Monday, December 05, 2016

We're moving Hogfiddle to a new platform ...

Our revels, at least at this address, are ended. We're moving to

In the meantime, here's a tune to speed us on our way ...

At least for the foreseeable future, I will continue to maintain this blog, and all others that I've had on Blogger, as an archive.

Monday, November 21, 2016

På Gud och ej på eget råd -- a 17th-century German chorale in Wallin's psalmbook of 1819 and (hopefully) the key to deciphering L.P. Esbjörn's psalmodikon mss. at Augie

CONTENT ADVISORY -- This post wanders all over the place, dragging in stuff from several obscure nooks and crannies of 19th-century Swedish and American hymnody, the history of different box zithers, the deployment of Yankee regiments in Middle Tennessee before the Battle of Chickamauga and other trivia. But that's the way it rolls sometimes, and the hymn I found (or, rather, really noticed for the first time even though I'd seen it before, helps me fit some of the trivialities together. Nice hymn, too.

På Gud och ej på eget råd - Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan - Jens Fredborg

Found this afternoon, while I was trying to track down an online forum thread on the psalmodikon, a page from the 1846 edition of Johannes Dillner's arrangements of the Svenska Psalmboken in siffernoter for psalmodikon. It wasn't what I was looking for -- my best discoveries come to me that way -- but contributor "razyn" posted it in an unrelated thread, "The Tennessee Music Box" (scroll down to 6:15 p.m., Nov. 6, 2008) at The title page is pictured just below at right.

It turned out to be the missing piece in a puzzle. I’ve studied other pages from the 1846 edition, the title page and a couple of excerpts from the introduction, but never had access to the music.

I was glad to find the sifferskrift, which I'd previously overlooked, for two reasons:

  • It was in four-part harmony, and the psalmodikon was mostly used to teach rural congregations to sing in parts.

  • The Rev. Lars P. Esbjörn, first Swedish pastor in the Midwest and founder of Augustana College, had a hand in preparing it.

The hymn, or psalm in Swedish, is No. 252 in Johan Olof Wallin’s 1819 psalmbook, På Gud och ej på eget råd in Swedish. After puzzling through the siffernoter, comparing it to the musical notation and hearing the melody on Jens Fredborg’s invaluable Swedish hymnody website, I can add a third reason:

  • It’s a really nice hymn. There’s even a Bach cantata (BWV 99) on the original 17th-century German chorale melody by Severus Gastorius, Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan in German (translated into English as "What You, My God, Ordain Is Good").

The book was published in Gävle, and Esbjörn, then a young protege of Johannes Dillner who hadn't yet come to America, helped Dillner put it together. [See Sam Rönnegård, Prairie Shepherd: Lars Paul Esbjörn and the Beginnings of the Augustana Lutheran Church, trans. G. Everett Arden (Rock Island: Augustana Book Concern, 1952), pp. 10-11, 49-53; cf. Hjalmar Linnström, Svenskt boklexikon. Åren 1830-1865 (1896, rpt. 1961. Projekt Runeberg, 2005, p. 257].

Like so many of the Swedish psalms of the 1800s, according to Wikipedia, På Gud och ej på eget råd is Johan Olof Wallin's translation of a German chorale, with words written in 1757 by German hymn-writer Christian Fürchtegott Gellert. The melody was composed by 18th-century German cantor (town musician and choir director) Severus Gastorius.

Gastorius' tune, WAS GOTT TUT, became very popular in 17th- and 18th-century Germany, where it was sung to another text. According to "Severus Gastorius (1647-1682) was a cantor in Jena, central Germany. ... One of his friends, Samuel Rodigast, wrote the hymn "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" for Gastorius when he was sick (to cheer him up as Rodigast writes in his dedication). Even before he recovered, Gastorius set it to music based on a melody by Werner Fabricius. The tune became widely known in Germany as the cantor students of Jena cantor[ei] sang it every week at Gastorius' door as well as when they returned home."

Translated from the German as "What God Ordains Is Always Good," it is in the LC-MS Lutheran Service Book (2006, No. 760), and has appeared in a number of German-language Lutheran, Reformed and Mennonite hymnals. In Germany the chorale was arranged by Pachelbel and Bach. Catherine Winkworth's translation was "Whate’er my God ordains is right."

Why it matters

I've had copies of a manuscript notebook of siffernoter in Esbjörn's handwriting in the Esbjörn Family Papers at Augustana College, but I've not been able to relate all of the tablature to hymns in the 1819 psalmbook. This hymn compares well with my copy of the 1892 Chicago edition of the Svenska Psalm-Boken, however, and I believe (crossing my fingers and knocking on wood) it'll help me figure out how he handled four-part harmony.

