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Origins of the North Dakota Children’s Choir

Thirty years ago, Glenys Wigness, a grade school music teacher in Fargo, had an idea: a North Dakota children’s choir should be formed.

After all, she reasoned, other states had them. And besides, North Dakota’s centennial year would be coming up in two years.

So Glenys contacted other music teachers around the state, a committee was formed and the call went out for musically-inclined kids ages 10 to 14.

Taped auditions came in from 1,347 of them, from which 89 were accepted.

One of them was Dion Brown, son of Ray and Joyce Brown of Enderlin, N.D.

Ray has sent Neighbors a copy of a story written by Susan Anderson-Larson for the July 26, 1989, issue of the Ransom County Gazette and Enterprise, Lisbon, N.D. This information is from that story.

Long but fun hours

Glenys directed the new North Dakota Children’s Choir, which one music instructor said was made up of “the cream” of the state’s musical kids of that age.

It took two years of research to select the songs the children would sing during the North Dakota centennial year. Once chosen, the music was sent to the 89 choir members so they could learn the melodies and lyrics.

In early July 1989, the kids got together in Bottineau, N.D., for the first time to start practicing. Rehearsals were six hours a day for a week. Then they began touring the state, giving their first concerts July 16 in Mohall, N.D., and Minot, N.D., and winding up July 23 at Park River, N.D., and Carrington, N.D.

The kids not only sang, they danced and played such instruments as a drum, guitar, accordion, flutes and fiddles.

When Dion Brown’s family heard him perform with the choir, they were mighty happy. “I was very proud to think that he was one of many children that were chosen to be in the choir,” his grandmother Alma Brown, Enderlin, told the Gazette’s reporter. ”It’s too bad they can’t get them on Johnny Carson,” the popular TV “Tonight Show” host at the time, Dion’s dad said.

Working on sets

Dion said his favorite part about his participation in the choir was setting up and taking down the set. He and other choir members assisted stage director Martin Jonason, Fargo, in assembling and disassembling the portable backdrop used during the performances.

This was old stuff for Martin, who portrayed Teddy Roosevelt at the end of the programs. “I’ve been in this business forever; I’ve always loved the theater,” he said.

Martin was the director of the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater for 10 years and also directed musicals for the Trollwood Theater, Moorhead. He wrote the dialogue and worked out the choreography for the Children’s Choir.

Great memories

After the choir’s final performance in Carrington, the story said, its members would “go back home full of memories of new friends, long practices, hard work and an incredible sense of accomplishment.”

Some of you reading this may have been in that choir and agree with the reporter’s prediction, even if you didn’t get on the Johnny Carson show.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 241-5487 or email