Maxine Davis plays her violin with the rest of the Hanson family as they rehearsed in Christgau Hall last week for their upcoming show at Frank W. Bridges Theatre at Riverland Community College. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Maxine Davis plays her violin with the rest of the Hanson family as they rehearsed in Christgau Hall last week for their upcoming show at Frank W. Bridges Theatre at Riverland Community College. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

‘It’s our heritage’: Hanson family to put on Saturday concert in honor of patriarch

Published 10:48am Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One Austin family is about to honor their parents’ legacy at ` most fitting place: the stage.

The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Olaf “Ole” and Maxine Hanson will perform with several friends in the Hanson Family and Friends Concert at the Frank W. Bridges Theatre at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Hanson family patriarch Olaf “Ole” Hanson as a young boy. --  Photo provided
Hanson family patriarch Olaf “Ole” Hanson as a young boy. — Photo provided

The family boasts a decades-long tradition of performing around the area, and this show is a year in the making. Last summer, KSMQ’s David Hagen went with his wife, Paulette, to a gathering in Lia Guttormson’s backyard, where Hagen heard sisters Sylvia Davis, Wendy Larson, Val Johnson and Candice Mathison perform.

“I said ‘We’ve got to make a show out of this,’” Hagen said.

Now the same sisters — Ole and Maxine’s daughters — will take to the stage for Saturday’s show, which is being organized by KSMQ and the Riverland Community College Foundation.

Hagen said he’s heard several people say it was about time the Hanson’s music is featured in a show like this.

‘It’s definitely a gift’

Ole — often called “Fiddlin’ Ole” — worked at Hormel Foods Corp., but he repaired string instruments on the side for schools and people around the region. He also played with several bands and musical groups.

Mathison remembers people saying there wasn’t an instrument in southern Minnesota or northern Iowa that her father hadn’t touched, either to play or repair.

But Ole just repaired instruments around the house, according to Larson.

“He didn’t have a shop,” Larson said. “He had a bench in the basement — that was where he did all his repairs.”

Ole could pick up any instrument and play it, according to his children. He played saxophone, clarinet, dobro, guitar, violin, string bass, mandolin, banjo and piano.

Along with repairing instruments, Ole made about three violins — which may be featured in the performance on Saturday

“He was an amazing person,” Larson said.

His wife, Maxine, didn’t play any instruments, as Larson said she was a busy stay-at-home mom, but she was still involved with the family’s music.

“She was the business person for my dad’s violin repair,” Larson said.

Ole passed on the gift of music to his nine children: two sons, Brian and Harlan — both deceased — and seven daughters, Marjorie Barnett, Janet Farrell, Phyllis Buzzard, Davis, Larson, Mathison and Johnson.

Larson remembers someone was always playing music at home.

“It was just something we took for granted,” she said.

She remembers Harlan playing jazz or blues in the living room, with several of the girls singing harmonies with him.

“There was always music,” Larson said.

The extended Hanson family rehearses in Christgau Hall.
The extended Hanson family rehearses in Christgau Hall.

Ole played many Friday, Saturday and Sunday night shows, but Maxine and Ole didn’t always get babysitters, so Larson remembers they’d take the children, who would wait outside in the car with Maxine for four or five hours when Ole performed.

Several members of the family play multiple instruments. From about age 3, Ole and Maxine made them take up the violin.

“Dad put a violin in our hands,” Mathison said. “We had to play; there was no choice.”

Mathison remembers complaining about it as a child, but she’s happy looking back.

“It’s something that after you grow up and realize the gift you’ve been given, nobody can ever take that away,” she said.

Members of the Hanson family work on how they will be arranged on stage during a rehearsal at Christgau Hall last week.
Members of the Hanson family work on how they will be arranged on stage during a rehearsal at Christgau Hall last week.

It wasn’t just Ole, as Larson remembers Maxine making them practice. As Ole repaired instruments in the basement, he’d come upstairs and correct them if he heard a wrong note. Other days, he’d have them playing next to him in the basement while he repaired instruments. Larson remembers her dad instructing her to play a four-count before she even knew how to count or was in preschool yet.

Larson fondly remembers her father playing for dances, concert halls and street dances.

“It was just kind of awesome as a little kid to sit there and see your dad and these other people performing up on stage and seeing all the dancers,” Larson said.

“I loved that part of it,” she added.

Soon, the children were on stage too. Davis, Larson and other siblings started playing at about 16 or 17 with the family band.

The family played country, old-time, bluegrass and some classical music, and Harlan also played in several jazz bands around the county. On Saturday, the family will play everything from old-time to rock ‘n’ roll to bluegrass to classical and others.

Looking back, Mathison is thankful her parents made her play, as music can serve several purposes, from forming friends to serving as a career and helping through hard times.

Lia Guttormson, left, and Kelsey Medgaarden play together as they wait for the Hanson family rehearsal to get started last week in Christgau Hall.
Lia Guttormson, left, and Kelsey Medgaarden play together as they wait for the Hanson family rehearsal to get started last week in Christgau Hall.

“It’s definitely a gift,” Mathison said. “It’s our heritage. It’s the legacy that my dad left behind for all of us to use and honor, and think that we continue to do that through the generations that are here and still to come.”

Ole continued sharing the gift of music for most of his 97 years.

At St. Mark’s Lutheran Home, Hanson often played in the hallways or he’d play in his room when his family came to visit, always drawing a crowd.

“People would line up outside the door,” Larson said.

Ole died in 2007.

‘The music continues’

Even though Ole’s musical roots can be traced to his father, Gilbert, and his siblings, Saturday’s show will just feature Ole’s lineage.

About 60 friends and family members will perform at the show, including Full Circle — Davis and Larson’s band with their sons, Josh Larson and Cameron Davis.

The music hasn’t stopped with Ole’s children, as it’s still being shared with new generations.

“The music continues,” Mathison said. “It just goes on and on.”

The concert will culminate with a group of about 30 of Ole’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — just a section of Ole and Maxine’s family — performing together.

Larson said her parents were never ones to brag about their children, but they were proud of their accomplishments and would be thrilled with this show.

“He and my mother would just be busting at the seams,” Larson said. “They would be gushing.”

Larson joked people would have to hold her father back from playing with everyone.

“If there’s a heaven, I think mom and dad will … be center stage that night,” she said.

‘The perfect thing’

Hagen and KSMQ have spent more than a year preparing the show. KSMQ is absorbing a lot of cost to bring this legacy piece forward, and Hagen said it’s the station’s responsibility to feature such programs about arts and music.

KSMQ will record the concert, edit the show and then air it in September when the TV audience picks up in the fall.

Hagen noted the Hanson family will have the recording for several decades.

“This is the perfect thing for KSMQ to do,” Hagen said.

Frank W. Bridges Theatre holds 315 people, but Hagen is already planning for overflow to seat an additional 70 to 80 people in a second room, where a recording will be showed.

Doors open for the 7 p.m. concert at 5:30 p.m. and seating is first-come, first-served. Admission is by freewill donation. Handicapped seating will be available in the theater and the spillover room.

The freewill donation will go to KSMQ, which is organizing the show and putting a lot of money into making this show happen. Some of the donations will go to the Riverland Community College Foundation for the college’s music department.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” Hagen said.


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