The melodic songs of blackbirds inspire the choir Merula to perform beautiful songs every week at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago.

A group of 14 members, most of them native Swedes, formed the choir Merula earlier this year after a traditional Lucia celebration and through recruiting from former female choir Absolut Flicka.

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The suitable name is Latin for “blackbird” which is known as Sweden’s national bird. The choir cherishes the Swedish culture with mainly traditional Swedish songs, but experiments also with some songs in English.

“It’s important to keep the Swedish culture,” said Göran Annér. “There are several Swedish choirs in the area, but Merula is the most Swedish one,” he added, referring to the high number of native Swedes in Merula.

At the moment, the choir consists of 11 Swedes, two Americans and one Canadian.. The choir has rehearsal on Mondays between 7-9pm and if interested, anyone can join Merula.

“You don’t need any experience to join,” said Karin Annér. “It’s fun, and you will meet new people and learn about Swedish culture.”

Jennifer Strom from Portland, Me. doesn’t speak Swedish but joined Merula to identify with her Swedish heritage.

“I have never been around Swedes before, but when I moved to Chicago it became more interesting to get exposed to the Swedish life and songs,” said Strom.

“I’ve picked up some words but I can only understand to a certain degree,” she said. “They always help out with the pronunciation and tell the background story of the songs.”

The atmosphere is relaxed as jokes, laughs and chatter occur between the repetition rounds.

“The hardest thing is to get people to breath at the right spot,” laughed Jenny Nilsson.

Frida Rosén, a musician and acupuncturist from Ängelholm, Sweden, became a member to get to know more Swedes in the Chicago area.

“I didn’t know any Swedes before, and I also enjoy music in all forms,” said Rosén.

Merula's first official appearance will be on May 20 at the Swedish American Museum, and a second performance is scheduled June 5 at the Raoul Wallenberg celebrations at Daley Plaza.

Erik Kinnhammar

Read more on the Swedish singing tradition: Singing as a Bearer of Culture

And to join a Swedish choir near you: American Union of Swedish Singers