Monday, February 24, 2014

Tunes for Bishop Hill psalmodikon workshop -- in siffernoter

See also siffernoter of tunes from the 1819 Svenska psalmbok for my upcoming workshop, "Pastor Esbjörn's Singing School," at the Augustana Founder's Day Renuion April 25, 2015, in Andover, Illinois. Next year's event, April 25-26, celebrates the 155th anniversary of the Augustana Synod and the 165th anniversary of the Andover congregation.

On NPsF homepage at click on pull-down menu that says "Kontakta oss" and choose "Siffernoter" -- click on "Öppna" button and in that directory scroll down to the song you want

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Thoughts from Mike Anderson's 5th annual Winter Weekend in Chillicothe, Illinois: "Gray Cat on a Tennessee Farm"; a blogger's cat picture; and two Celtic tunes by Linda Brockinton

One of a series of random thoughts -- sometimes very random -- I occasionally post to the blog after a dulcimer festival. I make no attempt to "cover" it like I did in newspapering days ... instead I record stray observations on technique, dulcimers, music or life in general that I may want to remember later. This time, in the spirit of that first generation of bloggers I joined nearly 10 years ago, I'm posting a cat picture. His name is Oley (short for Olaf), and I'll bet he would enjoy a Tennessee farm. A picture of our other cat (curled up in a dulcimer case) is posted to the "Show Us Your Pets" forum on the Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer website. Back when I went online with Hogfiddle, cat pictures were nearly obligatory on a blog. Sometimes I miss those days.


Toward the end of Mike Anderson's beginners' class, Mike was asked what we should do the day after we returned home from the workshop ... how to build on the weekend's experience. He thought a minute, recommended some books and online resources like Dan Landrum's and Stephen Seifert's Dulcimer School video lessons and added this advice -- keep coming back to workshops and festivals.

"This is community," Mike said. "It keeps me practicing and learning. If I were sitting in front of a computer screen, I wouldn't do it."

There's something about being in the same room with a group of other people that keeps you focused on the music, he said (even though from time to time we'd stop and look out the window where barge tows were plowing upstream through the ice on the Illinois River). Go to festivals, he added.

"Ever since the 90s I've taught at Dulcimer Week in North Carolina, at Appalachian State and Western Carolina and finally at Dulcimerville in Black Mountain," he said. "And I've been going to festivals all over. I know people all over the country from that, and we do have a community of dulcimer players."

Ironically, the online lessons are making it harder for the people who organize festivals to attract beginners. If you want to grow as a musician, you should try to do both. If you have a local dulcimer club (adds your correspondent, declaring his conflict of interest with no sense of shame whatsoever), join it. Keep coming back. That's how we build community.

"Little Gray Cat on a Tennessee Farm"

That's Mike's name for the Uncle Dave Macon classic that's become kind of an anthem in the mountain dulcimer world, and there's a valuable hint for beginners -- not-so-beginnerish players, too, in his variation on the title.

The words pick up the meter of the song. (I think it's anapestic, which is kind of like the iambic pentameter we learned in school but with an extra unstressed syllable, if you're into stuff like that.) Mike says to find the words on line, or just make them up if you have to. A lot of fiddle tunes have the rhythm of the tune right there in the title -- or those nonsense words about Old Joe Clark or how you black 'em boots and make 'em shine with a goodbye and a goodbye when you're going down to Cairo. Mike did something like that teaching his arrangement of "Little Gray Cat on a Tennessee Farm."

I think by adding "little" to "gray cat," he gives the tune a couple of extra notes, a little syncopation, a little extra bounce you don't get when you're just plowing through the tablature. Try it. Get out your dulcimer, and sing the words to yourself while you're playing the melody.

"You're just singing the song with your left hand while you're singing the words in your head,' he said. "And it doesn't have words, it does in my head. …"

He demonstrated by playing and singing, in unison, "Little gray cat on a Tennessee farm, little gray cat on a Tennessee farm, little gray cat on a Tennessee farm, little gray cat …" and so on, to the end of the tune. And there was that little whiff of syncopation there, as he sang it, that's almost impossible to transfer to standard musical notation.

