WASHBURN - When a group of relatives met at Orlin and Ivadell Larson's home in Washburn last month, Orlin entertained them by playing tunes on his violin.
And his mandolin.
And his harmonica.
Eloise Ogden/MDN • Orlin Larson, of Washburn, says of all the instruments that he plays, he likes the violin best. Here he is playing a tune on it at the Hazen Jam Session held Sept. 2 in the Hazen City Hall.
And also singing.
He also can chord on the guitar and plays piano "a little bit," he said.
A retired construction electrician who started his career working at Minot Electric, Larson now spends much of his time with his new "career," performing music whenever and wherever he can.
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He plays at the monthly jam sessions held in Hazen from spring to fall. "I usually try to make that," he said.
Once a month he performs his music at the Garrison Memorial Hospital's Swing Bed Unit and nursing home.
He plays with a group in Bismarck that goes to nursing homes in the Bismarck-Mandan area. He also plays for socials at the Sons of Norway in Bismarck and belongs to a singers and dancers club that performs at various places once a month. But he points out that he's "with the singers mainly."
He's played for funerals, taken part in the Frozen Fingers event at the Sleep Inn in Minot and in the summer has been invited to play at the Turtle Lake park or senior center.
He's won first place in the senior division at the Fiddlers' Contest at the International Peace Garden, and also received the trophy for being the oldest. That was in 2008.
A native of Minot, Larson was raised on a farm southeast of the former radar site. He said that mostly he learned to play everything on his own or by playing instruments with others.
Family members were musicians.
"I was six weeks under 3 when my dad died. My mother said he was going to start trying to get me to play violin at 4," Larson said. His dad, Orwald Larson, who everyone called Orville, was in a band that performed around the South Prairie farming area, Larson said. He said a neighbor told him that his dad could "get a tune out of anything."
"What I've heard is he was so good. It gave me encouragement to go with it, too," Larson said.
Larson was 15 or 16 when he asked his mother whatever happened to his dad's violin. She told him an uncle had it. His mother talked to his uncle who gave the violin back to them, but also showed Larson how to play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."
"I learned a couple tunes," he said.
When he was in high school in Minot, he started playing the harmonica. "I had enough money on an FFA trip to buy one," he said. He and another boy would get together to play the instrument.
A hired man on the Larson farm also showed Larson and his sister some chords on the guitar.
But as the years went by Larson's life got busy marriage, working, etc., and he just picked up the violin maybe every couple years but would get disgusted with it. Then a teacher moved into the basement of the Larson home.
"I was visiting with him and the teacher mentioned that he wished he could play violin," Larson recalled.
"Well, I got one upstairs that's just gathering dust. I'll bring it down and show you what I know," he told the teacher.
Larson blew off the dust from the violin, and he and the teacher began working together on their music. The teacher would play the violin, Larson would chord on the guitar and vice versa, Larson said.
"That's how I really got started. I still didn't do much after he left, but now more since I retired," he said.
On that Sunday with relatives at the Larson home, he played various instruments, accompanied on piano by his cousin, Carol Frank of Garrison. He also sang a song or two while playing the mandolin.
Larson's wife, Ivadell, originally from Douglas, accompanies him to the various events when he performs. "She's my cheerleader," he said. He said she really enjoys visiting with people at the nursing homes and at other events. The couple has lived in Washburn since 1971.
Out of all the instruments that he plays, Larson said, "I think I like the violin best. But I like to sing, too. That forces me to play guitar once in a while."
He said "Golden Slippers" is one of the favorite songs that he plays on violin. At the jam session in Hazen, sometimes he is requested to play that song. "Red Wing" is another song requested there, he said.
What does he like best about playing for events? "I like getting together with people. It seems like everybody's friends in the music groups," he said.