BEVERLY — When Judy Toomey Ryer wrote the Beverly High School song for a contest, she couldn't have guessed that students would still be performing it today.
But 65 years later, the Beverly High band and chorus is set to close its spring concert with the song, and to pay homage to its composer.
The school music department's spring concert is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the high school. Ryer is planning to attend, and will receive special recognition for her work.
Now 84 and living in Andover, Ryer graduated from Beverly High School in 1951. She married at 17 and began teaching piano, which she still does today. She also plays piano at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem on Sunday nights, she said, "so that keeps me out of trouble."
She lived most of her life in Beverly until she and her husband relocated to Andover a couple years ago.
"I'm just going to keep moving until God says, 'OK lady, bring that piano and come on up,'" she said with a laugh.
Ryer said she enjoyed her time at Beverly High. Her senior year, the school held a contest to see if a student could come up with music and lyrics for a school song.
This was a break from the norm — Ryer recalls that many schools borrowed their song from a college and just tailored it for their school.
Ryer wasn't crazy about writing the song, she said, but her mother urged her to do it. She looked up some tunes and started "fiddling around" with music and lyrics. Her mother helped with a few lines, she said.
"I had a lot of fun at Beverly High and I wanted it to sound like that kind of thing," Ryer said.
She didn't think she would win, she said, and was surprised when she did. Her efforts earned her a $5 prize.
Eileen Yarrison, a Beverly High graduate whose daughter, Ellie Ofiesh, plays in the band, told school instrumental director Adam Costa about the song's important anniversary.
"They still play the song at football games," Yarrison said, specifically when Beverly scores.
But the history of the song was lost to current students.
"They didn't know it had been written by a student like them," she said.
Costa said his department has been working on a fresh arrangement of the song since last fall. He and Michael Benoit, who graduated in the 1990s, put together the band arrangement — over email they came up with counter melodies and changed a key. Carolyn Pilanen-Kudlik, current school choral director, worked on the choral arrangement.
"I believe this will be the fourth makeover since its inception back in 1951," Costa said.
The students have enjoyed preparing for the performance, he said.
"They're used to playing it all season long when we're in our marching mode," said Costa. "I think they were intrigued by the concept of performing it on stage."
BHS alumni from Ryer's era to the present are encouraged to attend the performance on Thursday.
Arianna MacNeill can be reached at 978-338-2527 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SN_AMacNeill.
Beverly High School Song
Onward oh, onward for Beverly High
With our voices singing loud and strong and clear.
Long may we cherish her, faithful we'll be to
Our Alma Mater dear.
Hail to her heroes, her loyal sons and true;
Let our hearts be now united
We'll always play fair, and her high ideals we'll share
For dear old Beverly High.