From the Archives with Byron Hanson: June 2013

August 1, 1948 - A dedicatory service for Kresge Assembly Hall took the place of the usual Interlochen Service on the fifth Sunday of Camp. The dedication program followed the general pattern of Sunday services through the years with an instrumental prelude, hymn, and choral anthem - on this occasion sung by ALL the Camp choirs. Stanley Kresge presented the building to Dr. Maddy and the dedicatory address was delivered by the president of the University of Michigan, Alexander G. Ruthven. While this building would be greatly enlarged and fully roofed for the summer of 1964, our first major building since the 1928 Interlochen Bowl was a bold move for 1948 as the camp slowly emerged from years of debt, uncertain economics and a World War.

The service closed with a special setting of the hymn “God of Our Fathers” for orchestra and choir that Dr. Maddy made “for the dedication of Kresge Assembly Hall at Interlochen and dedicated to Sebastian S. Kresge.” The work is titled “Festival Finale” and some of the festivity occurs in the middle of the work: while the choirs rest for a verse the orchestra plays alone, interpolating snatches of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Yankee Doodle," "Dixie," "The Girl I Left Behind Me" and at least a half-dozen other tunes Maddy knew Mr. Kresge and most of the audience would easily recognize!

As his audience enjoyed a beautiful view of the lake through the glass doors beneath the inscription most readers probably know by heart, Dr. Ruthven promised that his message would be brief since his theme was a familiar one: the quest for world peace that had been so often sought but never achieved. He opined that the League of Nations and the United Nations were unsuccessful because they relied on the integrity of leaders, and that the only hope for enduring peace is friendship between peoples. He believed that our emotions are intrinsic to our human nature, unaffected by differences of color, creed or nationality. He concluded that Interlochen is perhaps the only major educational institution in the world devoted to the application of the agencies of communication to world friendship and understanding as illustrated by those words on the wall: “Dedicated To The Promotion Of World Friendship Through The Universal Language Of The Arts.”

My question for readers today is: who wrote those words emblazoned on that wall 65 years ago for all to see? There are elements of this axiom in letters of both Dr. Maddy and Mr. Kresge, and after only one summer of camp Dr. Maddy was chomping at the bit to take the orchestra on a European tour, but I have yet to find the exact statement anywhere else. Longfellow’s declaration that “Music is the universal language of mankind" comes close, certainly, but I would be happy to hear from any readers with a source for the entire statement or similar approaches to the idea we have all seen at some point over the past 65 years.