Oldest Norwegian Singing Society in America
(written by Anita Doering, Archives Staff)
The La Crosse Normanna Sangerkor was the oldest Norwegian Singing Society in America until they disbanded in about 1954. Organized on June 1, 1869, atop Grandad’s Bluff, twenty-one young men came together for the purpose of promoting the singing of Scandinavian songs and cultivating vocal music.
One of the most outstanding events in the history of the choir happened in 1870 when the group was invited to assist famous Norwegian violinist Ole Bull in a benefit concert in Madison. In 1890, members of the rival La Crosse Norske Sangerkor joined the Normanna.
Emil Berg, described as the “silver toned tenor of the Northwest,” was the first director from 1869-1874, and was asked by president and founder Carl Jackwitz to lead the male chorus. The group actually paid to move Berg’s family and upholstery business from Chicago to La Crosse. The Normanna Sangerkor participated in national singing festivals, known as Sangerfests, as well as serenaded individuals in La Crosse.
Another long-time director, Eivind O. Forseth, was an artist, decorator and composer, and he came to join his brother in La Crosse in 1903. It was Forseth, pictured above holding the director’s baton, who designed the badges of the choir in 1912. The above photograph may have been taken in 1912 when the choir participated in a Sangerfest in Fargo, ND, in July 1912. This photograph was given to the library by Robert Skemp whose family was a neighbor of H. B. Forseth. The group disbanded in about 1954, shortly after E. O. Forseth’s death.