Thirteen years ago, St. Charles singer, Marguerite Karl, decided to combine her love of music and her love of her Swedish heritage by forming the Swedish American Children's Choir, a choir for children ages 4 to 17.
As a former church choir director, Karl had plenty of experience working with children. She spoke Swedish fluently and had often done her own Swedish programs.
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If you goWhat: Swedish American Children's Choir Swedish Christmas and St. Lucia Festival
When: 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3
Where: Bethany Lutheran Church, 8 S. Lincoln St., Batavia
Tickets: $15, $8 for children ages 6-12
Call: (630) 414-9700 to reserve tickets
The choir started with five members who learned about Swedish customs, songs and dances. Each member was required to make a Swedish costume and crown. In the early days, the choir performed for local organizations.
Today the choir has more than 30 members coming from throughout the Western suburbs. All the members get the opportunity to have a solo part at the concerts.
Membership in the choir isn't limited to those of Swedish ancestry. You just have to have an interest in the Swedish culture and have a desire to learn how to sing in Swedish.
"The chorus is like a family," said Shirley Fox, accompanist for the group. "It's wonderful to see the older girls helping the little ones."
Every two years the chorus goes on tour. The choir has performed in Minneapolis and at Door County, Wis. It is regularly featured at the Swedish American Museum in Andersonville in Chicago and at Geneva's Swedish Days.
To finance the trips and to purchase music, the chorus holds a number of fundraisers throughout the year, the most popular being the Swedish Pancake Breakfast in May. The choir parents serve more than 700 of the delicious breakfasts at Bethany Lutheran Church in Batavia, the home church for the choir.
It is not uncommon to see tiny 5-year-olds, dressed in Swedish costumes, carefully carrying a plate of pancakes and sausages to the patrons, serving with a smile that is a big "valkommen" to all who attend.
This past October, the choir held its first Swedish Supper with the advertisement stating, "If you like our pancakes, you'll love our meatballs."
Now the choir is gearing up for the biggest concert of the season, the Lucia Festival Concert, at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at Bethany Lutheran Church, 8 S. Lincoln, Batavia.
The chorus does a two-part concert -- a religious part done in Swedish and English as well as a secular part.
In addition to the Christmas music, the choir has a special Lucia celebration with one choir member being chosen to wear the familiar crown of candles. This year's Lucia, Queen of Light is Alexa Johnson-Roach of St. Charles.
"The girls wear white robes and carry candles while the boys dress as the traditional star boys," Fox said. "They precede Lucia. It's a beautiful thing, both musically and visually."
The holiday concert also features music from Ernie Sandquist, Swedish accordionist, and Marguerite Karl. After the concert there will be a reception hosted by the choir members where people can enjoy cookies made by some of the best Swedish bakers in the area.
There also is a Swedish bazaar that includes Swedish crafts and baked goods such as peppakakor, Swedish gingersnaps, cinnamon coffee cakes and cardamom bread. A highlight of the reception is a visit from jul Tomte, Sweden's version of Santa Claus.
The Swedish American Children's Choir's December concert and Santa Lucia Festival is a wonderful beginning to the Christmas season. For tickets, call (630) 414-9700.