The Williams Song Competition

Singing together connects us. When I arrived at Williams in 1999 I was astounded at how much communal singing takes place on campus, how many groups find connection and identity through song: a cappella groups, faith groups, language clubs, athletic teams, and, of course, the entire college on Mountain Day and at Commencement. But few of us today are aware how much more saturated in song was life at Williams just several decades ago. The college songbooks, last published in 1959, tell this story. Here we find songs singing praise to alma mater alongside songs that cheer (and mock) college life: sports, romance, parties, the landscape, and the seasons. They offer musical portraits of Williams life as it was lived during the first part of the twentieth century.

So it occurred to us: Could we revive the Williams songbook tradition? Could we create a musical collection that both connects us to Williams’ past as well as to Williams today? Could we revive a music resource that could resonate for everyone on campus and, of course, for alumni everywhere?

What better way to bring the songbook back to life than to spur the creation of new Williams songs?

Under the direction of the Alumni Relations Office, a committee was formed that included current students, noted alumni, and me. We put out the call for submissions to our first ever Williams Song Competition and, in short order, received more than twenty submissions — all reflecting the love current and former students feel for the college. After difficult deliberation, ten were selected to be included in the new songbook, three were chosen as finalists for the competition, and one, Kevin Weist’s ’81 and Bruce Leddy’s ’83 “Echo of Williams,” was chosen as an official college song to stand alongside “The Mountains” in our new college songbook.

The committee is grateful to the brilliant, creative work of all who submitted songs, and we look forward to many years of heartfelt singing of Williams songs, old and new, with the help of our new college songbook.

Brad Wells
Lyell B. Clay Artist-in-Residence and Director of Choral/Vocal Activities
Williams College