The Northampton Arts Council works to support and nurture the arts in the city of Northampton. The Council awards grants twice each year to artists and arts groups from both state and locally-raised funds, and seeks to improve public awareness of the arts. Its' goals include maintaining and preserving the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Northampton, programming such annual events of interest to the community as First Night Northampton and Transperformance.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Forbes Library Hosts Picnic And Community Sing-Along


Forbes Library and Northampton Senior Services invite the greater Northampton community to gather on the Library’s West lawn for an old-fashioned picnic to be followed by a large community sing-along led by local musicians and singers Jim Armenti, Joe Blumenthal, Alex Johnson, Tom Mahnken, Jodi Nicholas, and Mary Witt. This is a participatory event, not a “performance.” Groups have been meeting over the summer to learn 4 songs: the Tin Pan Alley popular tune of 1908 SHINE ON HARVEST MOON, THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND (Woody Guthrie, 1940/1944). HARVEST MOON (Neil Young, 1992), and CITY OF IMMIGRANTS (Steve Earle, 2007). You don’t need to know the songs in order to participate. Lyrics to the 4 songs will be handed out during the picnic, and the singers leading the sing-along will refresh everyone’s musical memories before we all sing together.

Autumn officially begins on Saturday, September 22. The gathering will be at 6:00pm, Sunday, September 23, on the eve of the Harvest Moon’s full moon. We will sing beneath the light of the rising moon. Family and individuals are encouraged to bring blankets or tablecloths to spread out on the West lawn and to pack a picnic basket, or bring take-out, sandwiches and/or beverages from local restaurants and stores.

During Arts Night Out, Friday, September 14, at 5:00PM, at Memorial Hall, 240 Main Street, Northampton, a group sing will be led by Tom Mahnken and Mary Witt, giving newcomers a chance to learn the 4 songs, and for others to rehearse the songs again before the large community sing on the 23rd.

Forbes Library this year plans to commemorate its 125th anniversary. 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, “the war to end all wars,” so we invite the community to gather on the library lawn to raise spirits, support peaceful resolutions of conflicts, and confirm our sense of community by singing together.

The large group sing will combine voices of individual members of the community and local choral groups, choirs, and informal singing groups. Everyone has been learning the same 4 songs and will come together with the greater Northampton community to sing in unison on the lawn, much in the way Forbes Library selects a book each year for the entire community to read and then to gather and discuss. This project is a participatory, community event and is free and open to the entire community. Everyone will be given a chance to sing along.

Forbes Library and Senior Services are joined by several Northampton partners in support of the project including Historic Northampton, Northampton Senior Services, Northampton Community Arts Trust, A.P.E. Ltd., Northampton Community Music Center, Friends of Forbes Library, and Smith College.

During the summer of 1918 the trustees of Forbes Library granted use of the library grounds for several large gatherings of Northampton citizens for “Community Sings,” primarily of patriotic songs. The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that the community sing of June 24, 1918, attracted a crowd of five to six thousand people! Spirits were high, automobiles were parked along West Street, and the view from the embankment on Smith College grounds was a maze of white blouses and long skirts, straw boaters and 3-piece suits, along with high school cadets and two drum corps.

For photographs and news coverage of the 1918 events, please go to:

In the fall of 1894 Forbes Library opened its doors for the first time. Its 125th anniversary in 2019 will be the occasion of multiple events and celebrations. It all begins this fall with this joint celebration to both commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in 1918 and to sing together with your friends and the entire community.

For updates and more information about Our Community Sing, please go to: or

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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