lawn.
The irony, of course, is that the album itself faded almost completely into obscurity too. Note the part about wa-hoo-wa—they are referring to the song about which the “Good Old Song” was written (no, the “Good Old Song” is not self-referential!), which is lost.