All-nighters during exam period are routine, but on the first Wednesday of finals, 10 Princeton students pulled one of an unorthodox variety. They traded study sheets for songbooks, laptops for guitars, and the library’s fluorescent gloom for brisk night air. Bundled in sleeping bags under East Pyne Arch, the students set out to sing till the sun rose, in the fourth annual All-Night Rise Up.
Rise Up is an anomaly among Princeton singing groups. It is an amorphous group, ranging from the musically gifted to the tone-deaf, that gathers every Wednesday night in Murray Dodge Café to sing selections from more than 1,000 tunes in the folksong bible, Rise Up Singing. Students sing Beatles, ballads, and Broadway tunes, and consume fresh snickerdoodles and peanut-butter cookies. Some bring harmonicas, drums, mandolins, tambourines, fiddles, cymbals. Guitars are a given.
The group first sang out in 2003, when Josh Schroeder ’03 overheard Josh Blaine ’08 (originally ’06) and Brady Walkinshaw ’06 discussing the Rise Up anthology and proposed that they reconvene the following week with guitars and friends.
Each week the group, now comprising more than 150 students, receives a “Rise Up call” e-mail modeled on a famous song: “Come gather round students wherever you roam, / And admit that the workload upon you has grown, / And accept it that though you are tired to the bone / Your hands you needn’t be wringing / ’Cause if you come quickly you won’t be alone / And it’s time we all start singing!”
The idea for an All-Night Rise Up grew from the curious desire to see if it was possible to sing every song in the songbook in one night. The answer: not even close. But a tradition was born.
This year, the all-night program followed no predetermined order: “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel, “Baby Beluga” by Raffi. At 12:30 a.m., 15 students back from karaoke joined for a rousing rendition of “American Pie.” With three hours to go, guitars were set aside temporarily for an invigorating sleeping bag race across the courtyard.
Rise Up regulars come for a medley of reasons. “It’s a very joyous experience,” explained former leader Sam Borchard ’11. “It doesn’t matter how many papers or problem sets I have ... It grounds me.” Margaret Byron ’10 was drawn by the joy of singing without the discipline of rehearsal or the focus on technique.
As a graduating senior, I’ve chosen Rise Up for my last On the Campus column for a personal reason: For the last year and a half, I have led the group. Over my time at Princeton, I have had amazing seminars, seen inspiring performances, rejoiced in the hoopla of Reunions. Among these louder songs, there is the quiet but poignant tune that is Rise Up.
For me, Rise Up epitomizes the best of Princeton — a place where friends can come together and sing, secure in a beautiful campus and heedless of looming exams, not because they represent the best, not in preparation for public performances, but simply because they love to sing together.Rise Up evenings close with “Goodnight Irene,” but for All-Night, sun songs were more fitting. As the sun gilded the roof of McCosh, we sang “Morning Has Broken,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Here Comes the Sun.” Our voices were hoarse, but Rogers and Hammerstein got it right: “Oh what a beautiful morning!”
It was a dark and stormy night, the kind that makes students want to stay in their dorm rooms, watching raindrops streak across the leaded panes of their Gothic windows. And yet on the Thursday night of Reunions, scores of graduating seniors poured into the lecture hall in McCosh 10, shaking off their soaking umbrellas for a chance to relive their Princeton years.
The senior slide show offered 1,500 images, and though most had been available on Facebook.com, this was a chance for members of the Class of ’10 to view them together, like the family album-browsing sessions of yore.
The slide show kicked off to the sounds of Akon’s 2008 R&B hit “Beautiful” with photos of extracurricular activities that ranged from the sprint football team to the Triangle Club, from a cappella groups to the Raks Odalisque belly-dancing troupe.
“Theme-night” photos included flapper attire for Cottage Club’s Gatsby Night and cheesy reindeer sweaters for a Christmas party at Ivy Club. The largest set of photos came from formals and lawnparties: women standing next to the fountain in Prospect Garden in their sundresses; others in shades of red at a Charter Club formal.
What almost all of the photos had in common was their ability to make the students in the audience smile. But for some, the event was bittersweet.
“I found myself saddened by the parade of unfamiliar faces,” Emily Margolis said, explaining that she wished she had had the opportunity to meet all of her “wonderfully talented, fun, and intelligent classmates.” Kelly Lack said that the event “made me realize how much I will miss Princeton after I graduate.”
There would be many more photos to be taken over the following few days: the class picture at Blair Arch
on Saturday, followed by photos of seniors posing with brightly attired members of the Old Guard during the P-rade. Next came senior prom, and a chance to display our formal attire once again.