Hark The Sound

I had never given much thought to the origins of UNC's school song, referred to as the Alma Mater, "Hark The Sound" until the other evening while watching a television program with a setting in the Civil War. In the program, and I can't even remember the name of it, a Union brass band was playing at a military ceremony. It didn't register at first but I soon recognized the tune they were playing as the same one used for "Hark The Sound".

Shortly thereafter, I tried to do some research on the subject but soon hit a stone wall. I mentioned this to several UNC grads including one who was a music major but no one seemed to be as interested as I was in determining where the tune originated.

I should keep better notes on my research. Sometimes, I discover facts and later need to know the origin of the information and have nothing to rely on but my memory which does not always serve me well. That became involved here because I remembered uncovering the fact somewhere that the tune is an old German hymn named "Amici". I couldn't remember, however, where I got this bit of information so, in effect, it amounted to going backwards. Information without a documented source isn't of much value.

Anyhow, when I visited Chapel Hill recently to finalize the donation of my Big Little Book collection to the Rare Books Section of Wilson Library, I mentioned to the Development Office Staff my interest in researching the origin of the tune. I was immediately put in touch with a member of the Wilson Library Staff and even though the researcher did not know the answer, it didn't take her long to locate the information I had pursued for so long.

I was shown in a book that I failed to record the title of that the tune to "Hark The Sound" is an old German folk song named "Amici'. The words to the song were written in 1897, the same year the Old Well was originally placed across from South Building. When I read the information provided me, I signaled "Touchdown' by raising both my arms. Words can't describe the thrill of completing a mission such as I was on even if the rest of the world did not share my interest. The touchdown signal was an appropriate expression, in my opinion, but the other persons in Wilson Library at the time looked at me like I was......you know, loony.

So the next time you sing or hear "Hark The Sound" played, be appreciative of the fact that some unknown Germans years ago came up with the perfect tune for our Alma Mater. Being a native Southerner, I still have a little problem with the fact that a Union band was playing the song on the television program but maybe if all the facts were known, it might have been played by Southern military bands also. Another fine institution apparently likes the tune also since Cornell University's "Far Above Cayuga's Waters" has the same tune as "Hark the Sound'. Wouldn't that be something if we played them in football and the alma maters for both schools were played. Unless you were told, you wouldn't know which song was for which school.