The lyrics are really kind of nice, though, if you look them up in the database or somewhere else on line. They scan, too, just like Mike Anderson's little gray cat:

Cattle in the pasture, hogs in the pen
Sheep on the ranch and a-wheat in the bin

And just about every other kind of good thing you can imagine in the rich farmland around Murfreesboro. But also this refrain, which maybe isn't quite as nice but also varies the rhythm of the music:

Oh, the big cat spit in the little cat's eye
The little cat, little cat, don't you cry

R.L. Walker of the Dogwood Dulcimer Association in Pensacola has dulcimer tab with chords and lyrics, at ...

The tab is in the right-hand directory column. And I have several embedded YouTube clips, including a funky interpretation by Randy Adams, in an earlier Hogfiddle post at We'll be playing it this weekend at Clayville.

Two by Linda Brockinton

Teaching the intermediate class was Linda Brockinton, known for her finger-picking. Also for her Celtic repertory. She didn't disappoint at Saturday night's concert. The clips below feature two of the songs she played, although neither is from Chillicothe.

Sheebeg Sheemore.

Take two right hand on March of St Timothy. Right hand? Well, yes, but both hands are worth studying in this clip (even if I don't even try to play chord-melody anymore). "The March of St. Timothy" was written for hammered dulcimer by Judi Morningstar.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Excerpts "The Augustana Synod : a brief review of its history, 1860-1910" [Rock Island: Augustana Book Concern, 1910]

"The Augustana Synod : a brief review of its history, 1860-1910"[Rock Island: Augustana Book Concern, 1910] Swedish Lutheran pioneer missionaries / [C.J. Petri] -- A brief history of the Augustana Synod / [C.J. Sodgren] -- Church polity of the Augustana Synod / [Martin J. Englund] -- The missionary enterprises of the Augustana Synod / [Peter Peterson] -- The educational institutions of the Augustana Synod / [I.M. Anderson] -- The charitable institutions of the Augustana Synod / [M. Wahlstrom] -- The publishing interests of the Augustana Synod / [F.A. Johnsson] -- The language question / [Julius Lincoln] -- The union of the Augustatna Synod with the General Council / [C.A. Blomgren] -- The significance of the Augustana Synod to the Swedish Lutherans in America / [G.A. Brandelle] -- Statistics of the educational institutions

I.M. Anderson, “Educational …”

That musical organizations have flourished at Swedish institutions goes without saying. A separate chapter in the history of our educa- tional institutions should be devoted to the invaluable services of Dr. 0. Olsson, who, inspired by the rendering of Handel's oratorio, "The Messiah", to which he listened in London in 1879, conceived the idea of introducing our college youth to this glorious form of music. Upon returning to Eock Island he carried out this idea in the best and most practical manner by causing college students actually to render "The Messiah". The effects of this movement have been benef-


icent and far-reaching beyond all expectations. Not only at Augus- tana College has the interest in oratorio music thus engendered con- tinued to manifest itself by annual concerts, but it has been taken up by other institutions of our Synod, notably at Bethany College, where the rendering of oratorio music has attained to a surpassing degree of perfection.

If, then, the Augustana Synod really has characteristics which are deemed of such great value that it would be an inestimable loss should they perish from the earth, then, we repeat, it pays to maintain those institutions which are the most effective instruments for perpetuating these characteristics, whatever be the cost. And we believe that the Augustana Synod has such characteristics. We believe that the repre- sentatives from every civilized, Christian country who have come to make America their home are each in possession of some distinctive excellence either not possessed at all by immigrants from other lands or in not so marked a degree. The best of each should therefore be scrupulously guarded as a sacred treasure, should be protected from extinction when the other elements of foreign nationality are lost, and should be contributed to the common fund of American culture, re- ligion, and citizenship, so that the civilization about to be evolved in America may become, under the providence of God, in its complexity and cosmopolitan character better than anything heretofore produced in history.

The people of the Augustana Synod owe it as a debt to their


children to hand over to them the good which they have themselves brought from overseas or have inherited from their Swedish- American fathers; they owe it to the Synod, under the influence of which rich spiritual blessings have come to themselves, to perpetuate that Synod; and they owe it to the American nation, as above indi- cated, under whose beneficent government and liberal institutions they have enjo} r ed and still enjoy inestimable privileges, to contribute to the character of American civilization all that which is best in Swedish Lutheran faith and church practice, which we firmly believe is represented by the Augustana Synod and its institutions of learning.