Svenska Psalm-Boken (Chicago: Engberg-Holmberg, 1892)

Here, by way of background, is what I wrote in my notes for a workship I called "Pastor Esbjorn’s Singing School" at the 155th anniversary celebration of the Augustana Lutheran Synod, Andover, Ill., April 25, 2015:

Later, as a professor at a Lutheran college in Springfield that was a forerunner of Augustana seminary in Chicago and Rock Island, he taught hymns – they were called psalms in the old country – to the Scandinavian students. “Both for edification and for practice, services with Swedish or Norwegian sermons and simultaneous singing out of both hymnals, using, the same melody, have been held every Sunday afternoon, likewise one evening each week a so-called prayer meeting,” he reported in 1859. We have other evidence as well. In the L.P. Esbjorn Family Papers at Augustana College, we have two undated notebooks of psalmodikon tablature, or siffernoter (numerical notation) of Swedish psalms and Anglo-American hymns in Esbjorn’s hand. They are housed with a grade report on students at the seminary in Chicago and several pages excised from The Hallelujah, a tunebook by Lowell Mason, an influential educator and composer of hymn tunes from Boston. One of the tunes Esbjorn tabbed out for psalmodikon is from a Norwegian psalmbook of the day, and I believe that suggests he used the notebook in Springfield or Chicago, where he had both Swedish and Norwegian students.

And this:

Two handmade notebooks containing siffernoter are included in the Esbjorn Family Papers in Special Collections at Augustana College. One contains Swedish and Anglo-American hymns in four-part harmony. The other, which I have not yet analyzed in detail, appears to consist of harmony parts for hymns from Olof Wallin’s Svenska Psalmbok of 1819, among them “A Mighty Fortress is our God” and several German chorales and Swedish psalms. Included in the first manuscript are four-part arrangements of Gustavus Adolphus’ Krigspsalmen (“Be not dismayed, O little flock”) and Hosianna, a beloved Advent and Palm Sunday anthem that did not appear in the 1819 psalmbook, along with music from collections by Peder Håkansson Syréen and other Swedish spiritual songsters. But the bulk of Esbjorn’s manuscript consists of Anglo-American hymns including Old Hundred, Pleyel’s Hymn and Lowell Mason’s Missionary Hymn (“From Greenland’s icy mountains”). Two hymns are attributed to a “Lutheran Hymnbook,” and no less than four to Lowell Mason’s Hallelujah. In all Esbjorn’s notebooks suggest a keen interest in American hymnody. [Footnotes omitted. Following common American practice, I used the English alphabet is spelling Esbjörn's name.]

That other thread

The other thread I was chasing, typically, had nothing to do with the hymn I found.

It was in a thread on how the psalmodikon might have influenced a box-shaped American dulcimer called the "Tennessee music box" during the Civil War. Rayzn, a.k.a. Richard Hulan, a folklorist with whom I share several interests, posted a page from the 1846 psalmbook with instructions, in Swedish, on how to build a psalmodikon and suggested "[a] theoretical Union soldier might have left behind his hymn book (easier to carry, and to lose, than a psalmodikon). But it's unlikely that a Tennessean who found it would get much out of these instructions."

The page of instructions, a sharper copy of which Hulan graciously sent me several years ago, is copied to Hogfiddle in a 2012 post where I translated it when I was getting specifications for a psalmodikon in the Steeple Building museum in Bishop Hill, (permalink But what especially interested me was a linked Swedish psalm, in siffernoter at It's No. 252 in Wallin's 1819 psalmbook.

I've long been skeptical about these supposed links between the psalmodikon and the American dulcimer -- see for example my July 11, 2010 Hogfiddle post "Swedes on Cumberland Gap?" (permalink -- but Hulan knows more about both instruments than I do. He cites a Minnesota cavalry battalion, including "at least five Norwegian-born soldiers," that served in Middle Tennessee in 1862 and 1863. "Any of the above might have had a psalmodikon, and might have left it (or the idea of it) in the area in which -- as far as we know -- the TMB [Tennessee music box] form arose almost immediately after the Civil War," he adds.

Hulan also says, "There may also have been Swedes in the unit; my source only tracked Norwegian Americans." He's careful not to claim too much, noting that the strongest evidence for some influence is organological -- i.e. based on the similar boxy shape of the two instruments. He concludes only, "I have no evidence that these specific Norwegians carried a psalmodikon to the Tennessee Valley. But there ARE several documented soldiers from the psalmodikon-using population who were stationed, at length, in the most relevant part of the Tennessee Valley during 1862 and 1863."

I'm still skeptical, but I don't want to rule it out altogether.

I addressed these issues before in my 2010 post, when an instrument builder from New York state named Nils R. Caspersson hypothesized that Swedes around Cumberland Gap, Tenn.-Va.-Ky., might have had psalmodikons, and I still have the same questions.

