BSC Folklore

Creepy Angels

Fraternity Serenades

Source: Collected by Christie Wenke, Interim 2009.

Description: Fraternities have gathered to sing to sorority women for generations on Birmingham Southern's campus.

Commentary:

Singing has always been an important part of Greek life on Birmingham Southern's campus. From sorority recruitment, to bid day, to candle lightings, songs are incorporated into a variety of Greek rituals on campus; one of those rituals is mixers. When alumnae reminisce about their time on the Hilltop, some of their most beloved memories involve song. The brothers of Theta Chi fraternity incorporate song in part of their pre-mixer celebration. Before the brothers of Theta Chi invite the women of one of Birmingham-Southern's sororities to their house for a mixer, their freshman pledge class comes to the stoop of the sorority house to serenade the women of that chapter. Their song of choice is always the Righteous Brothers' “You've Lost That Loving Feeling” from the movie Top Gun. This song choice has been a tradition for at least ten years and is definitely popular among ‘Southern's sorority affiliates.

David Miller, a recent president of Theta Chi fraternity, thinks that serenading is “one of our best traditions.” He maintains, “Mixers offer opportunities for everyone to take a break from the stresses of school, meet new people, and form new friendships. Everyone benefits from a successful mixer event; therefore, starting it off with a bang is really the only option. It makes girls understand that we value their company and really want them to have a good time.” Taking the time to learn the song has also been recognized as an important way that the new members bond each year.

Although not all fraternities elect to participate in serenading activities before mixer events, Theta Chi is not the only fraternity to take part in this lively tradition. Just this year, the brothers of Sigma Chi fraternity delivered a spirited performance of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” on the front step of some of ‘Southern's sororities, and their rendition was complete with violin accompaniment.

This type of serenading and musical accompaniment is certainly not a new idea. Serenading has taken place on college campuses across the nation for generations. At De Pauw University, serenading reached the height of its popularity between 1918 and 1941. At DePauw, “A frequent campus happening was that fraternity serenade, when men from one chapter house would gather in front of a women's residence after closing hours to entertain the occupants with a song, sometimes arriving with a piano installed in the bed of a truck for accompaniment. A chief excuse for such an even was one of the brothers bestowing his fraternity pin upon a coed as a token of his affection, an action that often led to eventual marriage.” Wendy Berner an alumnus or St. Lawrence University investigated the effect that music involved with Greek life had with choral music on their campus. She states, “I was impressed by the effect music had on their lives” and “Many alumni have vivid memories of fraternity serenades, where an entire fraternity would sing to a sorority woman. That tradition is really where choral music began here.”

Contemporary serenading practices at Birmingham-Southern seem to have lost a bit of the charm and romance of the ritual in earlier decades. The romantic sentiment of days gone by have been replaced by a more jovial and comedic spirit; however, today's campus serenades are no less entertaining and are eagerly anticipated as mixer season approaches each year in the fall.

Questions:

  • How long has this been a tradition at Birmingham Southern?
  • Who decided on “You've Lost That Loving Feeling” for Theta Chi's serenade of choice?

Works Cited:

"Chapter Three: DePauw Between the Wars 1918-1941." DePauw University. 25 Jan. 2009 .

"Support Students, Support Transformation." St. Lawrence University. 20 Jan. 2009.