The oldest of the educational institutions of the Augustana Synod was founded, as above set forth, in 1860 under the name of Augustana Seminary and was first located in Chicago, Illinois. Prof. Lars Paul Esbjorn was made the first president. Twenty-one students were in attendance during its first year. It is interesting to note that from the very outset, though there was but one regular professor, instruc- tion was given in all the following subjects : Sacred History, Hebrew, Greek New Testament, Pastoral Theology, Homiletics, Symbolics, Church History, Dogmatics, English Grammar, Swedish Grammar, Norwegian Grammar, German, Logic, Latin, Khetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, Trigonometry, History, and Geography. Five candidates for the ministry, who had completed a satisfactory theo- logical course at the seminary during its first year, were ordained in 1861.

Lincoln, “Language Question”

The Census of 1900 reports the presence in the United States of 574,625 persons whose native country is Sweden; 86,304 born in the United States of one Swedish parent, the other native; 998,538 born in the United States of Swedish born parents; in all 1,659,467 in- habitants of Swedish ancestry. The religious census of the Swedes in the United States is as follows:

Augustana Synod 163,473

Swedish Covenant, including Congregationalists and Free Church 46,000

Methodists .'. 20,500

Baptists 27,000

Other Swedish denominations (estimated) 6,000

Swedish members of English speaking churches outside of

Synod (estimated) 10,000

Sunday-school children (estimated) 150,000

Children under S'unday-school age (estimated) 35,000

Total 457,973

These figures can be only approximately correct, but will serve for illustration. Accepting- the estimate of 457,973 as the number of Swedes and their descendants in the United States who are affiliated with any church, and subtracting that sum from 1,659,467, the


number found by census enumerators in this country, we find that 1,201,494 Swedes are not taken up in any religious statistics, an astounding figure.

The process of creating a new nation in this country is steadily going on. It has a distinctive name, American. In characteristics it is unlike any other on earth. It consists not of any one people, but of many, gradually being made into one. The official language is English. That is the language of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution which governs us. How English came to be the language of the land, is familiar to every school-boy. It was done through the right of possession. The commands to the Continental army were in English. The coming to our shores of different peoples after the revolution did not alter the situation. Consciously or un- consciously they were made Americans in heart and utterance. What- ever their mother tongue, they understood that the privileges of American citizenship were enhanced by a knowledge of the official language.

The American citizen is a new creation in the history of the world. He has no counterpart. From 1789 to 1908, 27,000,000 foreigners set- tled in America. One glance at them will tell us that they are made over. The American is a composite character. Here the nations of the world are thrown together to give and to take. The result is a combination of the best of what comes here and what is already here, blended under favorable conditions and matured in our atmosphere of freedom. You know how the model of a perfectly formed body is obtained. One man has the correct poise of the head; another, grace- ful body-lines; another, a well developed arm; another, a fine pair of shoulders ; and so the search is carried on, until by measurements and observations a form can be made, and in it is cast the figure of the


ideal physical man. The ideal American will be a combination of the good traits of the best people who settle here. Eventually we shall lose our former identity, but we shall find a new one. After a two years' residence in the United States, the Swedish emigrant cannot return to his native land without betraying some American char- acteristic.

We are also drifting towards a common language. The Swedish, German, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Eussian, etc., channels converge into English. As well try to hold roaring Niagara back with the palm of one's hand, as to prevent this change. One solitary argument is sufficient to substantiate this statement our compulsory education law. In New York State all children under 14 16 years of age must attend school 160 days each year, and there every branch is taught in English and, on top of them all, that language itself.

This phase of our national life presents a problem to the foreign people who have become citizens of the republic and are keeping up their own language. It concerns the Augustana Synod. The fact that the editor of this publication has invited a discussion of the question indicates that we see something coming. It is the problem of to-day to some extent, of a near-at-hand to-morrow to a greater extent. How soon we shall see that to-morrow we cannot say def- initely,, but the infallible signs of its approach are plain. Will the Synod read them ? Let us point out a few : In 1907 the immigra- tion from Sweden was 20,589, in 1908 only 12,809, an immense falling off from former years. A supreme effort is being made to discourage emigration, and it will be more or less successful. The Swedish language is now an optional study in our colleges, where it formerly was obligatory. A demand has been found for a Church paper, published in the English language, The Young Lutheran's Companion. The organization of English Lutheran churches upon Swedish fields. The need of instruction in the English language in our Swedish Sunday-schools. The gradual disappearance of the Swedish summer schools. The occasional English service in Swe- dish churches. The use of the English ritual at baptisms, marriages, and funerals. The difficulty to secure Sunday-school teachers in the cities, who know Swedish well enough to instruct children. The preference of English by our young people as a conversational medium. The prevalence of anglicisms in the sermons of a majority


