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Psalmodikon Gallery Exhibits: Row 5

NAP0013: McFarland Salmodikon Quartet

Psalmodikon Gallery Image 0013 Left to right: Bertha Larson, Nora Brickson, Charlotte Sullivan, Elsie Thompson

The McFarland Salmodikon Quartet was invited to participate in the National Folk Festivals in Orchestra Hall, Chicago in 1937 and Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C. in 1938. They also played at the State Fair in West Allis, Wisconsin, the Century of Progress exhibition in Chicago and many other places. They also made recordings of salmodikon music for the Library of Congress. They would often use a sound amplification system when playing for a program since the sound was then more like a pipe organ.

To play at the National Folk Festival, the quartet drove four days from McFarland, Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. in Nora Brickson’s car. They were able to rehearse for a couple of days before the Festival began. “The girls suggested that we go to hotels this time, on account of my age” said Elsie Thompson, 78 years of age at the time, “but I told them that I can take it as well as anyone in the group and we will buy groceries, do our own cooking and sleep in tourist cabins”. The cost of the trip was about $80.00. The Idun Sons of Norway lodge gave them $10.00 toward travel expenses and other societies in Stoughton, Madison and Edgerton contributed as well.

Tørbjørn Vik, a school teacher in Norway, brought a salmodikon with him when he came to America in 1862. He decided to use four salmodikons together so that four-part harmony could be played. His daughters, one of whom was Elsie Thompson, along with her sister Julia Larson and other family members began using instruments he made to play four-part harmony as a quartet. The salmodikons that he made for the quartet were given to Beatrice Hole by Ruth Reitan of Decorah, Iowa, a great-granddaughter of Tørbjørn.

NAP0014: Carl J.G. Felland

Psalmodikon Gallery Image 0014This psalmodikon, currently in Beatrice Holes’ collection, was made by Carl J.G. Felland of Stoughton, Wisconsin in September 1940. His name and the date are stamped on the end of the instrument. It measures 42 inches long, 4 ½ inches wide and 2 ½ inches high.

A psalmodikon ensemble known as the “Harmonium Ladies” was playing in the Stoughton, Wisconsin area in 1929. Six psalmodikons made by Felland are known to have been in the Stoughton area and at least one more by an unknown maker. The Harmonium Ladies played music in two and three part harmony for the Ladies Aid Society meetings at First Lutheran Church and as a quartet in other places during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

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