Annual Concertina Bowl brings lively entertainment to Brook Hall

Toes tapping and dancing shoes stepping to a lively beat, music lovers are sure to get a kick out of the 36th annual Concertina Bowl.

The event, a “wonderful reunion of music lovers” as organizer Art Ohotto calls it, takes place Jan. 25, noon to 11 p.m., at Blainbrook’s Brook Hall (12000 Highway 65, Blaine). It is sponsored by and serves as a fund-raiser for the Blaine/Coon Rapids Knights of Columbus Council 5141.

Karl Hartwich performs as featured entertainer for the Jan. 25 Concertina Bowl at Blainbrook’s Brook Hall. Photo courtesy of Karl Hartwich

Karl Hartwich performs as featured entertainer for the Jan. 25 Concertina Bowl at Blainbrook’s Brook Hall. Photo courtesy of Karl Hartwich

There will be 11 nearly nonstop hours of musical entertainment for folks young and old.

Concertina Bowl 2014’s featured entertainer, Karl Hartwich and the Country Dutchmen, brings four decades of music and energetic entertainment to the hall.

“I started as a farm boy playing for the hogs and cattle – mostly for the hogs – and they seemed to like it just fine I must say,” said Hartwich.

Soon the concertina-playing youngster teamed up with a couple of others, formed a three-piece band and performed in parades, town dances and family functions.

Before long, Hartwich formed Karl and the Country Dutchmen and performed all over the country, even touring the Caribbean and Canada.

Why, the Dutchmen even performed for former President George H.W. Bush.

“We played during a fund-raising event for George Bush – the senior – when he was campaigning for president …. That turned out pretty good,” Hartwich said.

Young master concertina performer Josh Eidsor will also entertain during the Concertina Bowl.

“This is a special treat,” said Ohotto.

For those new to the music of the concertina, Hartwich insists “there’s no such thing as a sad song on the concertina.”

“It’s a lively instrument and fun just kind of comes right out of it,” he said. “You just can’t play a sad song on the concertina.”

Hartwich listed polkas, waltzes, fox trots, country and jazz music among the selections.

Having survived heart failure just over a year ago, Hartwich can attest to the concertina’s “lively” nature.

“I was dead for 20 minutes on Nov. 25, 2012,” he said. “When I came out of it they told me I might never play again, at least I shouldn’t even try playing for a few months. Well, two weeks later I was playing … and I’m still playing.”

In addition to live music and jam sessions, the Jan. 25 Concertina Bowl features a concertina display featuring Bob Novak, the builder of the ECHO concertina. Restoration and repair tips will be offered by Mike Smieja and information about buying, selling or trading instruments will also be available during the extended event.

Door prizes will be awarded all day long, and food and snacks and a cash bar will be available, too, Ohotto said.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students; free for children younger than 12 years old.

“Bring your family, friends, neighbors … bring your instruments, too,” said Ohotto.

For more information about the Concertina Bowl, call Ohotto at 763-784-7204.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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