Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Concert Season Kick-Off

The Northfield Community Band takes the stage at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 17, for its first concert of the 2010 season.  The band is playing on Bridge Square during the Taste of Northfield, and I'm looking forward to listening as I investigate the culinary offerings of the town's participating restaurants.

The Northfield Community Band has played summer concerts for more than 100 years.  It's a wonderful tradition.  I like the fact that the band is open to anyone, of high school age and older, who is interested in performing and is willing to show up for rehearsals.  It's a shame the talented group has such a short season – although I can understand why, given people's busy schedules.

My great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs, demanded a longer summer commitment from his band members.  The typical summer season for his municipal and boys' bands began in early June and ran through early September.  The fall/winter season started in October.

During the summer of 1915, for example, the Citizens Band of Crookston had 20 concerts.  The band played 143 different songs from seven different categories: overtures, selections (like Victor Herbert's "Sweethearts"), novelties (anyone familiar with "Crazy Bone Rag" by Charles Johnson?); solos/duets, waltzes, marches, and popular songs (such as the World War I-inspired "I Didn't Raise My Boy to be a Soldier" by Al Piantadosi).
 The Crookston Citizen Band's summer 1915 brochure, which lists all 27 band members and their instruments.
The other side lists all 143 selections the Crookston band played in concerts that summer.

G. Oliver continued this tradition of weekly summer concerts throughout his directing career.  In some towns, like Crookston, Minn., Grand Forks, N.D., and Havre, Mont., these outdoor concerts were held at different locations in the business district, with the band playing on a moveable, lighted bandstand.  In St. Cloud, the bands sometimes paraded through the downtown streets, but the weekly concerts were rotated among the city's parks. 
I snapped this photo at the intersection of Kittson Avenue and South Third Street in Grand Forks, one of the concert sites for the Grand Forks city band in the summer of 1909.

Earlier this afternoon, while trying to cull some duplicate photos and unneeded documents from my computer files, I rediscovered an article I'd scanned about the Crookston Juvenile Band's debut summer concert in 1916.  The yellowed newspaper clipping, which was loose in my great-grandfather's scrapbook, includes a photo of the band – the same photo that my parents and I found hanging in the Polk County History Museum during our recent trip to Crookston, and that I mentioned in a previous blog entry.

The clipping is of two related stories; one about how the concert on Robert Street attracted an audience of more than a thousand people; and one about a community effort to raise money to purchase uniforms for the band before its appearance at the Grand Forks fair.

The newspaper clipping about the Crookston Juvenile Band.

A copy of the same photo, which we found hanging on a wall at the Polk County Historical Museum.  G. Oliver is in the center, with son Ronald to the left and son Percy to the right.

I must have noticed the photo when I first found the undated clipping in the scrapbook, but I had forgotten about it.  And since I didn't have the exact date (at that point, I didn't even know the year), I had put it aside until I had more clues that would help me date it.  It's one of the battles I constantly face, having acquired so much material about G. Oliver's bands; sometimes I forget what I have already seen, and what I've filed away for future research.

The cool thing about seeing the actual photo at the museum (and making a life-size copy) is that it's so much easier to see all the boys' faces.  Also, Floyd Meng, the man who donated the photo to the museum (and who is No. 2 in the picture), listed on the back all the names he knew or remembered.  If you look closely, you might be able to see the white numbers etched on each band member.

In the interest of assisting people out there who are researching their Crookston ancestors, here's a numbered list of all the boys in the photo.  Let me know if you recognize a name!  Even if you don't, it's fun to see the variety of names from that time.

1. Lorenze Thomforde
2. Floyd Meng
3. Ray Lanatot
4. Wallace Lowe
5. xxx Bjorgo
6. Herman Heydt
7. Maurice Bratrud
8. George Bang
9. Joe Hovland
10. Harold Braff

11. Walter Henemuth
12. Vernon Bustrud
14. Ephraim Lee
15. Junius Holte
16. Ellory Storholm
18. Walter Meng
19. Truman Daniels
20. xxx Wheeler

23. Edward Risch
26. Ronald Riggs (my grandfather)
27. Laurence Berquist
28. Oliver Riggs, Director (my great-grandfather)
29. Cliff Strande
30. Dwight Darkow

31. xxx Rossberg
32. Chas. Smiley
33. Ronald Davies
34. Ken Lohn
35. Earl Berg
36. Joe Peterson
37. xxx LaCousiere

42. Harold Holte
43. xxx Brouilliard
44. Percy Riggs (my great-uncle)
45. Peter Fylling
46. Keith Sandberg
47. Lloyd Lobb
48. xxx Bjorgo
49. xxx Bjorgo

51. xxx Chabot
52. Ed Schuler
53. Howard Lohn
54. Hilmon Johnson
55. Ray Cochrane
56. Ed Swartzkopf
57. Perrman Nesselrod

62. Sven Vaule
64. Earl Gramer
66. V. Brouilliard
67. Glenn Sandberg
68. Ole Fylling
69. Oscar Berge (not present)


  1. I'd love for the community band to play more than 4 concerts each summer. I think the problem is getting players to commit to staying in town over a longer period. With vacation plans being what they are, I think it would be tough. Not sure how to solve that. Thanks for the great piece.

  2. Thanks for reading, Dan, and thanks for plugging my blog on the Vintage Band Festival Facebook page.

    I can understand why the schedule is short, as you mentioned, due to players' other summer commitments. It's too bad, though, because people who are out of town toward the end of June or the beginning of July miss out on hearing some great music!