October 4, 2017

The Debut of the Riversymposium Club Band

As the 2017 Riversymposium approached, which is also the twentieth Riversymposium, I began to reminisce about the various symposia that I have attended ever since 1998.

Bill Dennison talking at the River Symposium. Image credit International River Foundation

The first line from the first album, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles kept repeating in my mind: “It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the Band to play . . ..” Inspired by this, I wrote an alternative version that I called “Riversymposium Club Band.” In the Beatles album, this song transitions into “With a Little Help From My Friends.” This song is quite appropriate for our event because it celebrates the hard work that Thiess International Riverprize finalists have put into training others to help them protect and restore their rivers. This is why I decided to collaborate with John, Paul, George and Ringo to write a new version of both songs.

The album art for the song. Image modified by Dylan Taillie.

Rather than expose the gala dinner audience to the “singing issues” that my daughters claim I possess, several people assisted in the creation of a karaoke version of the songs. The most important contribution to the karaoke version was Kat Parsons’ wonderful singing voice. Kat is a talented artist based in my hometown in Easton, Maryland. Jamie Currie, a Science Communication Intern at the Integration and Application Network (IAN), found a karaoke version of the songs and provided them to Kat, who recorded the song the Riversymposium Club Band. Jamie also used his film talents to provide images to the song, and even figured out how to make a bouncing ball on the lyrics to aid in the sing-a-long version. Dylan Taillie, an Assistant Science Communicator with IAN, used his Photoshop skills to produce a wonderful album cover in which the faces of various Riversymposium attendees were superimposed onto the original Beatles album cover. And Brian Kemp from the Brisbane Convention Center staff helped fix a glitch at the last minute and also ran the audiovisual display.

Image credit Bill Dennison

Another important tie-in to the River Symposium and the song is the reference to the coolamon, a traditional water carrier created from tree bark by aboriginal Australians. The coolamon is the inspiration for the Thiess International Riverprize trophy.

Image credit Bill Dennison

As the Master of Ceremonies for the gala dinner, I invoked my ability to control the food servings. I teased the audience that if no one from their table was singing, I would instruct the servers to withhold food. I proceeded to visit each table in turn during the song to insure my threat was working. I observed some robust singing and we had a rousing rendition.  I was particularly impressed with the participation in the “With a Little Help From My Friends” section.

Bill Dennison ensuring that no one eats this cake until they have finished singing. Image credit International River Foundation

A Youtube version of the song can be found here, and the lyrics are as follows:


Riversymposium Club Band

19 Sept 2017

William C. Dennison

It was twenty years ago today
When Riversymposium came to town
It’s never really gone out of style
And it’s guaranteed to raise a smile
So may I introduce to you
The act you’ve known for all these years
Theiss International Riverprize

We’re Thiess International Riverprize
We hope you will enjoy the show
Thiess International Riverprize
Sit back and let the evening go
Thiess International, Thiess International
Thiess International Riverprize
It’s wonderful to be here,
It’s certainly a thrill
You’re such a lovely audience
We’d like to give you all a prize
We’d love to give you a prize.

I don’t really want to stop the show
But I thought you might like to know
That the singer’s going to sing a song
And he wants you all to sing along
So let me introduce to you
The one and only Collamon
And the Thiess International Riverprize


What will you think when I sing out of tune
Will you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll tell you a story
And I’ll try not to make it hard to see
Oh   I get by with a little help from my friends
Mmm, I can see why with a little help from my friends
Mmm, Gonna try with a little help from my friends

What do I do when choosing the prize is so hard?
Does it worry you that the applicants are so good?
How do I feel at the end of the day
I’m sad they can’t all be winners
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mmm, I can see why with a little help from my friends
Mmm, Gonna try with a little help from my friends

Can it be anybody?
I need a winner to love
Could it be anybody?
I want a winner to love.

Would you believe in a Riverprize story
Yes I’m certain it is worth all the glory
What do I see when I look at the applications
I see some amazing organizations

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mmm, I can see why with a little help from my friends
Mmm, Gonna try with a little help from my friends

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About the author
Dr Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Applications at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.
Website: http://ian.umces.edu/people/Bill_Dennison/
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