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June 19, 2003

American Folklife Center Presents Scandinavian Music from Minnesota

The Minnesota Scandinavian Ensemble and Becky Weis appear in concert at noon on Wednesday, July 16, on Neptune Plaza on the west front of the Jefferson Building, First Street and Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

Presented by the Library's American Folklife Center, the concert will feature traditional and "old-time" songs and dance music from the Scandinavian communities of the Upper Midwest. Philip Nusbaum, the Minnesota state folklorist, will introduce the concert and provide background on the Scandinavian musical traditions of this area of the country. The concert is free of charge and open to the public.

This outdoor concert is the third in this year's series of "Homegrown 2003: The Music of America" concerts, monthly presentations of traditional music and dance offered from April to November, which are drawn from communities across the United States and arranged with the help of state folklorists. The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington are co-sponsors of the event. The American Folklife Center's "Homegrown" series is the grassroots component of "I Hear America Singing," a Library of Congress project celebrating America's music.

Playing music and dancing were among the major entertainments of the Scandinavian immigrants in Minnesota. In Scandinavia, social dances and dance tunes handed down from earlier times were extremely regional in nature. For example, the "springar" was danced and played in many communities in Norway, but there were considerable differences from place to place in the way it was performed. Today, when this music is performed in Minnesota, dancers and players are aware of its varying regional origins.

Minnesota is currently experiencing a revival of the centuries-old regional dance forms. Becky Weis plays for dance groups that meet to preserve these forms. She plays both the traditional Norwegian hardanger fiddle and the nyckelharpa, the Swedish key fiddle, an instrument that was nearly extinct.

Leroy Larson and the Minnesota Scandinavian Ensemble perform the "old-time" repertoire of waltzes, polkas and schottisches that replaced the regional dance forms as social dances. Minnesota Scandinavian Ensemble accordionist Mel Brenden and violinist Art Bjorngjeld each perform highly ornamented solos, and the group often plays for both concerts and dances.

Larson traveled through the state with a tape recorder some years ago, researching Minnesota Scandinavian old-time music and eventually receiving a doctorate in musicology from the University of Minnesota in the process. Some of the tunes Larson collected during his research now form part of the group's repertoire, along with music from phonograph recordings of old masters of the genre, dialect songs, songs taken from Scandinavian-American vaudeville, and original compositions.

In case of inclement weather, the concert will be held in the Coolidge Auditorium, on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. The Jefferson Building is located close to Metro stops at Capitol South (orange and blue lines) and Union Station (red line).

Forthcoming concerts in the "Homegrown 2003" series include:

August 20
Robert Turner and the Silver Heart Singers: Gospel music from Indiana

Sept. 18
Roberto and Lorenzo Martinez: 2003 NEA National Heritage Fellows from New Mexico

Oct. 8
Wylie and the Wild West: Cowboy and country music from Washington state

Nov. 12
Chuna McIntyre and the Nunumpta Yup'ik Dancers: Music and dance from Alaska

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. More information about the American Folklife Center is available on the Library's Web site at http://www.loc.gov/folklife.

Part of the Kennedy Center's Performing Arts for Everyone initiative, the Millennium Stage helps fulfill the center's mission to make performing arts widely accessible. The Millennium Stage introduces the performing arts to the local community and to millions of people who visit the center each year. These free, 6 p.m. performances are offered 365 days a year. Tickets are never required. Daily broadcasts of Millennium Stage concerts are available on the Internet. For a schedule and information on how to access the broadcasts, visit the Kennedy Center Web site at http://kennedy-center.org.

The Folklore Society of Greater Washington was founded in 1964 to further the understanding, investigation, appreciation, and performance of the traditional folk music and folklore of the American people. The society presents more than 200 folk events in the Washington, D.C., area each year.

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PR 03-114
06/19/03
ISSN 0731-3527

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