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Our Anthem

Click the play button below for a recording of Mulgrave's G3, 4, 5 and 6 students with the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra, directed by Claude McLean.

The History of Our Anthem

By Claude McLean

Once upon a time, Mulgrave faculty and parents thought it would be a good idea to have a number of ‘honorary governors’ as friends and potential advisors, people who had made a distinctive mark in their career. Award-winning composer and music educator, Michael Conway Baker, accepted our invitation to be our musical honorary governor. Over the years, he visited the school, offered advice, offered music he had composed, and lent his name to our growing school.

In spring 2001, when the school was operating out of two campuses (the North Shore Winter Club and the so-called ‘gulag’ which was located where the current field is), Mr. Conway Baker wrote what he thought would be a good melody for a school anthem. The original idea was that the music teachers could teach the melody to their classes, without words, and then invite lyric submissions to fit the melody. We did just that. There weren’t many lyric entries, but there were a couple of good ones. We settled on two verses, one written by Ms. Read’s Grade 1 class (she was called Mrs. Ferguson then), and one by the Best family – that was their surname.

The anthem was premiered by a small group of students at the opening of the Cypress Campus main building, for the Board and special guests, in the days before classes commenced in the fall of 2001. When Mr. Conway Baker saw and heard the lyrics we had chosen, he decided to continue the creative process, by making changes to the first melody to better ‘paint’ the chosen words, such as the rising high notes to match the lyrics about the mountain. The tune was really written with young voices in mind, and most of our young Mulgravians could reach those notes, as they sang of reaching for the sky! That second melody was the one that stuck, along with the harmonies of the piano part, and has been used ever since. The vast majority of Mulgravians have never heard the original melody; it was similar to what we now know, but there were significant differences.

Hearing the school anthem performed primarily at assemblies inspired the creation of a couple of other school songs, more in the style of pep rally material. There was an excellent creative offering by a parent and another by a student. Those also got some airing at the school, but the school anthem lasted.

In a subsequent year, an orchestral version of the anthem was composed. We recorded that at a special concert at the school, with the Vancouver Youth Symphony and a large massed choir of young Mulgravians. A concert band arrangement was also created by then-local arranger, Greg Hamilton, and has been heard a number of times over the years. The school anthem became a traditional opener for Junior School assemblies, along with our national anthem, but it has also been used regularly at whole school events.

Mr. Conway Baker never had the notion that we would settle on only one set of words. He thought the words might change yearly and that it could be an ongoing creative exercise. Alas, though, a tradition had been started, and I was met with looks of surprise any time that I suggested changing the lyrics in later years. One doesn’t tinker with certain traditions, it seems, whether the establishment of the tradition was intentional or accidental.