- Associated Press - Sunday, November 8, 2015

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - For the remote and tightly knit community of farmers north and west of town, just shy of Grenora, singing was, is, and if the descendants of the biggest barbershop group have anything to do with it, will always be the chosen pastime.

The Northernaires formed in 1947 and grew to as many as 12 members before settling to an original five that performed at church services, political meetings, funerals, ribbon cuttings and just about any other event imaginable in a run that spanned four decades.

This fab five featured Norman Rockstad on tenor, Andrew Solberg and Ingvar Groethe, Wayne Johnson on bass and lead singer Olaf Knutson.

Knutson’s daughter, Kathy Larson still lives in her hometown, and took it upon herself this year to organize as many generations as possible of Northernaires descendants for a weekend of singing and telling stories of the days when barbershop-style singing was everywhere and everything.

“We all know each other but don’t see each other real often,” Larson told the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/1MIycv2 ). “Some are scattered out in Williston, some are out of state, but we thought it would be fun to get together the kids of the Northernaires … I called all the families, and people are here from the four families - everybody sings - it’s ingrained in us; I guess it’s like breathing.”

Upward of 30 of the family members arrived for the weekend fun, spanning four generations. Joy Rockstead, Norman’s widow who turns 90 in November, had her attention rapt by her first great-grandchild, and joined by Johnson’s widow, Dorothy, who boasts 23 great-grandchildren of her own.

“Singing was part of our social life. We’d get together Friday nights and took turns going to homes,” Johnson said. “All the women tried to out-cook the others, but our kids were playmates, they knew all the other kids. There wasn’t a lot of us to do in the country other than church and school and this was really special.”

The weekend brought back special childhood memories for Larson.

“All that barbershop music, going to sleep listening to the men practice, it was fantastic,” she said. “The four of us girls still sing now and then. Music was just part of our life - we didn’t know any different.”

Whether the heirs of the Northernaires ever get together like this is anyone’s guess. Larson isn’t counting on it.

“We probably will never to it again,” she said. “But people have had a good time today.”


Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide