University College Liverpool Song
'Salvete Cives Nostri' - The University College Song
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The opening of the Victoria Building
The Victoria Building opened 123 years ago on the 13th December 1892 and a reception was held on the following evening for over 3,000 dignitaries. While admiring the new building, guests were entertained with a variety of instrumental pieces including a special performance of the University College's song, ‘Salvete cives nostri’ (‘We Give You Greetings Citizens’) by the university college choral society.
The choral society was formed in 1891 and comprised of 30 male students. They met to practice on alternate Friday evenings at 8.30pm in the original university building, formerly the old asylum building, located in the quadrangle.
The choir performed 'Salvete cives nostri’ in the ‘Arts Lecture Theatre’ which is known today as the Leggate Lecture Theatre in the Victoria Building. There were two choral performances for the guests attending the opening ceremony as well as various songs performed by Josef Cantor’s Concert Party. Herr Julius Prior was the choral society’s conductor and Principal Gerald Rendall was the society president.
Musical programme for the opening ceremony
The fundraising appeal for the construction of the Victoria Building had relied heavily on the generosity of the people of the city and by 1888 the College had received £16,000 in donations. It appears that 'Salvete Cives Nostri' was composed specifically for the Victoria Building's opening ceremony as it directly thanks the citizens of Liverpool for helping to build the Victoria Building and establish University College Liverpool:
"We give you greetings citizens, we bid you welcome all…Rejoice with us rejoicing, for are we not thine own? These halls the home of learning, we owe to thee alone."
The song also mentions the well laden merchant ships as it was also thanks to many merchant families such as the Holt and Rathbone families that University College Liverpool was established.
Unfortunatly we were not able to locate the last page of the sheet music but the concluding verse written by Professor Strong honours the Victoria Building's 123 year anniversary perfectly:
"May generations countless
Resolve from age to age
To leave their children ever
A fairer heritage.
So in the course of ages
Fair College, may'st increase
in strength and wealth and glory
In honour and in peace."
The making of 'Salvete Cives Nostri' (1892)
Professor Herbert Strong was the professor of Latin at University College Liverpool. He composed the lyrics to 'Salvete Cives Nostri' and the song was performed by the choir in Latin with the accompaniment of an English translation in the opening ceremony programme. As the Victoria Building was built for the School of the Arts, Professor Strong has included Greek mythology in the song: the Goddess Athena Pallas, also known as Minerva the Goddess of Wisdom is mentioned as she was the patroness of scholars, learning, science and art.
Professor Herbert Strong
Albert Lister Peace composed the music to 'Salvete Cives Nostri.' Although he was not employed by University College Liverpool, he was a talented musician who had become a church organist at the age of nine and was known for his church and organ music. In the 1894 publication 'Musical Scotland' he is described as an organist who was "unsurpassed and seldom rivalled." He later took the position of organist at St George's Hall in Liverpool in 1897.
Albert Lister Peace
It appears that 'Salvete Cives Nostri' disappeared from the student choral repertoire shortly after the opening ceremony in 1892. In the late 1890s a complaint was made in the University College Magazine that there wasn’t a college song that could be performed by the students. In later years, other songs were composed about the university and were included in the student songbooks (1903 & 1913) but for reasons that remain unclear, 'Salvete Cives Nostri' was excluded from these publications.
‘Our Alma Mater on the Hill’ was a song written for University College Liverpool's Student Song book (1903)
‘Fiat Lux’ was a song written for University College Liverpool's Student Song book (1913)
The making of 'Salvete Cives Nostri' (2015)
Fast forward to 2015 where we are commemorating two anniversaries:
70 years since the death of Gerald Henry Rendall who was the first Principal of University College Liverpool and was also the President of the Student Choral Society (1945)
25 years since the renaming of the 'Arts Lecture Theatre' to the 'Leggate Lecture Theatre' where 'Salvete Cives Nostri' was first performed (1990)
During research for the Victoria Gallery and Museum digital tour, a copy of the Victoria Building's opening ceremony programme & words to the University College song were found in the university’s Special Collections & Archives. We were then able to find some of the sheet music composed by Albert Lister Peace in 'The Orpheus Series' number 242.
The University of Liverpool Choral Director Anne Demougin was approached to see if she could bring the old University College song into the 21st Century.
On the 22 May 2015 a choral performance was recorded in English and consisted of thirteen University of Liverpool staff and students of both sexes as opposed to the 1892 version which was originally performed in Latin by 30 male students.
Students in the 2015 choir: Lizzy Paes, Jenny Rivers, Martha Nichols, Hu Xiaotian, Ellen Vaughan, Luke Freeney, Boonchinaporn Ngamchaluai (Pang)
Staff in the 2015 choir: Alan Mueller, Elliott Lawrence, William King, Phil Jimmieson.
Pianist: Kornthida Khotawanich (Pear).
Conductor: Anne Demougin
With thanks to Alex Stevenson for filming the choir & Michael Beiert who assisted with the audio recording.
Film edited by Kim Fisher.