of our younger pastors. The numerous applications by catechumens for instruction in English. The increasing number of intermar- riages. The apparent difficulty of the younger laymen to express themselves in Swedish at congregational business meetings, and the ease with which they do this in English. Such conditions are actually found in our Synod, in some localities more pronounced than in others. Even though some peculiar circumstances may have been for- gotten in the above recital, we feel that in the main the picture is true. That there are congregations, to which the description does not apply, only proves that the process is slower there than elsewhere. Time will make the change. Such is the situation after fifty years. Has there been an over-zealous anxiety for Swedish and tardiness in taking up English work, and have we lost thereby? We do know of a few instances of impatience with us for the slowness of transition into English work which have resulted in a severance of membership in our Synod, but they are exceptions. In most of such cases there have been other considerations. The history of the Augustana English congregations is both interesting and instructive. They have grown steadily but slowly. In the nature of things this is to be expected. Our English work must not be compared with the Swedish in results for at least a few years to come. The demand for it will not be sudden, it is gradual. There cannot be a phenomenal growth, such as the Swedish churches enjoyed when immigration was at its height. There is perhaps no Swedish church in the Augustana Synod which to-day could adopt the use of English entirely without sustaining a loss of membership and without crippling itself. Yet there are very few congregations, if any, where some English work, in a true and sensible proportion, would not bear good fruit. One danger to be avoided is precipitation. Hesitation and stagnation are equally fatal. General legislation is impossible. It is the unequivocal duty of each pastor to keep a sharp lookout upon the field entrusted to his care. He must grasp the opportunity and strike out at the right moment. The Synod seems to be agreed that the proper solution is the organiza- tion of independent English-speaking congregations under the super- vision of the mother church. One thing is certain, it must be an Augustana Church. An effort by other bodies will not succeed among the Swedes. As a nation we have our own temperamental character- istics, religiously and socially. So have others. They have inherited


them; so have we. What we have is a part of us. We also want an unbroken line of memories. I am not alone in giving expression to the hope that when the transition takes place, it may be in language only, without one other sacrifice than the mother tongue, and God knows that will be hard enough. Our liturgy, familiar to every Swede, our music, our hymns can be adopted. Then old and young will experience a home-like feeling in entering a new Augustana church. This need not be a blow at unity nor a reactionary attempt against present relationship with other Lutheran bodies. A time may come later, when a new liturgy can be compiled, which shall include features from the ones now in use and where all of us may find a reminder of home. To many this may seem puerile reasoning, but there are thousands in our Synod, to whom the language question presents no other solution. Our Book Concern has printed an edition of the Swedish liturgy translated into English. A beginning has been made to give us the Swedish hymns in English. We have literature enough for the beginning. Let us use it. A discouraging feature of literary work in the Augustana Synod is the hypercritical spirit, which manifests itself, and centers its attack mainly upon efforts in English. Augustana English is not bad ; it is as good as any. People understand it and it obeys the rules of grammar. Why there should be such violent criticism by our Swedish-American people of their own kind, is almost inexplicable. Away with it! It has become a bad habit.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Robin Cohen, "Creolization and Cultural Globalization: The Soft Sounds of Fugitive Power" -- excerpt

Creolization and Cultural Globalization: The Soft Sounds of Fugitive Power

University of Warwick

Submitted to Special Issue of Globalizations Vol. 4 (2) 2007 (forthcoming May 2007) edited by Barrie Axford. Published by Routledge ISSN 1474-7731.

While it is true to assert that creolization had its locus classics in the context of colonial settlement, imported black labour and often a plantation and island setting, by indicating that there are other pathways for creolization I want to signify the potentially universal applicability of the term. To be a Creole is no longer a mimetic, derivative stance. Rather it describes a position interposed between two or more cultures, selectively 19 appropriating some elements, rejecting others, and creating new possibilities that transgress and supersede parent cultures, which themselves are increasingly recognised as fluid. If this is indeed happening we need to recast much traditional social theory concerning race and ethnic relations, multiculturalism, nation-state formation and the like – for we can no longer assume the stability and continuing force of the ethnic segments that supposedly make up nation-states. Likewise, we cannot assume that the nation in international relations has a continuously uniform character. Accepting the force of hybridity and creolization is also to accept that humankind is refashioning the basic building blocks of organised cultures and societies in a fundamental and wide-ranging way.

