Fryberger Sing celebrates 75th anniversary Feb. 25-26
With Louisville still reeling from the worst flood in its history in February 1937, University of Louisville fraternity and sorority members dressed in their best attire and took turns gathering on the steps in front of Grawemeyer Hall.
They did so to pay tribute to Agnes Moore Fryberger, a UofL music professor who’d recently left the university due to illness. Each chapter took turns singing a capella, in barbershop quartet style.
Seventy-five years later, their tribute to Fryberger is still going strong.
UofL will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Fryberger Greek Sing with a special two-night engagement at The Louisville Palace in downtown Louisville. The show will start Saturday, Feb. 25, at 6:30 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 26, at 5:30 p.m.
Greek alumni are encouraged to attend the Saturday night performance and to attend a special reception for them just before it starts.
UofL Dean of Student Michael Mardis will emcee the Feb. 25 performance. Helen Grace Correll Ryan, a UofL alumna and dean of students at Bellarmine University, will emcee Sunday’s show.
“Fryberger is one of those things that has stuck around, even as a lot of other traditions have fallen away,” said Fryberger co-chair Abby Smith. “It’s an event that unites chapters.”
Although the venue has moved from on campus to off, over the years the core performance has stayed the same. It is, above all, a singing competition.
Fryberger is one of the biggest events for Greeks on campus, said event co-chair Gloria George. Each year, sororities and fraternities spend months in preparation. Chapters select songs, choreograph dances and design costumes in the hope of winning a year’s worth of bragging rights.
For students the event also is a chance to show their talents—often to the surprise of others. Greek adviser Joni Burke said she remembers with surprise the year a football kicker belted out a solo at Fryberger.
In the weeks leading up to the show, participants will practice intensively.
“There’s so much work that goes into it,” George said. “As the event gets closer, people begin to wish each other “Happy Fryberger, like it’s a season.”
The music varies each year. Burke said one of the first Frybergers she attended in the 1980s featured a selection of Carole King songs. Recently, the music has included songs from such films as “The Lion King,” “The Sound of Music” and “The Hangover,” as well as other current pop music.
The days leading up to the show will be hectic as competitors step up their practice and preparation. Students should remember, however, that they are getting to participate in something special and doing so at a historic venue, Smith said.
“I was at a concert (at The Louisville Palace) recently, and was thinking, ‘I’ve performed on the same stage as Ryan Adams,” she said. “In that sense, it’s really cool for all of the performers to get backstage access to such a historical place in Louisville.”
Recent Fryberger Sings have sold out, Burke said, noting that the show nearly folded in the 1990s.
“That really wasn’t that long ago,” she said. “It took a while, but once it got going again, it really took off.”
Fryberger tickets are $15 and are available at The Louisville Palace box office at 625 S. 4th St. or online.
Proceeds from this year’s show will benefit UofL’s Community Music Program and scholarships for both an outstanding male and female Greek student.