Thorstein Skarning

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Thorstein Skarning (18881939) was a Norwegian-born musician and bandleader, who toured the Upper Midwest for over two decades and was a Twin Cities radio personality in the 1930s. [1]

Norwegians are a North Germanic ethnic group native to Norway. They share a common culture and speak the Norwegian language. Norwegian people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa.

The Upper Midwest is a region in the northern portion of the U.S. Census Bureau's Midwestern United States. It is largely a sub-region of the Midwest. Although the exact boundaries are not uniformly agreed-upon, the region is officially defined as referring to the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

Minneapolis–Saint Paul is a major metropolitan area built around the Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix rivers in east central Minnesota. The area is commonly known as the Twin Cities after its two largest cities, Minneapolis, the most populous city in the state, and Saint Paul, the state capital. It is an example of twin cities in the sense of geographical proximity. Minnesotans living outside of Minneapolis and Saint Paul often refer to the two together as the Twin Cities.


Accordion virtuoso

Thorstein Skarning [2]
Thorstein Skarning.jpg
Born(1888-11-30)November 30, 1888
DiedOctober 3, 1939(1939-10-03) (aged 50)
Spouse(s)Anna Christine Kessell
ChildrenThorstein, Osmund

Skarning, who grew up near Drammen, Norway, immigrated to the United States in 1909 and by 1917 had begun performing in the new country. [3] From the beginning his wife Anna joined him as a pianist and vocalist. [3] In 1925 they were greeted in Grand Forks, North Dakota by a large crowd that filled American Hall to capacity for a program of Norwegian folk dances, Grieg recital pieces and sentimental ballads. A review in the Grand Forks Herald praised the "celebrated accordionist", who played solo versions of Den store, hvide flok and Solveigs sang during one set. It referred to his "charming wife" and called her a "singer of note", who captivated listeners while singing Breil's Song of the soul and Hvalbye's Å, mor. [4]

Drammen Municipality in Buskerud, Norway

Drammen is a city in Buskerud, Norway. The port and river city of Drammen is centrally located in the eastern and most populated part of Norway. Drammen is the capital of the county of Buskerud.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe, which is 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Grand Forks, North Dakota City in North Dakota, United States

Grand Forks is the third-largest city in the American state of North Dakota and is the county seat of Grand Forks County. According to the 2010 census, the city's population was 52,838, while the total of the city and surrounding metropolitan area was 98,461. Grand Forks, along with its twin city of East Grand Forks, Minnesota, forms the center of the Grand Forks, ND-MN Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is often called Greater Grand Forks or the Grand Cities.

Advertised as the "world's greatest accordion virtuoso" and "greatest player of classical music on the accordion", Skarning demonstrated his skill before rapt audiences and enthusiastic dancers alike. The high-brow fare was not to everyone's liking. At the MWA hall in Strum, Wisconsin the crowd showed "little appreciation of a Mozart sonata but raised the roof when he stooped to rip off a Norwegian hop waltz." [5] In 1925 when Skarning and his musicians had an engagement in Blair, Wisconsin, the local newspaper wrote: "This company never fails to please and their every appearance here is greeted with a packed house. After the musical entertainment is over, the players play for the dancers —and this is where both Mr. Skarning and his people come in for a rousing good time." [6]

Modern Woodmen of America

Modern Woodmen of America (MWA) is one of the largest fraternal benefit societies in the United States, with more than 750,000 members. Total assets reached US $15.4 billion in 2016. Though it shares the same founder, it is not affiliated financially in any way with another, similarly-styled fraternal benefit society, WoodmenLife, and despite the name "Modern" is actually older than its counterpart.

Strum, Wisconsin Village in Wisconsin, United States

Strum is a village in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, along the Buffalo River. The population was 1,114 at the 2010 census.