* * *

he creolization of the world in the sense described by Hannerz and other writers cited earlier has provided a space for many people to create a new sense of home, a locus to express their uniqueness in the face of cultural fundamentalisms and imperialism. Behind the strident assertions of nationalism, ‘old ethnicities’ and religious certainties is an increasing volume of cultural interactions, interconnections and interdependencies and a challenge to the solidity of ethnic and racial categories. These are the soft sounds of fugitive power, but you may need to have your ear cocked to the ground, or your finger on the pulse, if you are to fully hear them and discern their influence.

"Fugitive power" defined in Note 1: "1. The notion of ‘fugitive power’ is used by Katherine Farrell (2004) to describe modes of democratic power operating beyond the reach of the law. In developing the concept, she (personal correspondence) acknowledges a Foucaultian analysis on constitutional reform written by her colleague, John Morison. Foucault’s views need more detailed exposition, but in one germane passage he suggests that power is ‘produced from one moment to the next, at every point, or rather from one point to another. Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it came from everywhere’ (Foucault 1978: 923)."

Monday, February 10, 2014

"Swedish Diaspora": Travel story in Chicago Tribune

Excerpts from 1996 travel section article about Lindstrom, Minn.

June Sawyers. "Swedish Diaspora: Karl Oskar And Kristina's Minnesota Town Celebrates The Emigrant Experience." Chicago Tribune May 12, 1996

They look vulnerable yet strong, hesitant yet hopeful. The statue of the Swedish emigrants Karl Oskar and Kristina Nilsson at the foot of Lindstrom's main street represents the dual sides of the emigrant's dilemma. Karl Oskar faces forward, looking west to America, while wife Kristina looks east over her shoulder, back toward Sweden.

Karl Oskar and Kristina are the creations of the Swedish writer Vilhelm Moberg, author of the Swedish emigrant sagas "The Emigrants," "Unto a Good Land," "The Settlers" and "Last Letter Home." In the 1970s two of the books became the basis for the acclaimed motion pictures "The Emigrants" and "The New Land" starring Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullmann. It is their inspiring and sometimes tragic tale that has come to symbolize the Swedish emigrant experience. Karl Oskar and Kristina--the Swedish everyman and everywoman--represent the millions of faceless men and women who left Sweden to start over again in a strange land.

The Swedish presence is still strongly felt--and seen--in Lindstrom, a charming town near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border that was named for an early Swedish pioneer, Daniel Lindstrom. The awning of the city hall appears in the Swedish blue and yellow and even the fire hydrants are painted in the Swedish colors. The water tower is in the shape of a Swedish coffee pot. There's a Scandinavian doughnut shop, and the sign outside the Swedish Inn announces: "HAR SERVERAR VI RIKTIGT SVENSKT KAFFE!" ("We serve authentic Swedish coffee!") And, if you look in the right places, you just might see, as I did, another sign, impishly warning, "Caution Swedish Crossing."

Sally Barott, chair of the 1996 Chisago Lakes Area Swedish Immigration Jubilee Committee, estimates that the population of Lindstrom is half Swedish. Norwegians, Italians, Finns and Irish are also represented.

* * *

Spend any length of time in this part of the Midwest and you will detect a subtle yet distinctive Scandinavian lilt in the speech of the people, especially away from the urban centers (though not as pronounced perhaps as in the Coen Brothers' movie "Fargo," but certainly evident).

The Chisago Lakes area comprises Chisago City, Lindstrom and Center City. The first Swedes came to this part of east-central Minnesota in the early 1850s. The landscape of lakes, forests and valleys probably reminded many emigrants of their homeland. Swedish historian Lars Lungsmark has called Chisago County "perhaps the most Swedish colony in the United States and one dotted with the names of Swedish pioneers."

Vilhelm Moberg was a Swedish journalist and author with an interest in the scores of emigrants who left Sweden to settle in the new land across the ocean. In 1948 he came to the Chisago Lakes area to do research. He interviewed a number of old Swedes and Swedish-American families, lodging in Chisago City and biking back and forth to Lindstrom.

From the stories and information he collected, Moberg created the seminal characters of Karl Oskar and Kristina Nilsson from Smaland, Sweden.

