The Old-Time Herald Volume 10, Number 12

Feature
Harold Sorenson:
Norwegian-American Fiddling in the Upper Midwest
By Julane Lund
The author listens to Harold Sorenson play as his daughter works in the kitchen.
Listen To Harold Sorenson's Ole Johnson's Waltz
Download this MP3 (1mb zip)

Harold Sorenson was born in Oklee, Minnesota on July 3, 1917.  Because of his many years of musical experiences, as well as his kind nature, I was delighted to talk with him recently about his fiddling and the fiddlers he has known. We sat inside his farmhouse, sipping coffee as the wind blew outside, the grass laid flat around the farm buildings. The land is level and smooth in northwestern Minnesota, and it is easy to imagine the wild prairie that existed there before farmers ever planted their crops.

The plains, and the overpowering sound of the wind over this flat terrain are familiar to me. The farms in this area include so much land that, although there are few hills, it typically it isn’t possible to see one farm from another. However, it wasn’t only the outside environment that I recognized as I sat in Harold’s kitchen.  Harold’s demeanor was familiar too. He had a quiet gentleness, and he was happy to take me in as his guest. He served sweet cakes for us to eat while we drank our coffee. There was warmth in his gestures, although he didn’t say much unless he was answering one of my questions. I felt a connection to him because of our common Norwegian-American customs, and the fact that his family, like mine, had immigrated to this flat land. 

What made my meeting with Harold even more special is that he is a fiddler who plays the same style of music that my late grandfather Gehart Lund had played. As a young man in Rolette, North Dakota, my grandfather was a sought-after fiddler for barn dances and as a child I heard stories about him that made him a legend. Harold has the same quiet, kind demeanor that my grandfather had, and both men have loved the same kind of music. 

 

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