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Senior Serenade and Canoe Sing
"...One of its Last Bursts of College Spirit and Comradeship..."

Illustration of Senior Serenade from a Mount Holyoke Postcard courtesy MHC Archives.
Senior Serenade in 1940. These seniors are awaiting their time to sing in paper lantern festooned canoes upon Lower Lake. courtesy MHC Archives

Origins on a Beautiful Evening - Songs have made up a significant portion of old Mount Holyoke traditions, and it's no wonder that these songs inspired a tradition of their own. An article from a 1910 article titled simply, "Senior Serenade" describes the origins of the musical tradition:

"A graduating class of several years ago in one of its last bursts of college spirit and comradeship gathered one beautiful evening on the spur of the moment to sing all the college and class songs to the underclassman."

These seniors went from hall to hall, singing everywhere. This was so fondly remembered by the underclasswomen that the next year's seniors followed their example, although, of course, much less spontaneously. It was first listed in the "Programme for Commencement Week" in June of 1911, and it was described as taking place on South Campus. By 1940, it had moved to Lower Lake. Rather than wandering from hall to hall, now the seniors gathered in canoes to sing. The event was always festive, with an seemingly especial attraction to lanterns, which often bedecked the canoes. However, 1971 was the last year that Senior Serenade was listed in the Commencement Programme.

Senior Canoe Sing - While there was no senior singing event in 1972, Senior Serenade was not dead but rather awaiting a new christening. In 1973, "Senior Canoe Sing" made its debut in the Commencement Programme. The seniors still sang to the college from canoes on Lower Lake. As the campus grew in size, only a certain percentage of the seniors were able to participate from the canoes, so random selection separates the seniors into groups of singers in canoes and groups on the shore.


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This page was created by Jennifer Loomer '04 and Katherine Underwood '05 in History 283, Fall Semester 2003 and