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In a continuing series of essays on my family members, this writing began soon after restoring a favorite Ante Sundin photograph and the tale of my Great Uncle Ante Sundin commences into the Scandinavian eve.
Anders Petter 'Ante Sundin' Olofsson was born on April 28th, 1863 in Stöde, Västernorrlands County, Medelpad, Sweden, the oldest of five siblings born to Olof Petter Andersson & Karin Göransdotter, my Great Great Grandparents.
Ante Sundin, as he was known, in the photograph above at his home in Lyngstern in 1943 was a Swedish Musician, Fiddler (Violin)/Composer and Tailor from the Medelpad region in Sweden. Ante Sundin composed music between 1880-1947 and his compositions are still being played by folk musicians around the world. In 1943, Ante Sundin was awarded the prestigious Zorn Badge Award. The Zorn is given to prominent folk musicians in Sweden & awarded by the Svenska Folkdansringen, the Swedish national organization for traditional music, dance and the arts.
My Swedish Cousins Solveig (daughter of the sun) and her Daughter Maria 'Mia' and her Daughter Olivia have taught me a lot about my Swedish Family in Sweden. As a young girl and into her late teens in Sweden, Solveig knew Ante Sundin well. She related many tales of Ante and was responsible for my increased interest in finding out as much as possible about my Great Uncle Ante Sundin. With Mia and Olivia it continues on and there is more to be discovered.
The Sundin Family owned a large Homestead with forest and agriculture in Lyngstern,Tuna Församling, Stöde, Västernorrlands County, Medelpad, Sweden. And to mention my direct family connection to Ante Sundin, here are his sisters & one brother, my Great Grandmother Brita Kristina ‘Christine’ (Olofsdotter) (Ersson Eriksson) Erickson, Katarina Olivia (Backlund) Olofsdotter, Sigrid Elisabet (Olofsdotter) Olsson & Erik Olof Olofsson Sundin.
Sundin was born in Stöde, but later on became a resident of Lyngstern in Attmar. He began at seven years old to play the accordion, but soon switched to the violin. Both his Father, Olof Petter Andersson, and Paternal Grandfather Anders Nilsson 'Ryssmo Ante' Rudin were musicians/fiddlers. Ryssmo Ante, a Tailor by trade, passed his expertise onto his Son Olof and his Grandson Ante Sundin. For Ante Sundin it came at a young age, at sixteen years of age he became a pupil of the well known musician/fiddler 'Larshöga Jonke' (Jon Abraham Andersson) who was from Fanbyn in Stöde which among other things performed his music at the wedding of Ante Sundin's parents in 1861.
Both Ante Sundin's Grandfather Ryssmo Ante and Larshöga Jonke had the same Teacher and Master Player, Spel Jöns from Stöde, and most of Sundin's music repertoire thus came from influences from Larshöga Jonke, Spel Jöns, and the Musicians/Fiddlers Per Mårtensson Grafström and Grels Jönsson from Rännö.
According to the biography written in 1928 Svenska Låtar, Ante Sundin had a great technical ability and had a light and flowing way of playing his music. He liked to play his music in a high level/pitch, even though the song would be easier to perform in a normal level. Sundin himself said that, "It will make it more difficult for other musicians/fiddlers to learn my songs and copy them."
Sundin was married to Brita Kajsa Lindqvist, who was born in 1870 in Tuna Församling, Stöde, Västernorrlands county, Medelpad, Sweden. Ante Sundin composed in Brita's honor two marriage songs or 'Herd Songs.' One a cow 'Herd Song,' and the other a goat 'Herd Song,' named to 'Her Glory.’ A Herd song is to be sung in the field to attract and gather the farm animals.
Ante Sundin stood five feet five inches and had blond hair and blue eyes and when he switched to playing the violin he quickly realized he had become quite proficient. He was soon hired to play at weddings and dances, though never bothering to learn to read or write notes, he played and composed music by ear his whole life.
In 1892, he married Brita Kajsa Lindqvist and they settled in Lyngstern, from where she hailed. Ante was also considered a fine tailor and was quite busy making suits, coats and many other things for people. Ante and Brita had ten children, and three of their sons became skillful violin players themselves.
He was a very crafted technician at playing the violin, often much more advanced than others. He was increasingly interested in tweaking the melodies, changing them in different ways, and sometimes, he couldn’t remember which was the beginning and the end of a song because he had fiddled with it so much. As mentioned, in a strange way, Ante Sundin was also in the habit of not playing the same song the same way twice, so that his competitors wouldn’t be able to learn them.
One of Ante Sundin's Granddaughters found an old notebook in the Family Archives which Ante had noted the many details of his professions, such as how much fabric was needed for certain clothes, addresses, recipes, tips on how to remove rust stains, remedies for coughs, et cetera.
The pages of the book are now brittle with age and the notes are made with pencil, so sadly many of his letters are partly obliterated. There are many paper newspaper clippings glued on the notebook pages, notices of his performances and reviews of the many music competitions he was involved in. In 1907 and 1908, Ante won all the competitions held in Sundsvall. He was asked if he wanted to play in Stockholm, and he did, several times.
Ante could be childish and immature and sometimes egotistical. One Christmas, he got in his head that there would be no Christmas tree, so there wasn’t one, even though there were no shortages of spruces, as the family had a lot of land to take trees from.
Another odd comical remembrance, one day, Brita, Ante’s wife discovered that a pair of Ante’s new socks had holes in the toes, and she wondered how this could be since she had just knitted them. Ante said, "I guess it’s the moth's doing," to which Brita replied, "I’ve never heard of moths going after socks while you’re wearing them." He then confessed he had cut off the toes of the socks because his shoes were a little too small, as he didn’t want his feet to look big, so he bought shoes a size too small, and if he wore the socks in the shoes, they pinched his toes, so he hand cut holes for his toes.
Four recordings of Ante Sundin exist from a 1935 recording session and are included in the 2001 album 'Spelmanslåtar från Medelpad (Fiddler Songs From Melepad From The Sonet Folk Series). One of his Polskas was recorded in 1964 by Jan Johansson on his 'Jazz in Sweden' with the title 'Polska from Medelpad.'
Ante Sundin composed that particular melody at the age of twenty two during his mandatory military service in Sånga, Ångermanland, Sweden. He unfortunately was unable to take his violin when he left for his military service, so his fellow soldiers, seeing he was in need of an instrument, collected money to be able to buy him a new violin. With that in hand, Ante Sundin used his spare time well, playing his brand new violin and crafted his compositions.
Inspired by 'Polska after Larshöga Jonke' the contemporary Swedish band 'Draupner' recorded the tune 'Ante Sundin' and it makes the first track in their first album 'Draupner 2001.' This recording was used in a commercial for the Swedish butter brand Bregott in 2002. Ante Sundin passed away in Tuna Församling, Stöde, Västernorrlands county, Medelpad, Sweden, on March 27th 1947.
As history has it, Ante Sundin's compositions and musical prowess have now spread over three Centuries, from the 19th, 20th and into the present 21st Century. In that, Ante Sundin, our extended Family and his fans can feel quite proud and continue to enjoy playing and listening to his music.
No better way to end this for me, even though my search for more tidbits on my Great Uncle Ante Sundin will continue, than, as Bill Graham in one of his great introductions from the stage of the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco might say: “Thank you for coming and this should be, on a Sunday Night from Sweden, the group, Ahlberg, Ek & Roswall playing a beautiful composition by Emma Ahlberg, 'Lyngstern.'
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