Memory Lane: Mother and Child Reunion

The Atius-Sachem Moms Day Sing at Illinois evolved from traditional concerts into decades of crazy-fun shows

Kappa Delta and Delta Upsilon's performance of "The Cat in the Hat" receives second place in 1992 Atius Show. (Image courtesy of "Illio" 1993)
The Atius-Sachem Moms Day Sing at Illinois evolved from traditional concerts into decades of crazy-fun shows

Jeff Wiener, ’99 BUS, made sure that Moms Weekends were memorable for his own mom. Like the year she saw him cackle and wear a pointy black hat onstage as the Wicked Witch of the West. “It put a big smile on her face,” recalls Wiener, now living in Cincinnati and working as a software engineer. 

Wiener channeled the horrid nemesis of The Wizard of Oz at the Atius-Sachem Moms Day Sing, a longtime highlight of Moms Weekend at the University of Illinois. The beloved competition paired the talents of fraternities and sororities, whose members joined forces to write and perform 10-minute song-and-dance routines. 

Competitors often raided pop culture to blend Top 40 hits with the old-time favorites they knew would delight their moms. In 1993, Delta Zeta and Sigma Tau Gamma members grabbed top honors with “For Pete’s Sake,” an updated take on the Peter Pan story. That year more than 5,000 people saw the show at Foellinger Auditorium, and $30,000 was raised for charity. In 2010, Delta Zeta and Kappa Delta Rho won first place for a skit based on a time-travel device that allowed members to sample songs and dances from different eras.

The entertainment was a live-action gift to mom. “Moms Day or Dads Day can be a little lame. Maybe you do a barbecue or lunch,” says Ashley Albrecht Weaver, ’09 LAS, a member of Alpha Omicron Pi and now a journal editor at the U of I College of Law. “The Sing was lots of fun for us and for our moms. There are not a lot of organizations [on campus] with opportunities to perform. It gave the guys in the fraternity the chance to be a little goofy and have fun.”

1987 and 1932 Singin' For Moms

Outtakes from various Atius-Sachem Moms Day Sing performances over the decades. The program, which began a few years after the first Mother’s Day Celebration in 1922, brought together competing fraternities and sororities that wrote and performed 10-minute song-and-dance routines. Above (L-R), Singin’ For Moms 1987 and 1932. (Images courtesy of “Illio” 1987 and 1932)

Adds Weaver, a dancer since kindergarten who helped produce one of her sorority’s Atius-Sachem shows: “Everyone in the house wanted to be in it if they had the time.”

The moms didn’t want to miss out either. “It was a thrill and a joy, very heartwarming to see my daughter onstage in an act she choreographed,” says Kimberly Albrecht, a professional singer. “A couple of them were a tad risqué, but they were mostly very sweet.”

Students at Illinois have been crooning to their mothers for nearly a century. Begun a year or two after the first campus Mother’s Day celebration in 1922, shows were initially sedate and sober, often performed by practiced groups such as the Glee Club. The tradition became so important that when Moms Day went on hiatus during World War II, the University broadcast a radio concert dedicated to the mothers of students.

1993 Moms Day Sing

Students combined current Top 40 hits with standards to create Mom-pleasing entertainment. In 1993, Delta Zeta and Sigma Tau Gamma took first place for an updated version of Peter Pan. That year’s show drew more than 5,000 people and raised $30,000 for charity. (Image courtesy of “Illio” 1993)

In 1966, the women’s honoraries Alpha Cron and Shi-Ai, which both put on annual Moms Day shows, combined to form the leadership honorary Atius. Atius promptly teamed up with Sachem, a venerable honorary for junior men. The Atius-Sachem Moms Day Sing took the stage. Meanwhile, under the guidance of the Moms Association and the Illini Union, Moms Day had burgeoned into a whole weekend of mother and child reunion at Illinois.

Alas, Atius-Sachem has disbanded, and the Atius-Sachem Moms Day Sing was silent in 2019. But the desire to serenade Mom is forever. Concerts by the UI Black Chorus and the Women’s Glee Club are both still part of the vibrant Moms Weekend tradition, which encompasses other performances, games, brunch and a craft fair.

This year’s Moms Weekend takes place April 3-5.

2017 Moms Day Sing group

2017 Moms Day Sing group (Image courtesy of Facebook/Atius-Sachem Leadership Honorary)