Dakota Datebook

Victory Sing in Grand Forks

Thursday, December 19, 2013

 

World War I was the most devastating war in human history at the time it was fought from 1914 to 1918. The Armistice that ended the conflict on November 1, 1918, came as a great relief to the nations at war.

For J. Myron Bacon, a pilot from Grand Forks, word that “the armistice had been signed and we didn’t have to go” on patrol. He said, it brought “some joyous shouts . . . and everyone behaved like a two-year-old. It really seems too good to be true, but it is, and I am glad.”

The joy of the armistice was tempered by a deep sense of loss, for 116,516 U.S. soldiers died in the Great War. In order to mark the end of the war, the Women’s Council of National Defense originated and carried out a National Victory Sing Day.

The Victory Sing was to feature hymns of patriotism and praise and thanks to honor the servicemen who had gone “over there” to the Western Front to fight against the Central Powers. Songs were also to be sung to celebrate the efforts of those on the Home Front who labored in the factories and farms to produce the food, supplies and weapons for the soldiers at the front lines. Accordingly, a call went out nationally after the Armistice for musicians and vocalists to gather together on Thanksgiving Day, the 28th of November.

Spirited citizens of Grand Forks wanted to join the Victory Sing, however, the city was in the midst of the Spanish Influenza epidemic from September through November. No public meetings were permitted. There were no school or college classes, nor movies or church services or gatherings of any kind, so Grand Forks could not schedule the Victory Sing until after Thanksgiving Day had passed.

The flu subsided in early December and the city opened up the public schools and allowed public meetings once again. Planning for the Victory Sing in Grand Forks proceeded and a community chorus under the direction of Mr. W.W. Norton began practicing.

On this date, over two thousand people joined in the celebration of the National Victory Sing in the city auditorium. The program consisted of two themes; the victory in the Great War, and the spirit of Christmas joy. The Grand Forks band, under the direction of A.E. Moses, led off with several numbers, starting with the National Anthem. Then came choral songs of Thanksgiving, including “America, the Beautiful,” and “Song of Peace” by Arthur Sullivan.

The Christmas theme featured a solo dance, given by Miss Doris Payne, followed by numerous hymns, capped off by “Silent Night,” and “Joy to the World.” The finale – the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah” was “splendidly rendered by the special chorus.”

The Victory Sing in Grand Forks was noted as the “first of its kind” in the city, and the celebration gloriously “won its way into the hearts of the community as a whole.”

 

Today’s Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.

 

Sources:

 

“Enthusiastic Audience At Victory Sing,” Grand Forks Herald, December 20, 1918, p. 10.

“Victory Sing,” Grand Forks Herald, December 15, 1918, p. 1.

“Victory Sing To Be Staged Thursday Night,” Grand Forks Herald, December 18, 1918, p. 8.

“Victory Sing Tonight,” Grand Forks Herald, December 19, 1918, p. 1.

“Myron Bacon Safe, Is Word,” Grand Forks Herald, December 8, 1918, p. 8.

“Victory Sings All Over Our Land,” New York Times, November 24, 1918, p. 42.

“Victory Thanksgiving Sings to Be Universal,” Minneapolis Tribune, November 28, 1918, p. 15.

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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