* * *

Many of the pioneers that Moberg based his stories on are buried in the Chisago Lake cemetery in nearby Center City, their gravestone inscriptions carved in Swedish. The cemetery is located on the property of the Chisago Lakes Lutheran Church, itself a prominent landmark and the oldest Lutheran church in the area. It was the church the fictitious Karl Oskar helped to build.

But the most prominent landmark associated with Moberg is, of course, the Emigrants Statue.

The statue, a replica of the original in Karlshamn, Sweden, is the vision of Willard ("Smitty") Smith, a Lindstrom businessman, who in 1969 commissioned sculptor Roger David to design a copy of the statue of Karl Oskar and Kristina.

When Smith died in May 1975, he was buried as requested in the old Swedish Glader Cemetery on Glader Boulevard in Lindstrom--the same spot that author Moberg selected as the final resting place for Karl Oskar. Smith's plot was the first interment in the old cemetery since 1918.

The Karl Oskar and Kristina statue has become a pilgrimage site of sorts for many visiting Swedish and Swedish-American visitors. Every August (this year Aug. 16-18), Lindstrom celebrates Karl Oskar Days.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Library of Congress "Swedish Song" website w/ links to 78rpm recordings of Olle i Skratthult


"Swedish Song," The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America. Performing Arts Encyclopedia. Library of Congress.


... The largest wave of Swedish emigration to the United States was during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Swedish communities were established in many parts of the United States, but especially in New England, the upper Midwest, and the Northwest.

Swedish song in the United States has often had an appeal far beyond the Swedish community. Jenny Lind, an internationally famous Swedish operatic soprano, became wildly popular in the United States through a concert tour sponsored by P. T. Barnum between 1850 and 1852, famously giving her earnings to charity. She included Swedish songs in her performances along with selections from German and Italian operas. Sheet music was published based on her songs and many places and products were named for her.

In the late nineteenth century Scandinavian and Swedish festivals, often held at midsummer, became popular in the parts of the country where there were Swedish communities and these were venues where songs, music, and dances would be performed. Swedish immigrants formed many choral societies. These groups gave performances in the Swedish community, at Scandinavian festivals, and for general audiences. Swedish American choral groups often performed a combination of art songs, popular songs, religious songs, and traditional songs. The December twelfth festival of Saint Lucia, as celebrated by Swedish Lutherans, often includes choral singing, especially the most famous song associated with the holiday, "Santa Lucia."

  • Hjalmar Peterson, who immigrated to the United States from Sweden in 1906, created a character very similar to Lars Bondeson, named Olle i Skratthult (Olle from Laughtersville), and performed for enthusiastic Swedish American audiences. His performances included skits, monologues, and songs – a Swedish language version of American vaudeville entertainment. In this example he sings "Storbönnernas vals" (a well-to-do farmer's waltz). "Finska valsen" ("Finnish Waltz"), composed by Hesekiel Wahlrot with lyrics by the popular Swedish performer Ernst Rolf tells of a boy at a rural dance, and was another favorite on the American Swedish stage as performed by the character Olle i Skratthult. The character of Olle i Skratthult was immensely popular, allowing Peterson to form his own company and tour the United States in 1916.
  • Charles G. Widdén was another comic actor and singer popular among Swedish American audiences in the early twentieth century who made use of rustic comedy inspired by Lars Bondeson. He created his own rustic character, Olle ve kvarna (Olle of the Mill). In this example from his comic repertoire, he sings a traditional song, "Nikolina," in which a young man's hopes of marrying his girl are dashed when he asks her father for his hand and is beaten off, with the violence described in comic terms. In the end the couple resolves to marry after her father is dead (this was also one of the favorite songs performed by Olle i Skratthult). In addition to comic songs, Widdén sang popular songs of the early twentieth century, such as "Kostervalsen," a waltz by the Swedish song writing team of Göran Svenning and David Hellström.


After World War I the United States put severe limits on immigration, greatly reducing the number of new Swedish immigrants. Swedish Americans, always a highly literate and ambitious group, strove to assimilate. By the mid-twentieth century the vast majority of Swedish Americans spoke only English. Professional variety entertainment by and for Swedish speakers had largely disappeared by the1950s. Festivals and choral music also declined. But in the 1960s and 1970s there was a revival due to a strong desire of a new generation to return to their roots. Swedish and Scandinavian festivals are now held in many states. This has once again created venues for choirs and performers singing songs in Swedish. The member groups American Union of Swedish Singers report that they now sing about half their songs in English and half in Swedish, appealing to the audiences of mixed English and Swedish speakers they now encounter.