While you can't prove a negative, I located Caspersson's "Swedes" (who were probably descended Scottish-English borderers named Sweeten) just north of Chattanooga. But they were in dulcimer country, so you can't entirely rule it out. By the same token, could a psalmodikon-totin' Norwegian Lutheran of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Cumberland, have met up with a "damsel with a dulcimer" between the battles of Murfreesboro and Chickamauga and compared musical notes? I still don't think it's very likely, but I guess it's not beyond the realm of possiblity.

See? I warned you this was going to wander all over the place. The Swedish psalm is nice, though, and I want to learn it on my psalmodikon. The Bach cantata is especially nice, too.

The Bach cantata (BVW 99)

J.S. Bach, Kantate BWV 99: Nr. 6 Choral „Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan“

Source. J.S. Bach, Kantate BWV 99 „Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan“: Nr. 6 Choral „Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan“ | solistenensemble stimmkunst | Stiftsbarock Stuttgart (Konzertmeisterin: Christine Busch) | Leitung: Kay Johannsen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Praise team's playlist for blended traditional-contemporary service at Peace Lutheran Church -- Christ the King Sunday (Nov. 20)

All Hail The Power Of Jesus' Name - Paul Baloche

Here's the music for the service:

Call to Worship: "Open Up the Heavens" (solos on verses, team on choruses)

Opening Hymn/Song: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name"

Praise Song: "Shout to the Lord" (team on verses, choir + congregation on choruses) - we'll lead into this with a Psalm reading

Creed: "We Believe"

Communion: "The Table"

Closing Hymn: "Now Thank We All Our God" (all musicians will lead)

Sunday's congregational hymn at Peace Lutheran probably won't sound like this German boys' choir from Dresden, but it's a magnificent piece of music -- from a heritage we're in danger of losing in America.

Dresdner Kreuzchor "Nun danket alle Gott" Johann Crüger
"Festakt 800 Jahre Dresdner Kreuzchor" 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Two Swedish songs for the price of one for the Prairieland Strings' next jam -- "Björnen sover" and "Gubben Noak"

*Gonzo Sombrero - Ukko Nooa / Gubben Noak with Yamaha LL6

Blast email I just sent to the Prairieland Strings mailing list --

Our next slow jam at Peace Lutheran Church, 2800 West Jefferson, is from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17. Here's a story to help get you in the mood:

Saint Peter is interviewing newly arrived musicians at the Pearly Gates. He asked the first musician, "So, what did you do?"

"I was first violin with the London Philharmonic," stated the first musician.

"Fine, you may enter," said Saint Peter. He then asked the second guy, "What did you do?"

"I was a school band leader," said the second guy.

"Great, you may also enter," replied Saint Peter. Finally, Saint Peter asked the third guy, "So, what did you do with your life?"

"Well," replied the third guy, "I really wasn't a great musician--I played casual banjo in a bluegrass band. We mostly played for barbecues, bar mitzvahs, and the like..."

"Oh," replied Saint Peter, "Oh, all right, but go around the back, OK? ..." (

Here are links to the songs for our Christmas program, at the Peace Lutheran soup supper for the second Wednesday in Advent, Dec. 7 (details later):

> And here's a Swedish tune I want to call when we go around the circle:

"Björnen sover" means "the bear is sleeping" in English. It's an old, old children's song in all the Nordic countries, and it has the same melody as a famous song by Swedish composer Carl Michael Bellman called "Gubben Noak" (old man Noah). I'll post a video or two to Hogfiddle:

Hope to see you there! No agenda for Thursday (other than the Swedish song I want to sneak into the playlist). Let's just run through the Christmas songs and go around the circle.

-- Pete


* Gonzo Sombrero - Ukko Nooa / Gubben Noak with Yamaha LL6 He writes Aug 27, 2011: "Playing with Yamaha LL6 -guitar. This is a traditional song here in Finland. Origin of the composition is unknown, but the words were made by Carl Michael Bellman from Sweden. It's really a drinking song, but also a tune that children will usually learn in the first place. In english the title might translate into 'Old man Noah'." More than you ever wanted to know posted to Hogfiddle Sept. 11, 2013, at

Björnen sover

Björnen sover -- Guitar cover by YouTube user tossepjong

He writes on YouTube: Published on Oct 14, 2015. Me playing "Björnen sover" in a jazz version. The content of the lyrics in English would be something like this; The bear is asleep in its nest. He is not dangerous, but beware, if you disturb his sleep, he will kill you!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Blow Ye the Trumpet Blow

"Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow" Old Carroll Primitive Baptist Church

... When Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, in January, 1863, [Fredrick] Douglass was in Boston with “an immense assembly,” largely of black abolitionists. “We were waiting and listening as for a bolt from the sky, which should rend the fetters of four millions of slaves,” Douglass recalled. The crowd sang the hymn “Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow”: “Ye mournful souls, be glad.” -- Jill Laporte, “Wars Within,” New Yorker, Nov. 2016

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Peace Lutheran -- contemporary service -- Pentecost XXVI (Nov. 12)

Official audio of Chris Tomlin’s “Good Good Father”

Here is the music set for this coming Saturday. We'll meet at 2:45 to rehearse (or as soon as the Worship & Music Committee meeting is done -- hopefully that will be before 2:45 to give the committee members a few minutes before we need to start).

