She was a “charming lyric soprano” with a “voice like a nightingale.” Her name was Nora Fauchald and she was a noteworthy Norwegian-American singer and vocal teacher for fifty years. And for several of those years, she was a soprano soloist with the legendary band of John Philip Sousa.
But at heart, Nora was always a Minot girl. Born in Norway in 1898, the daughter of Julius and Inga Fauchald, she came to America at the age of six months. Nora’s father was a homesteader who later became owner of the New York hardware store in Minot.
Minot was Nora’s childhood home where she “began singing as soon as she began to talk,” with her first public appearance being a church Christmas celebration at age two-and-a-half. She studied violin and piano, and performed many solos in church.
After her 1917 High School graduation, Nora studied at the Institute of Musical Art in New York City, which would become the Julliard School. After her graduation, Nora took operatic training in Europe.
Upon her return, Nora became a soloist at Flatbush Reformed Church in Brooklyn. When John Philip Sousa held auditions for singers, Nora tried out, as a wager with a friend who wondered if a church soloist would fit in with a military band. Much to Nora’s surprise, the world-famous Sousa chose the twenty-five-year-old to be the youngest soloist ever employed by the renowned musical troupe.
From 1923 to circa 1926, Nora sang classics like “The Lark Now Leaves His Wat’ry Nest;” “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny;” and “Dixie.” Her wondrous soprano voice delighted three-million people yearly.
Nora Fauchald’s voice impressed the audience, wrote the Los Angeles Times, “as a high lyric coloratura,” with plenty of artistic talent to handle “difficult trills and cadenzas . . . splendidly.”
After touring with Sousa, Nora settled down in Connecticut, marrying vocal instructor George Morgan, and they had three children. She continued singing and teaching. At age 73, Nora died of cancer, on December 10, 1971.
On this date in 1930, a Minnesota newspaper profiled this North Dakota vocalist’s career – from Minot to Juilliard to Berlin and beyond. According to the journalist, Nora’s life story, with all her musical accomplishments, had an almost “too-good-to-be-true” quality.
Said Nora later about the years she spent crisscrossing America and how her songs inspired audiences: “Mr. Sousa was very good to me.”
Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSUM History Department
Frances M. Walsh, “Nora Fauchald, N.Y. Artist is Soloist at Kiwanis Here,” St. Cloud Times, August 7, 1930, p. 6.
“Nora Fauchald, Soprano, is Dead,” New York Times, December 12, 1971, p. 84.
“Makes Berlin Debut,” Bismarck Tribune, April 17, 1929, p. 5.
“Band is Superfine,” Los Angeles Times, January 15, 1924, p. 29.
I.M. Kalnes, “Little Visits,” Wisconsin State Journal, May 13, 1934, p. 10.
Mary M. Howard, “Sousa’s Band Wins Triumphs in Concerts,” Buffalo [NY] Morning Express & Illustrated Buffalo Express, October 20, 1923, p. 6.
“Sousa Heard By Thousands Here,” Montgomery [AL] Advertiser, February 25, 1924, p. 2.
“Modestans Pay Sousa Big Tribute,” Modesto [CA] Evening News, January 10, 1924, p. 12.
“Sousa and Band Make Hit Again,” Greenville [SC] News, February 29, 1924, p. 5.
“North Dakota Girl is Soprano Soloist With Sousa’s Band,” Winona Daily News, November 10, 1923, p. 13.
“Leave for Eastern Schools,” Ward County Independent, September 27, 1917, p. 12.
“Minot Girl Wins Artist’s Diploma,” Bismarck Tribune, May 23, 1922, p. 5.
“Nora Fauchald, Sangerfest Soloist, Radiates Personality,” Wisconsin State Journal, June 4, 1932, p. 2.
“Norse Choir Shines with Excellence and Artistry,” Winnipeg Tribune, July 6, 1928, p. 2.