In August 1996 seven guys from Atlanta came together to practice singing for the Nordic Lodge crawfish party the next month. The group was Bruce Larson, Sam Linden, Gunnar Carteng, Sten Ekberg, Dale Nordin, Dennis Carlson and myself. We performed for 30 minutes as "The Vikings." It sounded pretty good and we got an appetite for more. We changed our name to "Vasa Drängar" (meaning Vasa farmhands) and started to rehearse on a regular basis. "Vasa Drängar" was inspired by the famous Swedish men’s choir Orphei Drängar of Uppsala.
We decided to celebrate our two decades of singing. On May 22, we will host a concert, singing a cappella as well as with an ensemble from the Atlanta Balalaika Society. Accompanist on the piano will be Gabe Granitz. A special guest artist is coming from the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm, Sweden — tenor Niklas Björling Rygert, who since 1999 has been part of the permanent soloist’s ensemble at this great opera house.
Niklas has performed a great number of opera parts which gave him international attention and took him to Valencia, Spain, where he sang under renowned conductor Zubin Mehta’s baton. Since then he has been regularly working with Mehta. He has also been a special guest at many opera houses in Madrid, Frankfurt, Dresden, Amsterdam and Florence.
At the Atlanta concert in May Niklas will perform with Vasa Drängar and the Atlanta Balalaika Ensemble. The ensemble will feature Angelina Galashenkova, one of the best in the world on the domra, a Russian stringed instrument. For many years she performed as a soloist with the famous Andreyev State Russian Orchestra in St. Petersburg, Russia. She now resides in Atlanta and is a member and concert master of our balalaika orchestra. The ensemble will be led by the orchestra’s conductor and balalaika soloist, David C. Cooper. It will also feature bayan soloist Alla Melnik.
We will play and sing beautiful Swedish folk songs as well as exciting songs in Russian, songs from Pavarotti’s and Jussi Björling’s repertoires, English ballads and even a couple ABBA favorites.
Put May 22, 2016 in your calendar, 5 p.m. at Winters Chapel United Methodist Church, 5105 Winters Chapel Rd., Atlanta, GA 30360. It will be a great concert!

Göran Rygert
Vasa Drängar, Atlanta, GA