Call to Worship/Gathering: "Psalm 100"

Worship Songs:

creed: "We Believe"

sung Lord's Prayer

Sending Song: "I Will Follow" --

Sunday, November 06, 2016

"O Jesus Christ, all praise to Thee" (Lovet være du Jesu Christ / Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ), a Christmas chorale by Martin Luther and Johann Walther in Norwegian sifferskrift

An early Reformation hymn for Dec. 14 when I demonstrate the psalmodikon at an Advent soup supper at Springfield's Peace Lutheran Church. I'm especially tickled to be able to use it since Johann Walther, who co-authored it with Luther, was my great-great-great- [maybe nine "greats" in all] great-grandfather, according to my paternal grandmother [farmor]. We've traced it back to a Caspar Walther, who emigrated from Germany to Norway about 1763. A family story traces his ancestry back to Luther's co-author. -- pe

Source: Jacob Andreas Lindeman. Choral-Melodier for Psalmodicon : til de i Kingos, Guldbergs og den evangelisk christelige Psalmebog forekommende Psalmer. Christiania [Oslo]: Hoppes Forlag, 1841.

Scanned by Nasjonalbiblioteket (the Norwegian national library), Henrik Ibsens gate 110, Oslo, and posted to their website. Wikipedia ( has this: "Lindeman tok avgangseksamen ved Trondhjem skole i 1827 og teologisk eksamen i 1832. Fra 1826 til 1840 var han organist ved Vår Frelsers kirke i Christiania, og fra 1832 til 1836 underviste han i musikk og var samtidig lærer i religion og musikk ved Eugeniastiftelsen. Fra 1836 til 1839 var han lærer ved Asker seminar. I 1839 ble han utnevnt til residerende kapellan i Leikanger og ble ordinert 5. juli 1840. Han ble da etterfulgt som organist av broren Ludvig M. I 1845 ble han sogneprest i Davik, hvor han døde brått året etter."

Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ

One of the first Christmas hymns that Luther and Johann Walther composed by reworking vernacular German materials. I haven't been able to find it in the Augustana Synod's 1901 hymnal, but it is included in the Norwegian-American Lutheran Hymnary of 1913 as well as Norwegian psalmbooks of the 1800s. According to Wikipedia (,_Jesu_Christ):

"Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" ("Praise be to You, Jesus Christ") is a Lutheran chorale of 1524, with words written by Martin Luther. It was first published in 1524 in the Eyn geystlich Gesangk Buchleyn. For centuries the chorale has been the prominent hymn (Hauptlied) for Christmas Day in German speaking Lutheranism, but has also been used in different translations internationally. It has appeared in hymnals of various denominations including the Catholic Church.


Luther expanded a pre-Reformation stanza which is attested in Northern Germany in the 15th century, mainly in prayerbooks from the convent of Medingen, based on Grates nunc omnes, the Latin Sequence of the midnight mass for Christmas, by six stanzas.[1][2] Each stanza ends on the acclamation Kyrieleis. The hymn was published in Eyn Enchiridion in Erfurt in 1524.[1]


The tune was first printed in Eyn geystlich Gesangk Buchleyn, a booklet of spiritual song, collected by Johann Walter but is attested also in the prayerbooks from the convent of Medingen and even appears on an antependium made by the nuns in the late 15th century.[3] It seems likely that both Luther and Walter collaborated to modify an older melody.[4] In the first verse, the highest notes accentuate important words such as Jesu, Mensch (man), Jungfrau (virgin), Engel (angels).

Johann Walther was a kantor, or court musician, in the court of chapel of Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony. "Johann Walter [Walther] was a German composer, one of the earliest of the composers in the Lutheran Church," says Aryeh Oron in his biography on the Bach-Cantatas website ( "As Martin Luther's friend and his musical adviser, Walter helped Luther to construct a new liturgy and composed tunes for many Lutheran hymns." (Brackets in the original. "Walther" is the spelling that was handed down in my family.)

At left: The Lutheran Hymnary. Published by Authority of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Hauge's Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the United Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1913.

Some YouTube clips: