Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Profile of Bishop Hill psalmodikon workshop in Swedish newsletter

My writeup of my Aug. 2 workshop on the psalmodikon at Bishop Hill is in the current issue of Psalmodika (Vol. 20, Nr. 2), the newsletter of the Nordiska Psalmodikonförbundet [trans. the nordic psalmodikon club] in Sweden. A psalmodikon, (pronounced sal-MOW-di-kon), is a one-stringed box zither used by 19th-century pastors in Sweden and Norway to teach four-part harmony singing to rural congregations using a system of tablature called siffernoter [numerical notation].

Background, in Swedish, is available at on the club's website (click on the button that says Kontaka oss [contact us] for a pulldown directory and on Öpna [open] to open an item in the directory). Even if you don't read Swedish, you can find some cool pictures by scrolling down to Bilder [pictures] and clicking on the Öpna button.

A mostly Norwegian-American group in Minnesota, called the Nordic Psalmodikonforbundet (no umlaut in Norwegian), has a wealth of information in English at

Article in Psalmodika (click on picture to enlarge)

Here's what I wrote, translated into Swedish and (since I can't find my original draft anymore) translated back into English:

The Profile

On 2 August, I led a workshop on the psalmodikon for the Bishop Hill Heritage Association in the old Swedish colony of Bishop Hill in Illinois. There were 21 persons. When I in the beginning of my appearance asked if they knew of the instrument Psalmodikon it was only two or three people who raised their hands.

I have a copy of an instrument made ​​in Bishop Hill in 1870 and I showed how to play on it and got them to sing " A Mighty Fortress is our God" by numerical scores [the siffernoter] so they would understand how the numbers relate to the notes in the scale. It was great fun and I think the audience appreciated it.

MORE ON THE PSALMODIKON: In April 2015 I will be presenting a workshop, "Pastor Esbjörn's Singing School," at the Augustana Founder's Day Renuion in Andover:

On Saturday, April 25, there will be interest groups during the day, with a noon lunch and an evening smorgasbord. The evening will close with a hymn sing and brief Vesper service.

On Sunday, April 26, there will be a morning worship service, followed by a noon lunch. The Augustana College Choir will give a special concert from 2:30 - 3:30 pm. ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton will be the preacher at the 4:00 pm Founders Day Service. The Reunion will end with an evening dinner.

This special event celebrates the 155th anniversary of the Augustana Synod and the 165th anniversary of the Andover congregation. …

My workshop will be one of the breakout sessions for interest groups on Saturday. The Rev. Lars Paul Esbjörn was the first pastor at Andover's Jenny Lind Chapel/Augustana Lutheran Church and one of the founders of the old Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and I have been learning tunes from a handwritten booklet of his siffernoter tablature in the Special Collections at Augustana College's Tredway Library.

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