Norwegian 101: The accordion

Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch
Per Håvan at his farm, Brubakken, in Sparbu.

Heidi Håvan Grosch
Sparbu, Norway

Norwegian = trekkspill
Danish = harmonika
Finnish = harmonikka
Swedish = dragspel

I remember the first time (jeg husker den første gangen) I was really impressed (veldig imponert) by an accordion player (trekkspiller). I was working as a tour guide (reiseleder) and our tour (turen) took us to the Lawrence Welk Village to hear (for å høre) a concert (konsert) that included (som inkluderte) Myron Floren. Up until then (inntil da) I had associated (tilknyttet) accordion music with “oom-pa” bands, but Floren, often referred to by (som ofte omtales av) Welk as the happy Norwegian (den lykke­lige nordmannen), was amazing (fantastisk). He pulled notes (trakk notater) out of that instrument (instrument) at a pace (et tempo) I had never imagined (aldri tenkt på). It is no wonder (det er ikke rart) that he was one of the first (en av de første) to be inducted (som ble innført) into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame in 1985.

Accordions as we know them (som vi kjenner) were invented (ble opp­funnet) in the 1800s, thought to be inspired by (inspirert av) the much-older (mye eldre) Chinese (kinesisk) sheng. This “handaeoline” quickly gained in popularity (fikk raskt popularitet) as a source (som en kilde) of loud dance music (høy dansemusikk) at a time (på en tid) when electronic amplification (elektronisk forsterkning) was unheard of (var ukjent). I married into (jeg giftet seg med) a family of accordion players, although (selv om) my husband (mannen min) and sister-in-law (svigerinne) play very little now. Per, my father-in-law (min svigerfar), is another story (en annen historie). He plays every day (hver dag) and we call upon him (vi spør ham) whenever we have visitors to entertain (besøkende å underholde). He has enthralled students from Slovakia (studenter fra Slovakia), played a duet (duett) on Skype with a man from Lithuania (Litauen), and recently accompanied (spilte med) an 18-year-old American visitor and her ukulele.

Did you know (visste du) that there is a Norwegian Championship (norsk mesterskap/NM) each year (hvert år) for accordion playing, with categories (kategorier) in solo, duet, old-time dance music (gammel dansemusikk), chamber music (kammermusikk), and orchestra music (orkestramusikk)? The Norwegian Accordion Ensemble ( provides a forum for accomplished young accordionists (dyktige unge trekkspillere), mostly music students or former (tidligere) music students, from all over Norway (fra hele Norge). In March 2008 they won (vant de) the 5th European Festival of Accordion Orchestras in Prague. Many communities also have accordion clubs, and many culture schools offer accordion lessons to children and teens (til barn og tenåringer). Accordion music is so much more than a stereotype (så mye mer enn en stereotype). Try googling “accordion music” to see what you can find (for å se hva du kan finne).

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 8, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.