Monday, October 31, 2011

Archie Teigan

Archie Teigan was born on March 10, 1911 in North Dakota and he died on May 19, 1993 in Brainard, MN. His family moved to the Brainard area when he was 10 years old. He started off on the regular fiddle and played his first dance when he was 12. Later in life he learned the Hardanger fiddle of his Norwegian roots. He had a man from Telemark, Norway build him one, and it took 2 years to complete. The wood had been aging for 100 years before it was made into his instrument, and it had a Viking scroll design. He liked it best when he played with just an acoustic guitar accompanying him.

I first heard Archie on a tape that Paul Wilson sent me. When I called Paul, he didn't think he had anything to offer me, but right after he hung up, he called back and told me about his Teigan tape. That tape ended up having some high quality stuff. Paul is also from Brainard and builds drone fiddles (his are pictured above). He is a founder of the great Scandanavian music festival Nisswa-Stammen. He is also a member of Ole Olsson's Old-time Orkestra.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Art Bjorngjeld

It was hard for me to imagine a bastion of Minnesota old-time music living in the suburbs, but after a long bus ride I arrived at Art's suburban home. As soon I walked in and sat on his porch that overlooks his woodsy backyard, it all made sense. The first thing I thought of was all of the wonderful music his neighbors must hear. Art started off our meeting explaining the differences between various 3 beat dances including the mazurka, the Hambo, a Polska and a Waltz. With each one he would actually get up and dance. He explained how the village dances eventually got lost here for more common dancing like the waltz.

Art's grandmother and grandfather both immigrated to America from Norway and met here in America. Art’s grandfather settled in a little town near the Canadian border in North Dakota. Art’s grandfather played fiddle a little bit, but it was his dad and his uncle Oliver who really picked up the music bug, and they both played accordion. About 10 other relatives played instruments and sang old tunes as well. Members of the family played for barn dances and house parties. They could play a wide variety of things from the old Norwegian tunes to the more modern country radio styles that were popular when radio first started.

Pa's Tune- One of his Grandpa's favorite tunes.

Art’s dad and two of his uncles eventually moved to Minneapolis and continued to play together. He points out that he heard just as much accordion as fiddle, and he learned a lot of his tunes from people who played accordion. Because of this, he learned his own way to bow a lot of the tunes. The tunes themselves are very old.

Art’s first musical adventures of his own included playing guitar in high school. Those were the days of the folk boom, so he was playing a lot of Peter, Paul and Mary and stuff like that. In college he saw Doc Watson a few times at the U of M and that led him back into more traditional music. He started playing bluegrass banjo and that became his love for a long time. It ends up that he played in Snake-Eyed Pete and the Sidewinders which eventually became the band my stepfather played in- the Sidewinders.

All through the years he heard his family play the old tunes at gatherings, and he was slowly absorbing it in. When he met Dick Rees he began to learn a variety of Scandinavian music, and they had a group named the Scandinavian Hot Shots. He has played with the Minnesota Scandinavian Ensemble for many years with Leroy Larson and can play the songs of his youth on fiddle and accordion.

Elmer Running's Tune- Elmer was a fiddling friend of Art's grandfather.

I will surely be adding a few of his granfather's tunes to the Minnesota repertoire.