In 1918 when thousands gathered on the Forbes Library lawn for a community sing, a sole photographer documented the event. On Sunday September 23, 100 years later, those gathering on the lawn to sing were all carrying their iPhones. Forbes Library requests that those who are interested in including their digital photos in the Library Archive to email them to or share a google drive folder with

Picnic on the Forbes Library lawn at 6PM,

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018, followed by a sing-along at moonrise.

The Picnic

Bring blankets or lawn chairs and a picnic from home or takeout from one of the sponsoring Northampton restaurants and stores:

Haymarket Cafe, Local Burger, Noodles, Pinocchio Pizza, Pita Pockets, Provisions, State Street Fruit Store, Tart Baking Co, and Woodstar Cafe

Our Community Sing

As the sun disappears and the autumn moon rises, we’ll sing four songs spanning 1908 to 2007 led by local singers/musicians.

This is a participatory event, not a concert.

Free and open to the entire community.

Community sing on Forbes Library grounds, July 12, 1918
Community sing on Forbes Library grounds, July 12, 1918

Community Sing in 1918

During the summer of 1918 as WWI was drawing to a close, thousands gathered on the Forbes Library lawn to sing and socialize.

More photos and newspaper coverage of the 1918 sings

Community Sing in 2018

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

Interested in learning the songs with others?

Learn the 4 songs on Wednesday, September 19 at 7:00pm in The Calvin Coolidge Room of Forbes Library led by Tom Mahnken of the band Trailer Park.  Free and open to the entire community.

Interested in learning the songs on your own?

Click on the song titles to be redirected to the YouTube videos.


Shine on

Shine on harvest moon

Up in the sky

I ain’t had no lovin’ since January, February, June or July

Snow time ain’t no time to stay outdoors and spoon

So shine on

Shine on harvest moon for me and my gal

Snow time ain’t no time to stay outdoors and spoon

So shine on

Shine on harvest moon for me and my gal

THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND (Woody Guthrie, 1940/1944)

This land is your land and this land is my land

From California to the New York Island

From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream waters

This land was made for you and me

HARVEST MOON (Neil Young, 1992)

Because I’m still in love with you

I want to see you dance again

Because I’m still in love with you

On this harvest moon

CITY OF IMMIGRANTS (Steve Earle, 2007)

All of us are immigrants

Every daughter, every son

Everyone is everyone

All of us are immigrants – everyone

Karaoke YouTube versions:




A note on the selected songs:

This land is colonized land. While many residents are immigrants or descended from people who immigrated here, this is far from true for all. Indigenous people have stewarded this land for generations. In addition, while many immigrants came here to escape persecution and in hopes of a better life, many Black and brown people were enslaved by white colonizers and brought to this country against their will. We hope any unease around these lyrics will lead to dialogue.

Musicians & Singers leading the sing-along

Jim Armenti of The Lonesome Brothers

Joe Blumenthal of Klezamir

F. Alex Johnson of Colorway

Tom Mahnken of Trailer Park

Jodi L. Nicholas

Mary Witt of The O-Tones

1894 and now

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.  We hope you will join us!

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.

Our Community Sing on September 23, 2018, will combine voices of individual members of the public and local choral groups, choirs, and informal singing groups. Everyone will learn the same four songs and come together to sing in unison on the lawn. This event is participatory, not a performance.  People are invited to bring their own blankets and chairs for the event. Some chairs will be available for those who need them.

Rain date:  Monday, September 24

If rain is forecast for both dates, an alternative in-door site will be announced.  Check the Forbes Library website for updates.

The Musicians & Singers for Our Community Sing

Jim Armenti has been an instrumentalist, performer, songwriter and teacher in the Connecticut valley for over 40 years. Currently he can be seen performing as a Solo act and also with the Lonesome Brothers, Young@Heart Chorus and Klezamir. He is a graduate of the music and anthropology departments of UMass Amherst and currently teaches at Downtown Sounds in Northampton.

Joe Blumenthal is the founder and owner of Downtown Sounds musical instrument store since 1976.  He has also played bass in a variety of bands in the Valley for over thirty years, including Klezamir (a local klezmer band), Orkestar Banitsa (a local folk dance band), Zay-tunes (a local Arabic music ensemble), and Maple Ridge bluegrass band.  He also founded and leads the AEIOUkes, Northampton’s ukulele club.  He has also had a long association with the Northampton Community Music Center and Northampton’s chamber of commerce, and sits on Northampton’s Central Business Architecture board.

F. Alex Johnson is the founder and leader of the Northampton rock-pop trio, Colorway. He spent almost twenty years in the alt-country sextet, Drunk Stuntmen, parting ways in 2008 after releasing seven albums, touring cross country and abroad and saying goodbye to several passenger vans along the way (some in a ball of fire). He has been the guitar player in the Young at Heart Chorus pit band since 2004 and has toured five continents with the group, even appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as well as Ellen. Alex hosts a popular open mic night at Brew Practioners in downtown Florence on Wednesday nights and continues to play all over the US and internationally, both as a solo performer and with others, most recently playing shows in The Netherlands and Japan this past spring.

Tom Mahnken is a founding member and bass player for the band Trailer Park, as well as a saxophonist with the Young@Heart Chorus. He also works as the creative director for Local Voice Media, produces records, and occasionally acts. He also enjoys lawn mowing.

Jodi L. Nicholas loves to sing and be with those who feel a similar love for music.  She is married to F. Alex Johnson.   They live together in Florence.

Mary Witt is one of the singers and the bass player for The O-Tones, a Massachusetts-based band that plays Swing, Blues, Soul, Motown, Jazz & Latin music. The O-Tones have been playing weddings, parties, fundraisers, festivals, and more all over New England for 25 years. They are usually a 6-piece group with 3 singers, guitar, tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums. They also perform in different sized groups depending on the event, but audiences love their sound and often get to dance to the grooves and harmonies.

This year’s sing is set for September 23. The event kicks off with a picnic at 6 pm with singing to follow. Please send suggestions and comments to Faith Kaufmann, Forbes Library Arts & Music Librarian, 413-587-1013 or  This page will be updated with more information about Our Community Sing as it develops.


This event is presented by Northampton Senior Services and Forbes Library with support from Historic Northampton, Northampton Senior Services, Northampton Community Arts Trust, A.P.E. Ltd., Northampton Community Music Center, and Smith College. This program is funded in part by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.