Monday, February 03, 2014

James Agee on "Swing Low Sweet Chariot"

Excerpt from James Agee, A Death in the Family (1955)

Italicized fragment inserted at the end of Part 1 of the novel, between chapters 7 and 8

… His father loved to sing this song too and sometimes in the dark, on the porch, or lying out all together on a quilt in the back yard, they would sing it together. They would not be talking, just listening to the little sounds, and looking up at the stars, and feeling ever so quiet and happy and sad at the same time, and all of a sudden in a very quiet voice his father sang out, almost as if he were singing to himself, “Swing low,” and by the time he got to “cherryut” his mother was singing too, just as softly, and then their voices went up higher, singing “comin for to carry me home,” and looking up between their heads from where he lay he looked right into the stars, so near and friendly, with a great drift of dust like flour across the tip of the sky. His father sang it differently from his mother. When she sang the second “Swing” she just sang “swing low,” on two notes, in a simple, clear voice, but he sang “swing” on two notes, sliding from the note above to the one she sang, and blurring his voice and making it more forceful on the first note, and springing it, dark and blurry, off the “l” in “low,” with a rhythm that made his son’s body stir. And when he came to “Tell all my friends I’m comin too,” he started four full notes above her, and slowed up a little, and sort of dreamed his way down among several extra notes she didn’t sing, and some of these notes were a kind of blur, like hitting a black note and the next white one at the same time on Grandma’s piano, and he didn’t sing “I’m comin’ ” but “I’m uh-comin,” and there too, and all through his singing, there was that excitement of rhythm that often made him close his eyes and move his head in contentment. But his mother sang the same thing clear and true in a sweet, calm voice, fewer and simpler notes. Sometimes she would try to sing it his way and he would try to sing it hers, but they always went back pretty soon to their own way, though he always felt they each liked the other’s way very much. He liked both ways very much and best of all when they sang together and he was there with them, touching them on both sides, and even better, from when they sang “I look over Jordan what do I see,” for then it was so good to look up into the stars, and then they sang “A band of angels comin after me” and it seemed as if all the stars came at him like a great shining brass band so far away you weren’t quite sure you could even hear the music but so near he could almost see their faces and they all but leaned down deep enough to pick him up in their arms. Come for to care [sic.] me home.

They sang it a little slower towards the end as if they hated to come to the finish of it and then they didn’t talk at all, and after a minute their hands took each other across their child, and things were even quieter, so that all the little noises of the city night raised up again in the quietness, locusts, crickets, footsteps, hoofs, faint voices, the shufflings of a switch engine, and after awhile, while they all looked into the sky, his father, in a strange and distant, sighing voice, said “Well ...” and after a little his mother answered, with a quiet and strange happy sadness, “Yes ...” and they waited a good little bit longer, not saying anything, and then his father took him up into his arms and his mother rolled up the quilt and they went in and he was put to bed.

Bascom Lamar Lunsford, liner notes to Bascom Lamar Lunsford: Ballads, Banjo Tunes, and Sacred Songs of Western North Carolina. Smithsonian/Folkways SF CD 40082. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1996.

6. Swing Low

"The title of this old spiritual is 'Swing Low.' I think it possibly is the foundation of the beautiful spiritual, 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.' I learned this from a student of mine way back in years gone by. Then I took Dr. R.W. Gordon to his home in 1925 at York, South Carolina, and Dr. Gordon recorded it on a cylinder record. A beautiful song sung by Willard Randall, then a man of the family, about middle age, at York, South Carolina." (14 -- lyrics on 15)

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Robin Clark of Bird Rock Dulcimers demonstrates Ed Thomas replica dulcimer, advanced noter techniques


Ed Thomas Replica Mountain Dulcimer - 30 Mar 12.wmv. Published on Mar 30, 2012. A short video of my new Ed Thomas (1850-1933) replica dulcimer made by John Knopf of Westmoreland, Michigan. This is an exact replica of a poplar wood Ed Thomas and here I compare it to a contemporary mountain dulcimer. John Knopf has done a wonderful job of making this rustic, traditional instrument the way that ED Thomas made his. The body is a lot smaller narrower that you see on contemporary dulcimers, and this has the effect of making the tone brighter. The instrument has a surprising amount of resonance and volume - I can feel it vibrating through the noter and on my legs as I play it.

