Monday, September 30, 2013

Lars Esbjorn's psalmodikon at Jenny Lind Chapel

John E. Norton. “Ecclesia Plantanda”: Emigrant Preacher Lars-Paul Esbjörn and The Beginnings of the Augustana Synod. Paper presented to the Augustana Heritage Association, Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas, June 19-22, 2008. ... has a good summary of Lars Esbjorn's early life and musical training:
...He was born at Delsbo in Hälsingland, Sweden on 16 October 1808, and was orphaned at the age of seven. He was taken in by a 59-year-old domestic, Christina Enman, who had been a neighbor of his parents in Ede. She saw to his education, first in Hudiksvall, then at the liberal Gävle Gymnasium, and finally in Uppsala, where he was ordained in 1832. While still an Uppsala student, he became a teacher at Oslättfors, then accepted a call in 1832 to Östervåla in nearby Uppland. He soon returned to Oslättfors Mill in 1835 as chaplain and teacher at the new Hille elementary school.

During his time in Hille, he was also the school’s and congregation’s music teacher, and became deeply interested in four part music. In 1843 he was working with dean Johan Dillner at Östervåla on a new edition of Syréen”s ”Christeliga sångbok,” for the single-stringed psalmodikon. It was published in 1849, as Esbjörn and his party of 140 others left Gävle for America. His musical experience was the beginning of a rich musical tradition within the Augustana Synod and its schools.

Also some extended quotations in the footnotes from ms. sources ...

The psalmodikon on display at Jenny Lind looks like it was strung with one melody string and eight drones. Cf. instrument at Bishop Hill. Appears to be more or less the standard size, altho' I didn't measure it.

Directory of AHA essays at

Also: Miscellaneous links I've posted to Hogfiddle ...

Norton. “Ecclesia Plantanda” p. 5, n. 2

Rev. C.O. Hultgren, a seminary student at the time, delivered a delightful description of Esbjörn ́s early years in Andover, Robert Lincoln ́s mean-spirited pranks, and faculty tensions at Springfield, in notes to C.M. Esbjörn around 1907, now filed in the Augustana College Special Collections. He writes: “...In June 1854 Esbjörn and I went to Moline. My father had a pair of good horses, and I drove them. Esbjörn was happy, and in good humor. We soon came to a deep slough. The bridge was down, and the horses had to go on the side in soft mud. They came frightened and started to jump. Esbjörn was afraid, and jumped in(to) the slough, and sank up to his knees. We arrived safely on the other side. Esbjörn did not lose his patience. He said “we must thank God that no limbs were broken. The mire on my clothes will soon dry.” The heavens became cloudy and there was a heavy mist. I had never been in Moline, so Esbjörn had to show me the road...just the prairie. Three o ́clock and no Rock River. Esbjörn said “we are din God ́s hands. Halt and let the horses graze for a while.” We sat on the grass. He started to sing Psalm 33. I sang too. He said I had a better voice than he. He said mine was natural. He said he could not sing until (after) he became a minister. In Norrland, the students went from estate to estate and sang for money, etc. “I hired a student and went with him. He sang many songs. He sang one over and over a good many times in those eight years, but I could not learn it. After my first sermon, my hostess asked me why I didnt sing the Mass. I said to her “I cannot sing.” She said I should buy me a “mellodium” (psalmodikon?). I got a few pieces of wood and made one. I learned to sing and play. I also taught music. Now, in God ́s Name, we shall continue our journey.” The fog was very thick, could not see two rods in front of you. Thee was not the sign of a house. I asked him where to go. He pointed that way, and said “the Lord, as in Israel ́s time, will show us the way.” As it was getting dark, we saw the Rock River. The long grass waived over the horse ́s head. Ten o ́clock that evening, (we) crossed the Rock River into Moline. Mr. Peterson, the ferryman, asked us to stay that night, whch we did. No services that night as was announced in Moline. We came to Moline on Saturday. ... [Parentheses in the original.]

The note goes on with recollections of the Lutheran college in Springfield, where Hultgren was a student in 1859 and 1860, including a description of Robert Lincoln, the president's son, as a troublemaker.

Psalm 33 (Wallin?) -- Jag lyfter mina händer --änder This almost has to be Wallin's Psalm 33 (a paraphrase of Ps. 121 by by Jacob Arrhenius in 1694) because it fits the context so well:

I lift my hands Up to the mountain of God and the house, From them he sends aid And send out their light. I the Lord always leads, As earth and sky done; He hears me when I pray, And protects me everything fast. (Trans. Google)

Melodium an alternate spelling of melodeon. ... The Exhibitions and Fairs of Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, Volumes 1-5. Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association (Google eBook> describes "melodium" along with Seraphine as "imperfect, and must be greatly improved, bdefore they can take high rank among Musical Instruments." -- a reed organ operated by bellows -- "The low price, however, at which they are sold, and their applicability to the purposes of simple and Sacred Music, in the parlor or the vestry-meeting, will secure them a very considerable sale." keywords melodium = instrument

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