Barnard Bacchantae - The Beginning


I came to Barnard wanting to sing, and I found a chorus to sing in my first week of school, the Columbia University Glee Club.  It was all men, because Columbia was still an all-male college.  But the group had a good tradition of women singing the first and second tenor parts, so I was happy to audition as a first tenor.  We had a great conductor, and I liked all my fellow women tenors, including classmates Beth Knobel and Mary Reiner, and upperclasswomen, Cathy Schwartz, Clare Delmar, Bev Weintraub and Betsy Thorne, among others, who were all Barnard women.  During my sophomore year, the conductor suggested we Glee Club women get together and sing a song for one of our alumni concerts during our Spring Tour (1982).  He gave us some music, and we women practiced and then performed it at one of the alumni concerts.
A few of us liked the idea of singing together as women (although we also enjoyed singing with our men friends), and as an organizer type of person, I made sure we got together to practice and sing the following year.   We decided to form our own a capella group on campus through McAC, and I suggested the name, the Barnard Bacchantae.  I had gone to a summer dance camp as a child and the different age groups were named after Greek gods and goddesses, and one year I had been a “Bacchantae.”   My Barnard classmates quickly saw the value of a name reminiscent of the Barnard Greek Games and one our members, Peggy Hong, came up with the tag line, “Vinum, Viri et Cantus,” or, “Wine, Men and Song.”  (Or does Beth Knobel get credit for that? I don't remember!)
We were the only women’s a capella group on campus at the time, although it would not take too many years for that to change (especially after Columbia went coed in 1983).  We performed at Reunions, John Jay Yule Log Ceremony, Brooks Lounge, and for exchange concerts with other women’s schools.   An oft-told story by me is performing at Furnald Folk Fest on the same night that our fellow alumna and emerging pop/folk star, Suzanne Vega ’82 performed (I’m sure she sang “Tom’s Diner” that night). 
We struggled to find a Barnard alma mater, or any song that worked as Barnard College song.  In my senior year, a song was commissioned from a song writer to be the official Barnard song.   It never stuck.  Bacchantae still sings “College on a Hilltop,” which we revived as the school’s alma mater.
I love that Bacchantae is still singing on campus 32 years later.  I loved being part of a small group of women (almost all of whom I now keep in touch with on Facebook – across the US and three continents), and it makes me feel good to know that women still want to perform together, and want to be part of a special group representing Barnard.  And guess what? My Bacchantae/Glee Club women still love singing the Columbia University/College songs with our Columbia College classmates!  Roar, Lion, Roar!