Monday, 2 June 2014

Behind the Photo: 20k Gather in St. John's Park to Sing Old Songs (1931)

Often I will see an old photo or ad and spend some time digging into the back story. Sometimes I find a great story, sometimes not. Either way, I learn a few things about the city's history. Here's my latest attempt:

Back in 1931 the Winnipeg Tribune came up with a way to pick up the spirits of Depression-weary Winnipeggers. It was a series called "A Night of Community Song".

Top: July 24, 1931, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: July 8, 1931 Winnipeg Tribune

The first was held in Central Park on Wednesday, June 23, 1931 and they continued weekly until the end of August. Two concerts were played at Assiniboine Park, Kildonan Park, Central Park and St. John's Park. The finale, on August 26, 1931, was billed as the Twilight Music Festival at Assiniboine Park featuring dozens of soloists, choirs and orchestras.

The play list consisted of old favourites that everyone knew the words to and could sing along with, (reminiscent of the Proms in the U.K.), including sentimental favourites such as Loch Lamond, patriotic anthems like Land of Hope and Glory and a bit of fun with The Drunkard's Song.

August 17, 1933, Winnipeg Tribune

The concerts were a huge success. According to the Tribune's own numbers, each show attracted between 10,000 and 20,000 people.

The series was repeated the following summer with a more multicultural flare, some nights featuring Ukrainian choirs and "Negro" bands. The closing night of the 1933 season, above, brought 25,000 people to Assiniboine Park.

The final year for the Community Night of Song series was 1934.

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