Beginning around 1850, Norwegians began migrating
to North America in enormous numbers. Included among the immigrants
were some of the greatest Hardanger fiddle virtuosos of their time,
who continued to play in their new home. Professional players from
Norway came on tour and gave concerts to standing-room-only audiences.
Thus, North America acquired a unique historical significance in
sustaining Norwegian musical traditions.
Unfortunately, the children of the immigrants rarely
learned to play. The Hardanger Violinist Forbundet was disbanded
at the start of World War II, and the last fiddling competition was
held in 1952 in Benson, Minnesota. The family fiddle was put away
in its case in the attic, or was hung on the wall as decoration.
By 1970, the number of Hardanger fiddle players in America had dwindled
to perhaps as few as twenty, of whom two-thirds were over the age
The Hardanger Fiddle Association of America is founded
Since the early 1980s, an exciting revival of the
Hardanger fiddle traditions has been underway in North
America, both among
Norwegian-Americans and those of practically any other cultural background.
Two individuals, Carl
T. Narvestad and Thorwald
O. Quale, were instrumental in nurturing this gathering interest.
Both men had ancestral roots in the Valdres area of Norway and
had experienced Hardanger fiddle playing
and dancing as a vital part of everyday life while growing up in
the upper Midwest. They were saddened to witness its decline toward
virtual disappearance and, early in 1983, engaged in discussions
with others individuals who had an interest in restoring the prominence
The Hardanger Fiddle Association of America (HFAA) was founded
at an organizational meeting in June of 1983.
its first year, the HFAA had registered 162 members from throughout
the United States as well as from Canada and Norway. It
hosted its first annual meeting in July 1984, with Vidar Lande
and Arne Røine coming from Norway to teach and demonstrate Hardanger
Each year, the HFAA has hosted a multi-day workshop featuring classes in Hardanger fiddle playing, traditional singing and sometimes related instruments such as seljefløyte and munnharpe, and it began offering classes in traditional Norwegian dance in 1985. Master teachers have come from Norway each year to lead instruction and are complemented by a staff of skilled American teachers. The HFAA encourages anyone wishing to learn to play the Hardanger fiddle to attend our annual workshop, from first-time fiddlers to experienced string players. For those who do not own an instrument, loaner Hardanger fiddles are available for use at the workshop for a nominal fee.
The HFAA has been awarding Hardanger fiddle scholarships for participation in its annual workshop since 1991. See
our history of Hardanger
fiddle scholarship award recipients for past workshops.
More details about HFAA's early history are contained within the book, A History of the Hardanger Association of America, 1983-1993, written by Carl T. Narvestad and available through HFAA's merchandise catalog.