Karl and the Country Dutchmen
A professional polka musician from age 13, Karl Hartwich quickly eschewed the uniforms and painted bandstands, trappings of the earlier Dutchman polka bands that patterned their on-stage appearances after the popular swing bands of their era. Mr. Hartwich, who plays the Chemnitzer concertina, learned his instrument from Syl Liebl, a Dutchman-style concertina player who played with the Jolly Swiss Boys. At 13 Mr. Hartwich began sitting in with the Swiss Boys, and six months later founded his own band, now in its 26th year.
Mr. Hartwich uses the original acoustic instrumentation of traditional bands, but has incorporated more improvisation, more syncopation and novel ideas into traditional Dutchman music. His stylistic changes have been overwhelmingly accepted by the largely rural, German/Slavic/Scandinavian American Upper Midwestern Dutchman audiences.
The Country Dutchmen group, which plays for dances from coast to coast, on cruises, and European tours, has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, at the National Folk Festival in Lowell, Massachusetts, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.