Our school song. Our Alma Mater. Crimson and the Blue.
Its melody comes from the 1857 H.S. Thompson ballad Annie Lisle, first adapted into an alma mater in 1870 by two Cornell students. 22 years later, Professor George Penny Barlow, then dean of KU’s School of Music, applied his own lyrics — descriptions of scenery and sentiment that still ring true.
Sung first by KU’s Glee and Mandolin Club on an 1892 tour, the song soon found its way into many KU occasions, including Convocation, Commencement, and athletic events. Though the song includes a second verse — and at one time a third — most performances feature only the first, along with the chorus:
“Far above the golden valley,
Glorious to view,
Stands our noble Alma Mater,
towering toward the blue.
“Lift the chorus ever onward,
Crimson and the Blue.
Hail to thee, our Alma Mater,
Hail to old KU.”
No matter the version, a reverent sense of place and importance is never absent from the Alma Mater. Though new students may feel awkward or lost at first, they can lean on their classmates — and over a century of ceremony — as they sing and sway to one of KU’s most enduring traditions.