Dance Music - Dutch Hop
The term Dutch Hop refers to a type of dance and style of music that was brought to the United States by the Volga Germans. It is found today in the Volga German communities of Northern Colorado, Western Nebraska, and Southeastern Wyoming practiced most authentically.
Until World War II, Volga German immigrants gathered for what they called German Dances. In response to the anti-German sentiment of the World Wars, these dances were renamed Dutch Hops, and the new name stuck.
In Dutch Hop, the hammered dulcimer is played in a unique manner and it is also the only one of the original instruments left in the typical modern-day Dutch Hop ensemble. Earlier groups in Russia and the U.S. usually consisted of a dulcimer, a string bass, two violins, and a clarinet. The versatile accordion became one of the lead instruments prior to the 1940s, supplanting the clarinet and violins. Gradually, the string bass has given way to a combination of trombone and electric bass. Dutch Hop bands typically include four musicians who play an accordion, a bass electric piano or guitar, a trombone, and the characteristic hammered dulcimer. Dutch Hop dancers respond to the band's beat by adding a bounce to their steps and frequently an extra little hop or a stomp to the smoother regular polka dance.
In 1984, Albert Fahlbusch, a Dutch Hop musician from Scottsbluff, Nebraska, was named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts. He was recognized for his mastery as a hammered dulcimer maker and musician. Two other well-known Dutch Hop artists in the United States are Adolph Lesser and Paul Weingardt.
The Hammered Dulcimer
The hammered dulcimer is a stringed musical instrument with the strings stretched over a trapezoidal sound board. Typically there are four strings per note with a total of eighty-eight, although some have ninety-two or even a hundred. The dulcimer is most often set on a stand, at an angle, before the musician, who holds small mallet hammers in each hand to strike the strings. Dulcimer is a Graeco-Roman word meaning "sweet song", derives from the Latin "dulcis" (sweet) and the Greek "melos" (song). The dulcimer's origin is uncertain, but tradition holds it was invented in Iran (Persia) some 2000 years ago where it is called a Santur.
The hammered dulcimer derives its name from the small mallets called hammers that players use to strike the strings. The hammers are usually made of wood. The strings of the hammered dulcimer are often tuned diatonically, according to a circle of fifths pattern.
- Fletcher, Marilyn Hehr and Mark Warren. Hochzeit Dutch Hops: Colorado Music of the Germans from Russia 1865-1965 (1990).
- Goldenstein, Kurt Edward. Colorado Dutch Hop Music Arranged for the Accordion: the Music, History, and Culture of Colorado's Germans from Russia (2000).
- Kloberdanz, Timothy and Rosalinda Kloberdanz. Thunder on the Steppe: Volga German Folklife in a Changing Russia (1993).
- Polka-Nuts (a Dutch Hop Band).
- Wier, Georgia. Dutch-Hop: An Enduring Tradition (2010).
Adolph Lesser (International Polka Association)
Dutch Hop Bands
Polka Nuts (Brighton, Colo.)
John Fritzler Polka Band (Colorado)
River Boys (Scottsbluff, Neb. & Northeast Colorado)
Last updated 10 August 2010.