'Reindeer Camps' and folk tunes celebrate Swedish cultureOld family baggage has a way of popping open right around the holidays. When it does, the Swedish Cultural Society knows how to pick it up.
By: Thomas Vaughn, for the Budgeteer
Old family baggage has a way of popping open right around the holidays. When it does, the Swedish Cultural Society knows how to pick it up.
“We’re really astounded at how audiences respond to these old folk melodies,” said Dorothea Diver about some of the traditional Swedish songs she will perform on piano Sunday afternoon while her husband — Duluth’s first poet laureate — Barton Sutter signs copies of his most recent collection of poetry, "The Reindeer Camps." “We just thought the songs added such a “sweet something” to the spoken word about Scandinavian cultural experiences that it seemed like a good fit for the poetry reading, so we’re bringing those out once more.”
The spoken word will come from Sutter, who is a member of the society. He will read some of his poetry during a meeting this weekend.
“I’m pretty much 100 percent Swedish,” he said. “Because of the venue, I’m going to be reading poems that deal mostly with Swedish immigrants and Scandinavian experience.”
The venue for the reading is the monthly meeting of the Swedish Cultural Society. The society hosts its meeting every third Sunday of the month at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, located at 219 N. Sixth Ave. East. The event begins at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18.
“It’s the regular meeting of our society,” said Nancy Lahti, the society’s publicity chair. “We’ll have singing and refreshments following the program. I think the fact that Bart is local is great.”
According to president Betty Selnes, the Swedish Cultural Society has been in operation since 1934 and currently has about 70 members. She said that the society’s most visible local events now are the midsummer event held at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepard in June, and the Santa Lucia celebration at the Holiday Inn in December.
A Santa Lucia event will be held on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Holiday Inn in the Great Lakes Ballroom. Tickets are $17 for adults. Tickets for children ages 5 -12 are $10. Phone (218) 722-4416 for tickets or more information.
Selnes added that the society keeps Swedish traditions and culture alive through guest speaker events, Swedish singing, saying Swedish table grace, watching Swedish films, hosting native Swedish entertainment acts, and offering a scholarship once a year for a young person to attend the Swedish language village in
“It brings back a lot of memories from my childhood because my mother was from Sweden,” Selnes said. “I enjoy dealing with people of Scandinavian background who may have had the same experience as I did. We have a lot of things in common as far as music, literature, and relatives in Sweden yet.”
Diver said that the rhythm and rhyme scheduled for this Sunday does create its own larger sense of family as well.
“These are songs that are part of the cultural baggage we share. That’s why they’re so evocative for a Scandinavian crowd. These are songs that were in the family heritage — people have heard their grandmothers sing or hum them. Some are very short. The songs can be fairly dark — almost everything in a minor key. There’s a lot of stoicism and reflection. It’s really northern music.”
“The Reindeer Camps” is now available in local bookstores. The book is published by BOA Editions. To learn more about the Swedish Cultural Society, call Betty Selnes at (218) 525-4438.