TITLE: Traditional Norwegian-American Dance Music From Virginia
SPEAKER: The Berntsons
EVENT DATE: 12/03/2009
RUNNING TIME: 60 minutes
Part of the Homegrown Concert Series, the Berntson family performs traditional Norwegian-American dance music from Virginia.
Speaker Biography: Around 1900, a Norwegian immigrant named Bernt Berntson Bradskerud purchased a violin in a northern Wisconsin logging camp and gave it to his ten-year-old son, Bennie. Bennie began playing learning Scandinavian folk tunes from fiddlers in his rural Wisconsin immigrant community, especially his musical uncle and cousins. For the next thirty years, Bennie played all night long at house parties and community dances that featured Scandinavian waltzes, schottisches, and square dances. These tunes became the backbone of the repertoire for the Berntsons. In the 1930s, Bennie Berntson's son Maurice and daughter Eleanore joined the family music circle. Eleanore's pump organ, playing melodies as well as chording, blended with the violins to produce a strikingly warm, rich sound. Maurice further enhanced the mix by playing the violin melodies on the guitar. In the 1960s, a second guitar was brought into the musical picture, when Eleanore's son Karl began playing the family music. Today, the Berntsons are alive and well, and heading into their second century of music-making. The band includes Eleanore Berntson, Karl Berntson, Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelley, and Charlie Pilzer.