Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Björnen sover" (the bear is sleeping), Prairieland Strings, Aug. 21

Blast email sent out to my Prairieland Strings and Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music lists tonight.

Hi everybody --

Our "third Thursday" session of the Prairieland Strings is from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, at Atonement Lutheran Church, 2800 West Jefferson. Bring your copy of Steve Seifert's "Join the Jam." Let's just go around the circle and either: (a) pick some tunes we already know; or (b) go around the circle and pick some tunes we don't already know.

"Björnen sover," the song in the headline, is sung to the same tune as "Gubben Noak" (Old man Noah), a famous drinking song by Sweden's Carl Michael Bellman, who was a lot like Robert Burns and wrote about the same time. Clips are posted at:

Be forewarned, though: I've got some extra copies from my presentation at Bishop Hill of a Swedish children's song called "Bjørnen Sover" (the bear is sleeping), and I'm *very* tempted to introduce it. (That's pronounced be-YORN-en SOW-ver, by the way.) It's a bouncy little tune, it's fun to play and it's very, very simple. Steve Smith of Asheville, N.C., has mountain dulcimer tab -- with notes and chords -- on the Everything Dulcimer website at:

Scroll down to "Bjørnen Sover" and click on the PDF link, but I've got plenty of copies. If your computer doesn't have the right plug-in for the sound file (mine doesn't), here's a nice version in Danish, with cute graphics:

I'll post some more about it to Hogfiddle. The song is Swedish, but it's a favorite with young children in Norway and Denmark, too. The words (in Swedish) are:

Björnen sover, björnen sover
i sitt lugna bo
han är inte farlig, bara man är varlig
men man kan dock, men man kan dock
honom aldrig tro.

Which translates, literally, as: The bear is sleeping, the bear is sleeping, in his calm den. He is not dangerous, if only one is careful, but one can never, one can never trust him. I would sing it like this:

The bear is sleeping, bear is sleeping
In his quiet den.
The bear may not harm you,
But he should alarm you.
You can never
Never ever
Never trust a bear.

OK, OK, it isn't great literature! But the words do fit the melody.

It's also a circle game. There's a good description on the website PYP PE with Andy [Vasily], who teaches pays ed in the Primary Years Programme at an international school in China:

The game Björnen sover when translated into English means, "the bear is sleeping". It is a great game involving running, dodging, and music. The games starts off by selecting a person to be the sleeping bear. This person lays down with a circle of students holding hands and walking around the sleeping bear. I used a CD with the sleeping bear song and played it while the kids walked clockwise around the person pretending to be the bear. Slowly the bear begins to wake up and stretch then comes to their knees and feet. The entire time the students are still walking in a circle around the bear. Once the bear makes its move to start running the students scatter. The student that the bear catches becomes the next bear and the process repeats.

Warnings!!! The kids love being the bear and will try and be caught on purpose. …

I'll post a couple of videos to Hogfiddle. Hope to see you Thursday!

-- Pete

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pennsylvania Dutch Kirchenleute and German chorales; scheitholt said "the instrument of choice" among Lutherans

A very good analysis of Pennsylvania Dutch chorale books of the 18th and 19th centuries by Daniel Jay Grimminger, a Lutheran pastor (NALC) and musicologist at Kent State. Deals with issues of retention, acculturation, etc. I think it's particularly valuable because Grimminger is clearly influenced by Pennsylvania folklorist Don Yoder.

  • Daniel Jay Grimminger, Sacred Song and the Pennsylvania Dutch, Eastman Studies in Music 94 (Rochester, New Yor: University of Rochester Press, 2012), 2.

  • Also this: "… chorales had a rhythmic vitality that combined the modes of earlier music with the emerging tonality [of the Reformation era]. … Later, in the eighteenth century, these rhythms would lose their syncopation to give way to the lyricism of the day, but the significance of the genre by that time had been cemented into place." (2)

  • Rooted in chant, too, thus "allowing the German people to participate in a new art form that developed side by side with the German language. This was also true for the melodies. While many of them were entirely new creations, others were based on German religious folk song or Gregorian chant melodies (including Luther's 'Komm Schöpfer helper Geist' from the chant 'Veni Creator Spiritus')." (2) [Paren. in original.]

  • Here's the publisher's description from eBay:

    The Pennsylvania Dutch comprised the largest single ethnic group in the early American Republic of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Yet like other ethnic minorities in early America, they struggled to maintain their own distinct ethnic identity in everything that they did. Eventually their German Lutheran and Reformed customs and folkways gave way to Anglo-American pressure. The tune and chorale books printed for use in Pennsylvania Dutch churches document this gradual process of Americanization, including notable moments of resistance to change. Daniel Grimminger's Sacred Song and the Pennsylvania Dutch is the only in-depth study of the shifting identity of the Pennsylvania Dutch as manifested in their music. Through a closer examination of music sources, folk art, and historical contexts, this interdisciplinary study sheds light on the process of cultural change that occurred over the course of a century or more in the majority of Pennsylvania German communities and churches. Grimminger's book also provides a model with which to view all ethnic enclaves, in America and elsewhere, and the ways in which loyalties can shift as a group becomes part of a larger cultural fabric. Daniel Grimminger holds a doctorate in sacred music and choral conducting, as well as a PhD in musicology. He also holds a master of theological studies degree and is a clergyman in the North American Lutheran Church. Grimminger teaches at Kent State University and is the pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Millersburg, Holmes County, Ohio.

    … and Grimminger's bio, also from eBay:

    Dr. Daniel Jay Grimminger is a lifelong member of the Paris Community. He holds a Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh), Doctor of Church Music (Claremont Graduate University), and a M.A. (Trinity Lutheran Seminary). He has served as the archivist for Israel's Lutheran Church in Paris and as assistant archivist for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at Columbus. He currently teaches at Mount Union College in Alliance and resides on the old Charles Lutz Farm.


The dissertation doesn't seem to have his discussion of chorales, which is excellent, IMHO. Intro has terms defined, incl. "chorale book," "tune book," "hymn" and "Pennsylvania Dutch," xvi-xviii. He follows Don Yoder in preferring it to "Pennsylvania German," and explains why.


In the dissertation, Grimminger has this to say about the scheitholt, as he calls it:

… The instrument of choice among the rural Pennsylvania Lutherans to accompany their folk music, the Scheitholt was a homemade six-string zither of wood that could be held on the lap or placed on an empty chest or box while being played. [75] More often than not this Deitsch dulcimer had a heart or a tulip carved into the body of the instrument. There is some evidence to suggest that the Dutch used it at times to accompany hymn singing in the home and provide soft music at intimate social gatherings.

 One scholar suggests that the instrument was also used at dances and the many different kinds of “frolics” when neighbors would help each other complete their work tasks. [76] Just as the organ accompanied the church chorales, so the Scheitholt (see figure 4) played folk music and accompanied the singing of memorized folk pieces, passed on orally from generation to generation. [77]

A recently discovered Scheitholt from 1861 has both a carved tulip and heart; its case contains a repertoire list that the owner wrote in pencil. While this example is a later one, it resembles earlier extant exemplars. [78] The simple construction and sound of the Scheitholt was a contrast to the sound of instruments that the Anglo-American would have enjoyed, especially the piano, which the Dutch could not afford or fully appreciate in rural areas. It was in the countryside of Pennsylvania that folk music evolved to express every day Dutch life. [79]

In Songs along the Mahantongo, Walter Boyer and his colleagues identify several topical categories of secular Dutch folk songs used in the Mahantongo Valley during the nineteenth century: songs of childhood, courtship and marriage, the farm, the Schnitzing party, the tavern, American life, and a New Year’s blessing. [80]

Most of the songs in all of these categories served the purpose of comic relief, providing a contrast to the German chorale tradition in the church, something this dissertation examines in more detail in later chapters:

The humorous dialect songs had and still have a highly-honored place among the rural people, but through the years the literary hymns, earlier in German and now in English, of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches to which the majority of our people belong, have remained also a precious heritage from the lands of Luther and Zwingli. So we have secular or ‘worldly’ songs, and religious songs—for the Pennsylvania Dutchman strikes a neat balance between the sacred and secular. [81] … (35-38)

References in quoted passage:

75 Richard Raichelson, “The Social Context of Musical Instruments within the Pennsylvania German Culture,” Pennsylvania Folklife 25, 1 (1975): 42.

76 Ralph Lee Smith, “A Great Scheitholt with Some Remarkable Documentation,” Dulcimer Players News 32, no. 3 (2006): 32-33. See also Raichelson, “The Social Context.”

77 Several sources document the folk song tradition of the Pennsylvania Dutch: Songs along the Mahantongo: Pennsylvania Dutch Folksongs, eds. Walter E. Boyer, Albert F. Buffington, and Don Yoder (Lancaster, PA: The Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, 1951); Albert F. Buffington, Pennsylvania German Secular Folksongs (Breinigsville, PA: The Pennsylvania German Society, 1974); Don Yoder, Pennsylvania Spirituals (Lancaster, PA: Pennsylvania Folklife Society, 1961).

78 Smith, 32-33. The particular Scheitholt, which is the topic for Smith’s article, has a list of repertoire recorded in the instrument’s case. Most of it is in English, showing that this instrument might have been owned by an Anglo- American, or more likely by an assimilated Dutchman.

79 This is not to say that no Dutchmen had pianos. Some Moravians had (and made pianos) although this was because of their own unique music culture, which they continued to import from Europe via printed music and instruments. See Jewel A. Smith, “The Piano among the Moravians in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: Music, Instruction, and Construction,” The Music of the Moravian Church in America, ed. Nola Reed Knouse (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2008): 228-251.

80 See Songs along the Mahantongo: Pennsylvania Dutch Folksongs, eds. Walter E. Boyer, Albert F. Buffington, and Don Yoder (Lancaster, PA: The Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, 1951).

81 Boyer, Buffington, and Yoder, Songs along the Mahantongo, 15.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hymn sung at organizational meeting of Zion Norwegian Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, Oct. 26, 1908

So at 12:06 p.m. today I email my paper to Historic Preservation (see conference program here -- I'm one of three presenters in a breakout session on "Immigration and Migration") and get the rest of my life back! The paper is "Quad-City Creoles? Blended European and Anglo-American Musical Traditions in Swedish-American Cultural Institutions, 1848–1925," and that's all I'm going to say about it now. I'm done with it for a while.

One of the things I've been wanting to do while I was struggling with edits and University of Chicago footnote style is to post a hymn I found last month at a "cousins' reunion" in the Catskills. It was sung when my grandfather's church in New York City was organized.

And here, finally, it is.

Our grandfather (bestefar in Norwegian) was the Rev. Johan Peter Ellertsen, of Zion Lutheran Church in Brooklyn. We gathered July 24-27 at the Koinonia retreat center in Highland Lake, N.Y.

We brought memorabilia, and one of the items we shared was a program booklet from Zion's 25th anniversary in 1933. It mentioned a hymn that was sung at the first organizational meeting in 1908. It's called "In Jesus’ Name Our Work Must All Be Done," and it was entirely unfamiliar to me.

Anyway, some of us were gathered around a keyboard going through Bestefar's hymnal (see picture at right above), the 1913 edition of Lutheran Hymnary. So I tracked down in the index of first lines, and asked the folks at the keyboard to play it.

Music seems to run in the family -- Bestefar's father and perhaps his grandfather were cantors in Bergen, and at Koinonia I learned that Bestemor's family, from an industrial town called Sarpsborg in southeastern Norway, claims descent from the Johann Walther who edited Martin Luther's early congregational music.

In fact, later on that weekend we celebrated the family tradition by singing some of Walther's arrangements, including Christ lag in Todesbanden ("Christ Jesus lay in death's strong bands"). But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Back to the hymn from Zion in Brooklyn.

When I heard it played on the keyboard, it sounded minor. (I think it's in F minor from looking at the music, but says it's in A-flat major. It's written with four flats, anyway, and that's enough to give an amateur 60s-vintage folk musician like me who only plays in D, G and E-minor a serious headache! I'll leave its mode to others to straighten out.) Major or minor, it was serious music. Somber.

"In Jesus’ Name Our Work Must All Be Done" is No. 247 in the 1913 hymnary jointly published by the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Hauge's Synod and the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America and edited by the noted choral director F. Melius Christiansen, then newly arrived at St. Olaf College.

It isn't exactly feel-good, happy-clappy church music. The first verse:

In Jesus' name
Our work must all be done
If it shall compass our true good and aim,
And not end in shame alone;
For ev'ry deed
Which in it doth proceed,
Success and blessing gains
Till it the goal attains.
Thus we honor God on high
And ourselves are blessed thereby;
Wherein our true good remains.

But it is appropriate for the organizational meeting of a new congregation.

The words are by J. Frederiksen (1639) and music from Thomas Kingo's Gradual (1699). I'm not able to find anything on Frederiksen, but Kingo was a 17th-century Danish bishop and hymnwriter who was very influential in the Danish and Norwegian churches down to the 20th century. According to, the tune name is I JESU NAVN, and it was arranged by 19th-century Norwegian folksong collector and composer Ludvig Lindeman. So it has as good a pedegree as anything in the Norwegian-American tradition.

It's available on line through the Internet Archive at But I'm posting JPEG files from Bestefar's hymnal. To enlarge, click on the JPEGs above and at right.

I'm also posting the part about the 1908 meeting from the anniversary program.

* * *

Twenty-fifth Anniversary, Zion Norwegian Lutheran Church, 63rd Street and Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, October 29th, 1933.

Grace and peace! During the summer of 1908, Rev. Johan Ellertsen, upon call from the Home Mission Committee of the Eastern District of the Norwegian Synod of America, made a thorough canvass of South Brooklyn from 19th to 60th Streets and, through the assistance of Rev. C.S.C. Everson, brought about the organization of Zion Norwegian Lutheran Church, of Bay Ridge, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Simpson, 430 48th Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. Eighteen men were gathered together on that memorable Tuesday evening, October 26th, 1908. The meeting opened with the singing of “In Jesus’ Name Our Work Must All Be Done,” Scripture reading and prayer. With Rev. C.S.E. Everson presiding the group present declared its willingness to organize themselves into congregation to be known as Zion Norwegian Lutheran Church of Bay Ridge. The present constitution of the Church, with a few minor changes of later date, was then accepted.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Hendrik Hertzberg and Henry Louis Gates Jr. on "wildly creative creolization," race, American foundational myth(s) and the "tragic dimension of the American condition"

Hendrik Hertzberg and Henry Louis Gates Jr., “The African-American Century.” New Yorker 29 April 1996 (7 August 2014).

American myth is "A pretty story; and, like all folk tales, this one tells a kind of truth. But the reality is more complicated, darker (in more ways than one), more painful, and, ultimately, more heroic. The myth ignores the tragic dimension of the American condition, the dimension that challenges the moral seriousness of American thinkers and makes American art and culture, high and low, the most dynamic and pervasive on the planet—makes American culture American, in fact. Not all Americans’ ancestors came here to escape tyranny; many were brought here in furtherance of tyranny. …"

On music:

An observer from 1900 transported forward in time to this century’s end would be astonished at the ubiquity of the black presence in artistic, cultural, and quasi-cultural endeavors of every kind, from the frontiers of modern art (born when Picasso laid eyes on African masks), through the written word (more books by and about African-Americans will be published this year than appeared during the whole of the Harlem Renaissance), to the iconography of mass marketing (with Michael Jordan looking down from giant billboards like some beneficent Big Brother). The prime example, of course, is music, the most accessible of the arts. In 1900, ragtime was only just coming into its own, beginning the long and steady fusion of African-American themes and forms with those of European origin. In the early decades of the century, Negro music came to dominate the new technologies of sound recording and radio so thoroughly that, in 1924, an alarmed music establishment sought out a syncopationally challenged bandleader by the comically apt name of Paul Whiteman and designated him “the King of Jazz.” But jazz and its offshoots could not be so easily tamed. The wildly creative creolization of African-American and European-American strains produced a profusion of mulatto musics—one thinks of Ellington and Gershwin, Joplin and Stravinsky, Miles Davis and Gil Evans, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen—that spread their dominion across the whole world.

