At the Hop: Polka Music Keeps the Heart of the Homeland Jumpin’
By Georgia Wier
Originally printed in the Weld County Past Times: Greeley Tribune, March 20, 1999
I heard my first selection of Dutch Hop music on a two volume cassette collection of folk music titled “A Calling Card to Friendship.” These cassettes are included in a resource kit for Colorado teachers and students, “Ties that Bind: Folk Arts in the Classroom.”
The Dutch Hop song included in the collection was “Windsor Special,” played by John Fritzler and the Polka Band. From the background notes to the recording, I learned that Dutch Hop was music associated with German-Russians in Colorado and a few other states.
I was delighted to discover that Fritzler lived in Greeley and that his and was scheduled to play during the 18th Annual Polka Benefit for the American Heart Association on March 13 at the American Legion in Windsor.
As Fritzler’s and other polka band played one song after another for a hall filled with dancers, I became convinced that Dutch Hop musicians were among Weld County’s greatest assets.
Between dances, men and women sat with groups of friends around tables lining the sides of the hall. Each time the music started, they divided into pairs and began circling the hall, generally dancing the same basic step but varying the tempo or rhythm according to the music.
I realized that a man in the hall held a video camera rather than playing or dancing. The videographer, Kurt Goldenstein, explained that he had undertaken a research project tilted “Colorado’s Dutch Hop Music for the Accordion with the Music, History, and Culture of Colorado’s Germans from Russia.”
Goldenstein felt compelled to undertake this documentary-project after realizing the value of his own German-Russian heritage. The Littleton teacher received a Folk Arts mini-grant from the Colorado Council on the Arts for his project.
I learned from Goldenstein that there were there types of Dutch Hop songs: waltzes, polkas (also called “hopst” and “specials”) and dutches. Goldenstein explained that early weddings and dance bands in Russia usually consisted of hammered dulcimer, two violins and a bass violin. The music changed after the Germans from Russia brought it to America and evolved further through the years. The accordion gradually replaced violins after World War II.
Besides hearing John Fritzler’s band at the Windsor Polka Benefit, I hard Al Holman and the Polkatoons from Loveland and Marilyn Imhof and the Dutch hops from Keenesburg. All three bands included as instruments an accordion, a hammered dulcimer, a trombone and an electric keyboard.
While the leaders of the three Dutch Hop bands played the accordion, in songs such as the “Dulcimer Polka” the musicians on the rectangular-shaped string instrument assumed the melody line. Surprisingly, Goldenstein has discovered that in German-Russian settlements outside of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, Dutch-Hop music developed without the distinctive sounds of the dulcimer.
Dutch Hop fans in Weld County have many opportunities to dance to the music they love. A t the Lucky Star Bar and Grill in Lucerne, Sunday afternoons are reserved for German music. On many other occasions, men and women head for community centers and halls to dance to one more “good old fashioned Dutch hop” (suing the words of caller Dennis Holman).
DID YOU KNOW?
Albert and Belle Gaines, born black slaves in the southern United States, were Weld County homesteaders north of Briggsdale.
A Tribute to Belle Gaines PDF(PDF, 10KB)