By Göran Rygert
Vasa Drängar started in 1996. Seven guys, members of the Nordic Lodge #708 in Atlanta, GA, met to practice a few songs they were asked to sing at an upcoming crawfish party. The singing went well. Maybe a few schnappses helped. Anyway, after their small concert they felt that they wanted to meet again and sing more. They took the name Vasa Drängar (inspired by the famous men’s choir Orphei Drängar in Uppsala, Sweden) and started practicing on a regular basis. Before long they were invited to singon various events, in Atlanta as well in neighboring states.
All singers and musicians in action. Photo: Pam Minton
Vasa Drängar is the southernmost located Swedish choir in the United States. They cover a wide range of music and genres, maintaining the Swedish tradition in the southeast. But most importantly, they sing because they just enjoy singing!
Now 20 years have past and back in May they celebrated their 20th Anniversary with a great concert in Atlanta, GA. They were accompanied on the piano by Gabe Granitz, who for many years was the choir’s pianist. Also accompanying, as well as performing solo, was an ensemble from the Atlanta Balalaika Society. From the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm, Sweden came tenor Niklas Björling Rygert, who has gotten international attention and is regularly performing at a number of European opera houses.
Niklas Björling Rygert (in black tux) and Jim Gulick sing the solo parts in Smuglyanka. Behind them are Sten Ekberg and Dale Nordin. Photo: Pam Minton
Vasa Drängar now produced its first CD, a live recording from this concert. It is a selection of a cappella songs such as Uti vår hage and Blommande sköna dalar and songs with the choir and Niklas in O Sole Mio, Non Ti Scordar Di Me and ABBA’s Thank You For The Music. Sten Ekberg appears as a soloist in Ack Värmeland du sköna. Accompanied by the piano Niklas performs Caruso’s favorite song For You Alone and Jussi Björling’s showpiece Till havs.
The choir also sings in Russian, in two songs, Smuglyanka and V Put’. The Atlanta Balalaika Society ensemble performs two solo pieces, Clarinet Polka with Alla Melnik on the bayan, and Travushka-Muravushka with Angelina Galashenkova-Reed on the domra.
And there is more, for instance the funny Irish Ballad, in which six of the singers take turns in singing solo.
To purchase the CD, please visit Vasa Drängar’s website for information. www.vasadrangar.org
USD 16.00 (one CD) or USD 29.00 (two CDs) including shipping.