Economically, however, African-Americans remain left out. ...

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Ernst Olson, History of the Swedes of Illinois (1908) and miscellaneous notes for IHPA's Conference on Illinois History -- including a link to Purdue OWL summary of Chicago/Turabian style

"Purdue OWL," of course, has nothing to do with nocturnal birds. It's Purdue University's Online Writing Lab. Link here for its entries on University of Chicago style:

Sixteenth Annual Conference on Illinois History, September 25–26, 2014, Prairie Capital Convention Center Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum Springfield, Illinois. Sponsored by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.

Immigration and Migration [3:30-5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 26]
Moderator: Mark Johnson, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
“Quad-city Creoles: Blended European and Anglo-American Musical Traditions in Swedish-American Cultural Institutions, 1848– 1925,” Peter Ellertsen, Independent Scholar

“The Great Migration, 1915-1919: The Impact on Chicago and East St. Louis,” Ronald E. Howell, Independent Scholar

“Progress and Social Mobility among Chicago Heights Italians, 1910–1940,” Louis Corsino, North Central College; Kerby Kniss, North Central College; Marcella Wirtz, North Central College

Ernst Olson, ed. History of the Swedes of Illinois (Chicago: Engberg-Holmberg, 1908)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Workshop Aug. 2 at Bishop Hill on Swedish-American music

Ever wonder what the psalmodikons in the museums at Jenny Lind Chapel and Bishop Hill sounded like? How they were played? What were some of the songs the pioneer immigrants brought over from 19th-century Sweden? Want to sing them or play them on a dulcimer – or another modern musical instrument?

The Bishop Hill Heritage Association will sponsor a workshop Saturday, Aug. 2 (re-scheduled from May 10), on how Swedish immigrants learned to play hymns on the psalmodikon. The workshop will be at 2 p.m. in the Dairy Building, 410 N. Erickson St., Bishop Hill. It is free and open to the public.

* * *

Pete Ellertsen, a retired teacher and amateur musician of Springfield, will demonstrate how Swedish-American pastors of the 1840s and ’50s used the psalmodikon (pronounced “sal-MOW-di-kon”) to teach harmony singing from the Svenska Psalmbok of 1819 in rural congregations where everyone might not read music. The instruments, which looked like a modern dulcimer, were inexpensive and easy to play. Ellertsen, who plays the mountain dulcimer, has a replica of the psalmodikon in Bishop Hill’s Steeple Building museum.

Workshop participants will learn how to read psalmodikon tablature, known as “siffor-noter” (number notes) and convert it to sheet music; and how to sing simple melodies and play them on the mountain dulcimer or another musical instrument. All skill levels and all instruments are welcome. This workshop is partially funded by the Illinois Arts Council.

2 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 2, Dairy Building, Bishop Hill

Links to tab and sheet music …

Permalinks re: Bishop Hill and Andover …

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Misc quotes on history, Clayville, "Prairie Dreams"

Since historical reconstruction is a rational process, only justified and indeed possible if it involves the human reason, what we call history is the mess we call life reduced to some order, pattern and possibly purpose. -- G. R. Elton

See more quotes at:

"A Memoir of Professor Sir Geoffrey Elton." Jeremy Bennett.

Rachel Otwell. "The Past Comes Alive With Clayville Theater" WUIS-FM, University of Illinois Springfield. Aug. 31, 2012. [audio w/ stills]

Nondescript dulcimer at 0:35 to 1:32, player quoted at 0:50.

Penny Zimmerman Wills. "Our History: Clayville to revive play about its founding" June 7, 2014. State Journal-Register