Jenny Lind concert in San Francisco
The summer solstice arrived in San Francisco at 3 a.m this year, setting the stage for a beautiful day for the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival.
Sweden’s Consul General Barbro Osher again partnered with the festival to produce the annual Jenny Lind Concert, one of her many gifts to the city. The occasion commemorates a stop in the Swedish singer’s 1950-52 tour with P.T.Barnum, when “the Swedish Nightingale” sang before huge and adoring crowds throughout the U.S.
This year’s winner of the prestigious Jenny Lind Scholarship, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music together with the People’s Parks and Community Centers in Stockholm, is Kine Sandtrø, 26, of Stjørdal in Trøndelag, Norway. She has studied voice for many years and received numerous scholarships, and she loves to share her passion for classical opera with others. She has an extensive repertoire in operas, the romantic repertory and sacred works.
Sandtrø is accompanied on this tour by Julia Sjöstedt, 23, of Härnösand, Sweden. She began piano lessons at age 12 and earned a bachelor’s degree at Sweden’s Royal College of Music; she is now pursuing a Master’s degree. She too has received several scholarships, performs as a soloist and as a chamber musician and is very interested in other music genres.
Consul General of Sweden Barbro Osher opened the program (there are more than 20 annual concerts in her series) and welcomed her colleague the Consul General of Norway, Mr. Jo Sletbak, to share in this bi-national celebration of their countries’ accomplished musicians.
The concert began with a range of music — art songs and classics from Schumann, Strauss and Gounod. Sondtrø demonstrated superb control and caliber with her lovely voice and the excellent accompaniment by Sjöstedt, matching the nuance of every mood.
Sjöstedt played a solo, a dramatic rendition of one of Rachmaninoff’s Six Musical Moments — each a musical form popular in a previous era — Op.16, No.5 in D-flat major, the sustained adagio. It was a thrilling performance, not a mere interlude.
The latter part of their program included more contemporary music with an interesting Samuel Barber, piece, two beautiful Grieg songs, some Poulenc, and “Quando m’en vo” from Puccini’s La Boheme.
After that rousing conclusion they were enthusiastically encouraged to perform at least one encore, delighting their new American fans with a beautiful rendition of “Musetta’s Waltz” also from La Boheme.
As the appreciative audience dispersed you could still hear them humming the enchanting melodies. Together with the sun, Sondtrø and Sjöstedt certainly shared with us a very special Swedish and Norwegian Midsummer.

Midsummer at Sveadal
The Swedish American Patriotic League hosted its 124th annual Midsummer festival at its Swedish cultural heritage site, Sveadal, in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains near San Francisco. This year’s event was a little different than those of the last half-century.
Nordstjernan readers will recall that two years ago, immediately after our summer season, a forest fire came within a mile of Sveadal. Then, just a couple months later, fierce winter floods eroded burned areas as well as those that had been spared, toppling trees and tearing out half the road leading to Sveadal. It took the county more than a year to rebuild, during which time little could be done in Sveadal itself; last year, Midsummer took place offsite.
But this year we were back home in Sveadal. The performance was somewhat abbreviated and there was no dinner or late night dancing under the stars, because the main dance floor is being completely rebuilt, but it was a joyful day. By Friday, the grounds had been prepared, the Midsummer Café was stocked and ready to serve snacks, brats, hot dogs and hamburgers with a full keg of beer or waters and soft drinks. On the lawn adjacent to the clubhouse, the marknad tents and tables awaited customers and musicians. The maypole’s stanchion was set up and the newly painted pole was ready for greenery and flowers.
On Saturday, children - many of them in Swedish costumes - flocked to decorate the Maypole. Then, one-two-three-heave! The pole went up in a single, smooth move. It stood erect with its bedecked rings, and our Midsummer Day had officially begun as the temperature climbed over 100°F. Given the heat, the typical noon-time dancing was brief, but it gave way for people to enjoy their smörgåsbord lunches and good fellowship under the shady shelter of trees.
The shade also cooled the familiar strains of the fiddlers, and the parade with honor attendants, Svea (Bianca Tisell), Columbia (Annie Larson) and the Midsummer Queen (Miranda “Randi” Erickson). They wound their way through the grounds and up onto the stage to take their familiar places, beginning the program. Sweden’s Consul General Barbro Osher brought personal greetings from Sweden and the royal family. She thanked the League and all its volunteers for sustaining this tradition of their dual heritage. And she challenged all of us to prepare for an extraordinary 125th Midsummer celebration next year.
The Sveadal Children’s Choir, accompanied by the ukulele, sang two delightful new songs, created for the occasion of our Midsummer’s return to Sveadal. And then we were adjourned to the Maypole for the traditional folk and line dances around it - frogs were jumping; fiddlers were bowing.
By 6 p.m. all visitors had left the grounds seeking respite from the weather as they returned to their homes. We’d be back in a week to prepare for our other binational holiday, Independence Day, on July 4, with Sveadal’s traditional tennis tournament, horseshoes competition and all the patriotic fervor and communal celebrations.
Next year: We are invited back for a much bigger and larger Midsummer occasion as we celebrate one and a quarter centuries of unbroken annual Swedish midsummer festivities (the oldest continuous celebration in the United States) once again here in beloved Sveadal.


Text and photos by Ted Olsson