On the evening of March 6, 1808, six Harvard men got together, lit UP cigars, opened UP the brandy, and struck UP the band.

The boys called their group The Pierian Solidarity.

Their original purpose was to get a little tipsy and trot all over town serenading young belles.

Who knew their society would become the first College Orchestra in the United States?

But it did!

Granted, the early group was a spirited bunch.  So much so that the Faculty of the Ivied Institution admonished them when they took a whole night off from school and spent it serenading the local gals.

They were censured so strongly that by 1832, the group had grown to one.

Poor Henry Gassett, a flautist, held meetings alone, called them to order, paid dues – to himself – and played his flute.

He convinced another flautist to join him for duets, and the small merry band was on its way to orchestradom again.

They elected and invited other guys to join and were a major influence over music at Harvard for the next 50 years.

The Harvard Glee Club and the Harvard Orchestra both trace their origins to the Pierians.

When the 19th Century became the 20th, Harvard actually referred to the group aas the Harvard University Orchestra.  It was a more serious outfit and was not only the first college orchestra in America, it was the largest.  It set about building an international reputation.

In the 1930s, the Pierian men caved in and joined forces with the Radcliffe Institute Orchestra assisting them from time to time in concerts.  Finally in 1942, the groups merged and became the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra.

Pierian membership was depleted during the years of World War II; Radcliffe was missing a few instruments in their group, so the merger was a win-win.

In the 1950s the group started recording, increased their efforts as a real orchestra and started travelling.  They played the former Soviet Union, Asia, Europe, Canada, and South America.

All because a bunch of guys got together on March 6, 1808 to smoke a few cigars, drink some brandy, and court some girls.

Ah, music, it often speaks when words fail.

I’m glad the Pierians didn’t.


Where Words Fail, Music Speaks – Hans Christian Andersen