Barrett Choir to sing 'Arizona March Song' at centennial celebration
Did you know that Arizona has an official state anthem? (Actually, it has two.)
The first, the “Arizona March Song” was adopted by the Fourth State Legislature on Feb. 28, 1919, as the state’s official song. Margaret Rowe Clifford wrote the lyrics, and Maurice Blumenthal composed the music.
In 1982, the Arizona Legislature named “I Love You Arizona,” by Rex Allen Jr., a Willcox native, as an alternative state song.
Most Arizonans have never heard a performance of the Arizona March Song, but they’ll have their chance on Feb. 14, when the 70-member Barrett Choir, directed by David Schildkret, performs the state anthem at the State Capitol during the state’s 100th birthday party.
The 100th Statehood Day events will begin at 7 a.m. with a Native American sunrise ceremony at Phoenix City Hall. Then, there will be a re-enactment of Gov. George W. P. Hunt’s walk from the former Ford Hotel at 2nd Avenue and Washington Street to the Capitol.
From 8:45 to 9:45 a.m., there will be a Happy 100th Birthday Arizona ceremony at the Capitol, with John Hook and Kari Lake of Fox-10 as masters of ceremony. The Barrett Choir will sing during the hour (as will Rex Allen Jr.).
The choir also will perform The “Arizona March Song” at the Fiesta Inn on Feb. 9 at an event sponsored by the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society honoring Barbara Hatch, founder of the Veterans Heritage Project.
The “Arizona March Song’ begins with an invitation: “Come to this land of sunshine, to this land where life is young,” and implores the audience to “thank God, for Arizona in splendid sunshine dressed.”
Schildkret said the song, written in 1915, is “very much of its time. The melody and the language both seem rather old-fashioned to us now, but it's fun to try to capture the spirit of newness that the song communicates. It's also fun to evoke that long-ago era.”
Since the song was only written for solo voice or unison voices and piano, Schildkret made a new arrangement for the choir to sing at the centennial celebration.
“I came up with an a capella arrangement that uses the right kind of sound for a song of this era,” he said. “This arrangement is for four-part unaccompanied choir. It evokes the style of early 20th-century college songs and barbershop quartet songs.”
The Barrett Choir was founded a year at the suggestion of Kimberly Marshall, director of the School of Music. “Kimberly approached me about starting a choir for non-music majors as part of the School of Music’s effort to improve access to the school for students in the general population,” Schildkret said.
“We agreed that Barrett Honors College probably had a large population of students who had sung in high school choir but who were not involved in a choir at ASU. We met with students last spring to set up a rehearsal schedule and the general outlines of the group, we recruited singers last spring and summer, and we began rehearsing in August with about 80 members.”
The “Arizona March Song”
Come to this land of sunshine
To this land where life is young.
Where the wide, wide world is waiting,
The songs that will now be sung.
Where the golden sun is flaming
Into warm, white, shining day,
And the sons of men are blazing
Their priceless right of way.
Come stand beside the rivers
Within our valleys broad.
Stand here with heads uncovered,
In the presence of our God!
While all around, about us
The brave, unconquered band,
As guardians and landmarks
The giant mountains stand.
Not alone for gold and silver
Is Arizona great.
But with graves of heroes sleeping,
All the land is consecrate!
O, come and live beside us
However far ye roam
Come and help us build up temples
And name those temples "home".
Sing the song that's in your hearts
Sing of the great Southwest,
Thank God, for Arizona
In splendid sunshine dressed.
For thy beauty and thy grandeur,
For thy regal robes so sheen
We hail thee Arizona
Our Goddess and our queen.
Sheet music for both the “Arizona March Song” and “I Love You Arizona” songs is available for $8 at the Arizona Capitol museum store, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix. For more information call (602) 926-3620.