Swedish choral tradition rings in Rosemount

St. Joseph church members help organize concert by college choir

by Tad Johnson
Sun Thisweek

The Vettern College Choir will perform at 12:30 p.m. Monday, April 23, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Rosemount for students at the St. Joseph School and the public. Photo from Vettern College

A chance phone call a few years ago is the reason a 44-member Swedish college choir will perform next week for St. Joseph Catholic Church students and the public in Rosemount.

Karen Arlandson, who attends the church when she’s in town for grandparent duties, received a call in 2010 when the Vettern College Choir was in the Twin Cities for a series of concerts.

The crew sought housing for their professors and college president and found Arlandson’s number on a list of possible hosts.

“I asked when they were coming, and they said in two days,” she recalled. “So I rushed down to our farm house and got things ready for them.”

This year, Karen and her husband, John Arlandson, were in charge of setting up the choir’s concert venues, which include two close to her heart – St. Joseph and the Bernadotte, Minn., church where she plays the organ and piano.

Karen and John Arlandson, who helped to bring the Swedish Vettern College Choir to St. Joseph Catholic Church, have had a townhome in Rosemount since 2004. Photo submitted

The Arlandsons have lived in a farm house in the Bernadotte area for many years. To be closer to their four children and seven grandchildren, in 2004 they purchased a townhome in Rosemount where two of their children live – Scott Arlandson and his wife, Alesia, and Dawn Schwab (a Shannon Park Elementary teacher) and her husband, Christopher.

Karen raves about the quality of the choir, which she has seen perform in the United States and in Sweden in 2011 when the Arlandsons were tracing their family history.

“It is just a stunning choir,” Arlandson said. “The young people are just exemplary.”

It was during the Arlandsons’ most recent geneaology trip to Sweden when they signed up to schedule the choir’s performance venues for this tour.

“That has been a real adventure for us,” Karen said of the couple who are in their 60s. “We had to bring a presentation on our computer. We had to get pretty savvy for that.”

The sales pitch must have been effective as the choir will perform at seven Minnesota venues in nine days.

The choir, which is comprised of 24 women and 20 men, performs a repertoire that includes traditional choral works, Swedish ethnic music and hymns.

“It’s kind of lyrical,” Karen said. “Its speaks to you. It’s not out of reach of the average person. It speaks to the spirit of humanity. It speaks to who we are around the world. It is inspiring the young people are sharing their talents.”

They are accompanied by five professors who play various instruments and are all professional musicians.

The nearly hour-long concert at 12:30 p.m. Monday, April 23, is free to attend, but an offering will be made to help defray costs of the trip.

In addition to performing, the students will travel to some places in Minnesota that will tell the history of Swedish immigration to America, such as Lindstrom and the St. Croix Valley area. Karen knows the story well as her then-17-year-old grandfather was sent to America by his parents, who stayed behind.

“He recalled that he had tears in his eyes as he stood at the end of the path to their house thinking he would never see them again,” Karen said.

In the early 1900s, Minnesota became the most Swedish of all states, with Swedish-Americans constituting more than 12 percent of Minnesota’s population in 1910. In some areas, such as Chisago or Isanti counties north of Minneapolis, Swedish-Americans made up close to 70 percent of the population, according to Augustana College, Rock Island, Ill.

The college, which is known in Sweden as Södra Vätterbygdens Folkhögskola, has great interest in these ties to the larger world, according to Karen.

“I really embrace this,” Karen said. “I think there is hope for the world when I hear this music.”

Other performances on the Vettern College Choir’s tour will be in:

Bernadotte at 7 p.m. April 20, House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul at 10 a.m. church service April 22, Salem Covenant Church at 4 p.m. the same day, Bethel University in Arden Hills at 7:30 p.m. April 23, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi at 7 p.m. April 24, and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul at 7 p.m. April 26.

For more information about the choir and its school, go online to http://svf.fhsk.se.

Tad Johnson can be reached at [email protected] or facebook.com/sunthisweek.