Bart (left) and Ross Sutter stand at the entrance to the Two River Church on the Kittson County Museum grounds before their performance on May 11th.
(Enterprise Photo by Linda Andersen)
By Linda Andersen
“We belong in a place like this,” stated Bart Sutter at the start of the program he and his brother, Ross Sutter, presented at the Two River Church, which is located on the grounds of the Kittson County Museum. It was the last of three delightful programs held in honor of Minnesota Museums Month and sponsored by the Kittson County Historical Society.
The Two River Lutheran Church, begun by Scandinavian immigrants and once located in Thompson Township of Kittson County, closed in 1971. It’s a great example of an old country church with its small sanctuary, wooden pews, and a lovely painting of Warner Salman Christ at the Heart’s Door at the front. And, though the following bit of information wasn’t shared at the program, it’s a fact that the old church is in need of new shingles. But, more about that later.
Bart and Ross Sutter felt right at home in the old church because, as they explained to the audience, they are of Scandinavian descent and spent some of their early years in the tiny village of Ross, Minn., (northwest of Roseau) where their father pastored Lutheran churches.
The brothers are a poetry-and-music duo. The program alternated between Bart sharing his down-to-earth poetry and Ross singing and playing guitar, dulcimer, and accordion. The brothers sang a duet at the program’s start that included the words, “Let us lead your thoughts way from the world and from the day.”
Northern Minnesota audience members could chuckle at a few words from Bart’s poem, “Strange Doings at Ross Elementary, 1956” – “Everything was painted white because/ The winters were so long no one could think/In any other color.” Following the poem, Ross sang a lovely song with the words, “Come summer, come now.”
A poem, “Lost Locations” mentioned such spots as Pinecreek, Duxby, Fox, Moose, Darling, Dorothy, and Hazel. Some concluding words were “They had no importance/ I miss them just the same.”
Ross sang a Swedish song that, translated in English, included the line, “I cannot leave my dearest friend without shedding tears.” He drew a laugh from the audience as he explained that, in his early years of singing the song, he had made a subtle mistake in his pronunciation of the Swedish word for “tears,” and was actually singing “toes.”
The poem “Funeral Rites” told the story of an elderly man who met an elderly woman at a funeral and further revealed Bart’s ability with words: “He couldn’t help but notice her/ And thought he’d take a chance,/ At the post-interment basement lunch,/ He gave her his best glance…So that was the beginning there,/ He’d found his second wife,/ He met her at a funeral/That brought him back to life.”
Ross mentioned that since Bart started sharing the poem at programs, three couples have come up to them and said they’d met at a funeral.
Following “Funeral Rites,” the audience passionately joined in singing a song made famous by Elvis Presley “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” accompanied by Ross on guitar.
There’s something special about seeing siblings perform together (Wouldn’t their parents be proud?), hearing poetry read by its author, and enjoying music by a versatile instrumentalist with a great voice. The hour-long program went by quickly. The Sutter Brothers had indeed led “thoughts away from the world and from the day.”
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Following the program, a sixth grade class from Hallock who had attended the event, relaxed on the museum lawn and other attendees enjoyed lunch, visited with the Sutters, and had opportunity to purchase their books and CDs. Bart is an award winning poet and the author of eight books. Ross is known as a singer of Scandinavian, Scottish, and Irish songs and won the Sally Ordway Irvine Award for excellence in arts education. To learn more about the Sutter Brothers and their work, visit thesutterbrothers.com/index
Asked about progress on the Two River Church shingling fund after the May 11th program, curator Cindy Adams responded that they had $5,000 of the necessary $20,000 to complete the project. Anyone interested in contributing to a worthy cause can send a donation to Kittson County Historical Society, 332 East Main Street, Lake Bronson, MN 56734.