Working for a song(book)
Daughters of Norway members create an updated collection of Norwegian songs
As a musician and speaker of Norwegian, Janet Ruud of the Daughters of Norway Embla Lodge #2 in Tacoma, Wash., and chairwoman of the Daughters of Norway Literary Society, has always like to sing. Like many Daughters, she would get together with her lodge for meetings and events, where they would sing old Norwegian songs together: immigrant songs, holiday songs, and songs composed especially for the Daughters of Norway. Ruud, however, noticed that different lodges seemed to be singing from different collections of songs, some with antiquated or erroneous texts. She came up with the idea of a new songbook, one publication for all lodges that would contain a comprehensive selection of songs for Daughters of Norway everywhere.
The organization already had two official songbooks, but each only contained a handful of songs. Some lodges had created folders of copied-off songs from other sources. The original Sangbok was one created in 1923 by Thea Foss. Foss founded Tacoma’s Foss Tug and Launch in the 1800s and was instrumental in the formation of the Daughters for Norway. This early songbook contained only seven songs, some composed by Daughters themselves. All of them used an old-fashioned variant of Norwegian no longer in use today. The second book, published in 1967, contained newer songs with more contemporary lyrics, but much was lacking from the great treasury of the Norwegian songbook.
Ruud put out the word with all the lodges that she was looking for volunteers to help with the project, and soon several people from Embla Lodge signed up, including Mardy Fairchild, Karen Bell, and Joanna Gray. As a member of Valkyrien Lodge #1 in Seattle and with my degree in music and experience in music publishing, I saw an opportunity to help out by arranging and notating songs for the book, and before long, an official committee was formed.
The committee members took a survey of all the lodges to gather the titles of their favorite songs before choosing over 80 songs to include in the new songbook. They estimated it would take about a year to publish the new song collection. In the process of researching, transcribing, and composing singable translations, some committee members had to bow out for other duties, and new members joined, notably Lori Ann Reinhall and Linda Casperson. Reinhall, a noted performer and the president of Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, provided translations for many of the songs in Norwegian. Casperson brought her musical expertise and Norwegian fluency to the final rounds of proofreading and editing.
Of the 85 songs finally chosen, 56 were in the public domain, and copyright permissions were not needed to publish them. The 29 songs with extant copyrights required significant research by the committee in order to determine the publisher or composer, before obtaining permission for publishing. Lyrics, translations, and arrangements also can be copyrighted, so every aspect of each song had to be researched and the copyright-holders tracked down in four different countries (United States, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark). Hundreds of emails and many telephone calls were made overseas. Finally, the committee asked for help from Terryanne Reinert in Norway, who could both work in the targeted time zone and was tenacious enough to get the job done.
In the end, the complex process took over a year to complete. Ruud, Reinhall, and I worked together to produce many of the English translations for certain songs. In some instances this was a challenging task: some songs had translations so archaic that no one could figure out the meaning, and others were simply awkward to sing. New translations were provided for 26 of the songs, with the goal of staying close to the original text, while being poetic and singable. The printed book was completed just before the summer Daughters of Norway conference, and Ruud picked up the boxes to bring to the various lodges. After uncounted hours of work over the course of two-and-a-half years, we finally were able to hold our beautiful new songbook in our hands.
To learn more about the Daughters of Norway, visit www.daughtersofnorway.org.
This article originally appeared in the January 11, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.