Each Thursday night, a group of 12 to 18 men meet in the rehearsal room at Zion Lutheran Church to rehearse songs for the forthcoming season. The season is for a specific period; normally from September through April of the following year. Each rehearsal is a challenge since each song that is rehearsed must reach a certain standard that is acceptable to the chorus director. Even more challenging is when the director introduces new Swedish songs when only a few in the chorus can pronounce the lyrics or understand them.
Founded in 1890 by Swedish immigrants, Sveas Soner mens chorus has met the challenge to serve the Rockford community by providing the music of their Swedish heritage. As the diversity of the Rockford community has expanded and become richer in culture, so has the Sveas Soner mens chorus. Once a small gathering of Swedish immigrants, the group today provides a dynamic mix of nationalities that are unique and representative of the Rockford community and provide a showcase for local talent.
The chorus is affiliated with The American Union of Swedish Singers and its Cultural Heritage Foundation. The Union is represented by three geographical divisions in the United States: Eastern, Central, and Western divisions. All division member choruses have the same charter: to promote and perpetuate Swedish chorus singing and knowledge of Swedish songs, and cultivate an appreciation of Swedish music.
In each quadrennial, all the choruses in the Union join together for a four-day festival of fellowship and music. The festival is most often in June at a location that can accommodate approximately 400 singers and their spouses. Each convention is unique, exciting and challenging with the opportunity to meet new acquaintances and to renew old friendships. The convention is also challenging, since each individual chorus that attends has the opportunity to sing two numbers to other member choruses. Each chorus competes for the title of Best Chorus. No awards are issued other than self-satisfaction and the joy of singing. There is a concert the evening after the event, and a gala dinner banquet the following night. On the second year following each national convention, each division holds its own convention utilizing the same format as the national convention. A Central Division convention was held in Rockford in June 1996.
This year, chorus director Sherry Dreyful has selected more than 30 songs to be placed in the Sveas Soner music folders, of which five are for the convention of the American Union of Swedish Singers to be held in Dearborn, Mich., from June 22 through June 26.
This year, we hope to increase the number of singers in attendance of this convention so that Sveas Soner and Rockford are well represented. An important objective of the chorus is to raise the necessary funds for the convention expenses, such as traveling and lodging. Toward this objective, the chorus, in addition to charitable concerts, presents an annual spring concert and charges a fee for its non-charitable concerts. Other sources of funds include bake sales, etc., in addition to a $25 membership fee. First-year members are excluded from the fee. Included in the membership fee is a subscription to the A.U.S.S. monthly newspaper, Musiktidnung.
An important source of funds to the chorus is the A.U.S.S. Cultural Heritage Foundation, an organization founded to preserve the history of the A.U.S.S. by collecting and housing the organizations memorabilia. The foundation maintains a room at the Midway Village Museum where visitors can view old photos, chorus uniforms and other memorabilia from past conventions.
Another important function of the Cultural Heritage Foundation is to financially assist the chorus, which is the sponsor for the convention. Choruses whose members belong to the Foundation are financially rewarded. Membership is $25 for the first year, and $15 annually thereafter for each member. By the use of certain criteria, each chorus shares in the earnings of the Foundation based on the number of members it has in the Foundation. Membership in the Foundation is automatically paid by Sveas Soner from its treasury.
If you like to sing, hum or whistle, please call Sveas Soner President Al Von Rotz at 815/399-8937. Also, you can attend a rehearsal at Zion Lutheran Church on a Thursday evening at 7 p.m., or for more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Your pledge of financial support would also be appreciated.