Reflections from the Dome
We would like to thank Larry Dwyer, Assistant Director of Bands, for permission to use text and photographs from the excellent book, The Band of the Fighting Irish: A Pictorial History of the Notre Dame Band - Memory Book Volumne 1
This month's edition of Reflections from the Dome is a short history of the Band of the Fighting Irish from the above book.
History of the Band
There has always been a close and
affectionate tie between the Notre Dame Band and the rest of the Notre Dame
community. Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., who founded the University in 1842,
is strongly rumored to have been a clarinet player. While it is possible
that the Notre Dame Band and musical studies originated with the University
that same year, the earliest reference to the band is in 1846 when it played
at the first graduation ceremony. The importance of music on campus also
caused a Music Hall/Auditorium to be built as the third major building of
the new school after the classroom/dormitory building (The Golden Dome) and
the Church. The legendary football coach, Knute Rockne, played flute for
Notre Dame, and former Athletic Director Edward (Moose) Krause spent some
years studying music before putting his clarinet on the shelf and devoting
himself to athletics.
The Music of Notre Dame
The famous "Notre Dame Victory March" is widely held as one of the most recognized, and arguably the best college fight song in the country. It has certainly been emulated and copied as much as any college song in history. But, it has never been equaled.
The Victory March was written in 1908 by two Notre Dame graduates, Father Michael Shea and his brother John. Its public debut, however, was not at Notre Dame, but at a Protestant church in the Shea's hometown of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Father Michael had met his old teacher, an organist at the Second Congregational Church, and told him about the new song. The teacher invited him to play it on the church's new organ, and the "Notre Dame Victory March" was born.
On Easter Sunday, 1909, the fight song
was first performed on campus in the rotunda of the Administration Building
(Golden Dome). The Band played it as part of its traditional Easter morning
concert. The Victory March was first heard at a Notre Dame athletic event
10 years later.
Joseph Casasanta, director from 1923 to 1942, also composed the University's alma mater, "Notre Dame, Our Mother." This gentle hymn was first played at the funeral of coaching legend, Knute Rockne, after his tragic death in a 1931 plane crash. It was adopted as the University's alma mater shortly thereafter. Casasanta also added Notre Dame's other famous football songs, "Hike, Notre Dame," "When the Irish Backs Go Marching By" and "Down the Line."
Robert F. O'Brien, director from 1952 to 1986 added the now-famous victory clog, "Damsha Bua," played after every Irish victory. Over the years, Notre Dame fans have also found favor with an Irish jig known as, "The Rakes of Mallow," as well as the stirring conclusion to Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture." More recently the powerful and pounding "Celtic Chant," from the hand of current director, Kenneth Dye, has called the Irish faithful to rally their team onward to victory.
-ND Band Archives
The Irish Guard
Each football Saturday, the Band of the Fighting Irish is led onto the field for its traditional pre-game salute by the famed Irish Guard. This group of precision marchers was formed in 1949 when then director, H. Lee Hope conceived the idea of adding color to the band while maintaining the dignity befitting the nation's oldest university band. The Guard was meant to be impressive and as such each member was required to be a minimum of six feet, two inches tall - a regulation still in effect today.
During the first few
years, the Irish Guard performed on bagpipes. Performances included a
variety of Irish tunes as well as several school songs. Prior to each home
football game, the Guard would perform around the concourse of the stadium,
as well as other areas on campus. Cold weather, however, proved to be the
downfall of the bagpipes as moisture would collect and freeze inside the
pipes rendering them useless. Performing on bagpipes was discontinued in
Today the Irish Guard remains one of the most visible parts of the Notre Dame Band and continues to lead the march through campus and onto the field.
-ND Band Archives
Notre Dame Plaid
A special Notre Dame plaid was first conceived in 1966 by Director of Bands, Robert O'Brien. In 1969 drawings were presented to Frank Amussen who completed the final sketches. One design was basically green with another design basically blue. Additional colors were added to symbolize important aspects ofNotre Dame.
The design was submitted to the Court of the Lord Lyon, in Edinburgh, Scotland, on March 11, 1970. There it was examined by the Tartan Advisory Committee which confirmed that the Notre Dame plaid did not appear to be associated with any clan or name in Scotland.
The blue design was adopted by the University as the official plaid and has been trademarked and copyrighted. The colors in the plaid symbolize the following:
GREEN- the Fighting Irish
BLUE and GOLD - the colors of the University of Notre Dame du Lac
RED - the Church and the Holy Cross Fathers
BLACK- delineates the design
-ND Band Archives