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The Runeberg Chorus of Vancouver, British Columbia


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Nancy Snickars

When the Order of Runeberg was founded in the 1920s by Swedish-speaking immigrants from Finland, many lodges from New York to California to Canada, organized their own choruses.

On December 26, 1950, the Vancouver Runeberg Lodge Chorus made its second debut with a performance by thirty-five singers (the first chorus, organized in 1926, had been active for six years). In 1951, the chorus had approximately fifty singers. Director Gunnar Abbors was the conductor for thirty years.

Today there are approximately thirty singers, mostly seniors and Swedish/Finnish speaking. Greta Nelson, who has been with the chorus for many years, is a diligent president. The conductor is Janet Mowatt, and Marian Rinta, pianist, has virtually grown up with the chorus.

From the beginning, the chorus has consistently contributed to the promotion of the Scandinavian culture in British Columbia. The songs in their repertoire are mostly Swedish, and they also sing in Finnish and sometimes in English. In the early years, the chorus gave annual Jean Sibelius Concerts, commemorating the composer's birthday. During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Christmas and Spring Songfests were the norm, keeping a strong emphasis on songs from the Scandinavian homelands. For many years, it was a tradition also to hold Spring Songfests jointly with other Runeberg choirs in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. In 1992, the choir registered in Victoria, British Columbia as an independent chorus. Since then, its activities have prospered and grown.

Throughout the year, the chorus is often called upon to perform at civic festivals. One such event was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the singers: the World Exposition held in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1986. At Christmas, the singers visit with the senior citizens at the Finnish, Swedish, and other ethnic rest homes, where they sing traditional Christmas songs and other familiar tunes. Over the years, the chorus has also associated with Norwegian, German, and Russian societies in concert.

A few years ago, the Scandinavian societies in British Columbia purchased their own meeting place, the Scandinavian Community Centre. There, they come together and participate in many events, such as Sweden's Flag Day, the Finnish Vappu, the European Festival (27 countries), and the traditional Midsummer Festival. Johan Ludvig Runeberg's birthday is celebrated with a concert in February.

As long as the chorus is able to survive, its members will continue singing with great enthusiasm as they maintain their Scandinavian heritage and culture. Template:Quarterly 12-2

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