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A master of the chromatic button accordion, Skarning recorded "Skarning's Mazurka", "Vals Brilliante" and a few other tunes while still in Norway. Five of these numbers are on the 2017 album "Trekkspillnostalgi fra Modum og Eiker" (Accordion nostalgia from Modum and Eiker) and available through iTunes and Amazon mp3. [7] In 1918 Skarning made a trial recording of "Old Comrades" (Alte Kameraden) for Victor Records. The same year he released four songs on Columbia Records. In 1930 he put out two songs on the Brunswick label. [8]

iTunes Store digital media store

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"Alte Kameraden" is the title of a popular German military march. It is included in the Armeemarschsammlung as HM II, 150.

Victor Talking Machine Company American record company and phonograph manufacturer headquartered in Camden, New Jersey

The Victor Talking Machine Company was an American record company and phonograph manufacturer headquartered in Camden, New Jersey.

Skarning adapted to the changing tastes of the public and during the 1930s performed with his sons Thorstein and Osmund as "Thorstein Skarning and his Norwegian Hillbillies", a group whose broadcasts aired three times a week on WDGY radio in Minneapolis. One of their most popular numbers was a country western rendition of Farvel Mit Fædreland (Emigrantvalsen). [1]

WDGY Oldies radio station in Hudson, Wisconsin

WDGY is a commercial AM radio station licensed to Hudson, Wisconsin, and serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul radio market. It is owned by WRPX, inc. and airs a Classic Hits/Oldies radio format. The station's studios and offices are in Lakeland, Minnesota. The transmitter is off Commerce Drive, near Interstate 94 in Hudson.

Country music, also known as country and western, and hillbilly music, is a genre of popular music that originated in the southern United States in the early 1920s. It takes its roots from genres such as American folk music and blues.

The violinist Ted Johnson and musicians Ernest and Clarence Iverson also played in a hybrid manner that was both Scandinavian and American. In the early 1930s Skarning and Ted Johnson were the leading Nordic bandleaders in the Twin Cities as well as good friends. [1] The Minnesota Historical Society has an autographed photo of Skarning that he inscribed to his "old friend Ted Johnson, violinist par excellence."

Ted Johnson was a Swedish-American violinist, who led a popular Scandinavian dance band in the Twin Cities during the 1930s and 1940s.

Ernest and Clarence Iverson were popular radio personalities on Twin Cities stations WDGY and KEYD during the 1930s and 1940s. Ernest (1903–1958) was known as Slim Jim. His brother Clarence (1905-1990) was the Vagabond Kid. Together they performed an eclectic mix of music ranging from country western and Tin Pan Alley to gospel hymns and Scandinavian ballads.

Scandinavia Region in Northern Europe

Scandinavia is a region in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. The term Scandinavia in local usage covers the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The majority national languages of these three, belong to the Scandinavian dialect continuum, and are mutually intelligible North Germanic languages. In English usage, Scandinavia also sometimes refers to the Scandinavian Peninsula, or to the broader region including Finland and Iceland, which is always known locally as the Nordic countries.

Thorstein Skarning died in 1939, but his son Thorstein kept the orchestra going into the 1950s, promoting it as "the only Norske band in the United States featuring old style mixed music." [3]

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  1. 1 2 3 A Passion For Polka: Old-Time Ethnic Music In America by Victor R. Greene, (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1992), pp. 150-151.
  2. Thorstein and Anna Skarning. Retrieved: July 14, 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 Thorstein Skarning Retrieved: December 9, 2011.
  4. The Blair Press December 3, 1925.
  5. History of Strum and town of Unity Retrieved: December 9, 2011.
  6. The Blair Press March 12, 1925.
  7. Trekkspillnostalgi fra Modum og Eiker (Oslo: Aksent, 2017).
  8. Ethnic Music on Records: A Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produced in the United States, 1893-1942 by Richard K. Spottswood, (University of Illinois Press, 1990) LCCN 89-020526. Volume 5, p. 2633.

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Thorstein and Anna Skarning lyrics

Anna Skarning sheet music