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Sigma Chi Music

The History of Sigma Chi Songbooks

There are undoubtedly many unknown Sigma Chi songs which have been written to celebrate some occasion or person; these songs remain in the private repertoires of their creators. However, there are many Sigma Chi songs written since 1855 which have been widespread throughout the Sigma Chi world.

1884 songbook The first comprehensive Songbook of the Sigma Chi Fraternity was published in 1884. Its contents included forty-eight songs, most of which were written by brothers of the Beta Chapter at Wooster College. However, the idea of a songbook was suggested in 1865, but nearly twenty years passed before the idea became reality.

At the fifth Grand Chapter in Cincinnati in April, 1865, the Phi delegation from Lehigh expressed the desire to have an official songbook (II, 311). Robert E. James made a motion in which each chapter "should send at least one song set to music to the Phi chapter"; from these would be selected those to be published (II, 458).

There was, however, little response from other chapters, so most of the songs in the first book were primarily those written by members of the Phi Chapter. In 1872 the Songs of Phi was published; it became the first cloth-bound volume of songs issued by the Fraternity. Songs of Phi contained eighteen songs. Edwin A. Barber wrote eight, including "Greeting Song," "Wednesday Night" (meeting night), "Friendship Offering," "Guarding the Cross," and "The Blue and the Gold"; John E. Watkins contributed "The Cross" and A. Kirkland Michler penned the "Banquet Song" (II, 579-580). Although this songbook was useful to several chapters, it was still not as comprehensive as was first desired.

Xi Chapter at Indiana then volunteered to develop a new Songbook, but they too had the same problem collecting songs from other chapters. Then, in 1882, when Beta Chapter honorarily initiated (it was allowed at that time) Dr. Karl Merz, the new director of music at Wooster, the Beta Sigs became involved and the project was theirs. Merz had recently completed "The Sigma Chi Waltz" and had gained great interest in the fraternity (III, 251-252).

Two years later, at the 1884 Grand Chapter, the Songbook of the Sigma Chi Fraternity was distributed to delegates and used at the banquet; this was the first time "A Loyal Sig," better known as "A Sig I Am" was sung. Included in the forty-eight song collection were "In Hoc Signo Vinces" by Burton O. Squires (Gamma '83), "The Cross of Sigma Chi" by Alfred F. McCormick (Gamma '84), the "Banquet Song" by Walter F. Fiske, and "Our Bill" by William A. Heath (Kappa Kappa '83) (III, 405-407).

Herbert C. Arms (who became Grand Consul in 1927) and Charles B. Burdick were charged with updating and producing a new edition of the Songbook in the early 1890's. The new, larger version had its first edition in 1898, the second edition in 1905, and the third edition in 1923 (IV, 235).


All references used come from The History of Sigma Chi by Joseph Nate, volumes I, II, III, and IV.
The Music of Sigma Chi