Mountain Dulcimer advanced noter techniques.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

"Lee's Waltz" for dulcimer and guitar -- Prairieland Strings, Tuesday, Feb. 4 (if it doesn't snow again) ** UPDATE x1 ** -- but it's going to snow again, and we're calling off the session after all

UPDATE Monday, Feb. 3: Here's the blast email I sent out at 9:33 this morning:

Bet you saw this coming, didn't you?

Tuesday's forecast is now calling for a 100-percent chance of snow, and we're calling off tomorrow's "first Tuesday" session of the Prairieland Strings dulcimer club.

Good night to stay home, throw another log on the fire and play "Lee's Waltz" and -- dare I mention it? -- "Sumer Is Icumen In." Yeah. Ironic. Last time we try to introduce *that* song in the wintertime! Here's the central Illinois forecast from NOAA in Lincoln:

-- pe





And my original message over the weekend went like this:

So, here we are … Tuesday's forecast is calling for: "Cloudy with periods of snow during the afternoon. High 24F. Winds ENE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 80%. 3 to 5 inches of snow expected." And Tuesday night: "Snow in the evening will taper off to light snow overnight. Low 19F. Winds NNE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 80%. Snow accumulating 1 to 3 inches." But it's changed within the last hour. Here's what I take it to mean: Anything can happen.

Or not.

It's a crapshoot.

So I'm going to send out music and hope for the best.

But watch this space. Your email inbox, too. If the forecast is still calling for a lot of snow and/or ice on the roads in a couple of days, we'll have to call off the session again.

Our regular "first Tuesday" session of the Prairieland Strings dulcimer club is from 7 to 9 p.m. at Atonement Lutheran Church, 2800 West Jefferson, Springfield. To the email message I'm attaching mountain dulcimer tablature for "Sumer Is Icumen In" from when we got snowed out last month (ironic enough for you?) and a lead sheet for "Lee's Waltz," a lovely mountain dulcimer tune that sounds even lovelier when other instruments are on it too.

Here it is played by YouTube user Ken Rigby. If you're interested in dulcimer chords, watch his left hand. If you're not, you can just play the melody. On the dulcimer or the instrument of your choice!

The North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association has tablature for "Lee's Waltz" at's%20Waltz.pdf
Mike Thomas, who used to be with our Prairieland group and now winters in Florida, sent me the lead sheet, which has the notes and the guitar chords for the mixed groups of amateur musicians he now plays with.

"Learning to play with others, not only with different instruments but different kinds of music, I think has helped us musically," he said. "We introduced Doug Felt's 'Lee's Waltz' to them here on our RV park, and now it's one of their favorites. Some of the guitar players were challenged with the ABAC form of the song, so I used my EasyABC program to produce a version for them that allowed them to play out straight through without having to go back and forth between parts all one one page. I'll send it to you in case you have a guitar player who'd like to play the song …"

Doug Felt wrote the song for his wife Lee. They're fixtures on the dulcimer festival circuit. If you've noticed the low-slung cloth music stands that a lot of the mountain dulcimer players use, they're Doug's. And the cloth bags are Lee's design. You can see pictures of the stands and bags, along with other accessories at ...

Lee, who has a quiet sense of humor and makes the dulcimer bags, is the "dulcimer bag lady."

A North Georgia Foothills Footnote. NGFDA, by the way, has a lot of good information on its website, including a pretty good primer on ABC files, which it defines as "text files that describe in an fairly readable way the notes of a song, the duration of each note, and even the chords that accompany the melody." It uses the letters for note values, so "Amazing Grace" (in G) looks like this:

|:D | A> (B A/G/) B2 A | G2 E D2 D |
G> B A/G/ B2 A/B/ | ( d3 d2) B |
d> B A/G/ B2 A | G2 E D2 D |
G> B A/G/ B2 A | (G3 G2) :|
The advantage? Once you've entered an ABC file in a computer, the computer can do the kinds of things a computer can do -- including things like transposing a song into "D for dulcimer!" -- and print out the song in standard musical notation. Most of the common folk songs and hymns, especially from Great Britain and Ireland, are likely to be available on line in ABC format. Just do a Google search on the title and "ABC."