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From the Buffalo Volksfreund, Monday June 24, 1901

German Song

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! The Queen of the Seas Greets the Singers from Near and Far

The Beginning of the 30th Song Festival of the North American Singing Society

Looking Backward

The sweet tones of our people's song
Circle the earth both wide and long!

For the third time since the establishment of the North American Singing Society, the "Queen of the Seas" has dressed in festive regalia to greet the brothers of song from near and far who have gathered for the 30th Song Festival.

The New York State Newspaper called the first song festival celebrated in Buffalo in July 1860 "the pearl of song fests". That was the twelveth in the series. At that time one could count about 100 guests and it's reasonable to assume that they were treated like princes.

Many of those, who more than 40 years ago enjoyed the hospitality of Buffalo, were inclined to hold another festival on the 23rd in July 1883, knowing that Buffalo's hospitality had not declined over the course of the years. The guests were cordially invited to the new music hall being built for the occasion. During the festival they encountered pleasant and friendly circumstances which would make happy memories of the 23rd festival.

Each brother in song who participated in the 1883 festival and has found himself here yet again, will be amazed at what magnificent changes have occurred in such a short space of time. This is due to the development of trade and industry which has doubled the population. The practice of warm hospitality, however, continues.

The present festival serves as a hallmark in the history of the North American Singing Society. It is the first to be held since the ratification of the society's constitution two years ago in Cincinnati. The festival committee has put much effort and determination into making the 30th Song Festival of the North American Singing Society as successful as the last, if not more so. There are many coincidental events and some accidents which can not be prepared for ahead of time. All we can do is arm ourselves with hope that the incidentals do not prove a disturbing influence.

The major burden for the success of the festival lies on the shoulders of the mass choruses. It is a fact that the hardest part of their mission begins on the first day of the festival. It is the duty of discipline, made doubly hard by the light-hearted nature of a festival. One almost feels compelled to enjoy himself when the opportunity is presented in such a tempting form. The seduction is great, almost irresistable, and the singers must take care not to stumble because it's their work and other's play. As long as a single chorus is left, the singers must be models of temperance. All the effort and work put into rehearsal will be worth nothing if the individual takes the last performance lightly, or shirks his duty, or becomes tired and distracted.

The success of the festival also depends upon the behavior of the passive participant. It is up to him to make sure that there are no empty seats at a concert and that each citizen behaves himself as if he were a member of the festival committee, creating as few delays as possible for the singers and the festival guests.

Thus we bid you welcome. Dear friends, brothers in song and enjoyers of song from near and far, we bid you welcome, heartfelt welcome!

The welcome which we extend comes from pure, true hearts and hands. It is without malice. We extend it joyously to you, in a homespun and cozy way.

THE NORTH AMERICAN SINGING SOCIETY

In the summer of 1836 the philosophical groundwork for the first singing men's chorus was established, making it the oldest German singing society still in existence. In December 1837 the Baltimore Singing Circle was called to life. In either 1838 or 1839 the Cincinnati "German Singing Alliance" was established under the direction of Wilhelm XXXX. Gradually other societies evolved from these including the German Glee Club in Cincinnati, which took over a year To organize (JUNE 1, 18xx). In Louisville, Kentucky the German Glee Club (18XX) and the Orpheus Society (1849) were established. In 1848 the Choral and Cultural Society of Cincinnnati and the Swiss Singing Society of Madison, Wisconsin were established as were the Men's Choir of Columbus Ohio, the German Glee Club of Milwaukee Wisconsin, and the Men's Chorus of St. Louis Missouri. These last groups were the instigators of the first American Song Festival. In the 1840s other groups arose in New York (The German Glee Club - 1847), Boston (The Orpheus), Pittsburg, Charleston South Carolina (The Teutonic Alliance - 1843), Buffalo New York, Cleveland Ohio. Other major and lesser singing societies evolved.

Groups began to assemble. In early 1837 the two oldest German-American singing societies, the Philadelphia Men's Chorus and the Baltimore Singing circle, planned a group meeting on the 18th of January 1837, in order to create a fraternal society. The first meeting was held on March 28th in Philadelphia and the second was held in Baltimore March 28th. A marriage was arranged but no song festival held. On June 5, 1846 a public festival was held in Philadelphia. A substantial portion of the audience in attendance was made up of Germans. The following Fall a similar festival was held in Baltimore. These were considered to be the first German song festivals in the United States, according to limited criteria. You broaden the scope if you include the German Glee Club Song Fest on Bald Hill, held on Sunday May 31, 1846 in Cincinnati. This song festival included one other singing society known as the Song and Culture Society. Chronologically this festival pre-dates that of Philadelphia and Baltimore. These festivals were repeated several times over the years and provided the first working models for future German song festivals in America.

In 1848 the fresco painter Fritz Volkmar of Louisville did a portrait of the Cincinnati Glee Club. Together they came up with the idea of an alliance of western singing societies. Volkmar spent the years 1846 and 1847 establishing the footing and February of 1848 the German Singing Circle brought the dream to fruition. The members of the Cincinnati Glee Club and the Louisville Singing Circle sent out invitations and increasing their participation in other musical affairs such as balls. The first among many successes occurred through the efforts of the Cincinnati Glee Club on January 19, 1849 at which time it was announced: "It has been decided that a committee of seven members will be appointed in order to establish overall procedures for the assembly of various glee clubs and singing societies." On the 29th of January the committee offered a plan for a general song festival which was approved. The two Cincinnati singing societies, the Song and Culture Society and the Swiss Alliance co-hosted with the Glee Club to plan the festival.

This festival was held on June 2, 1849 and it was the birthday of the North American Singing Society. Two years ago we celebrated its golden jubilee in Cincinnati.

BUFFALO'S OLDEST SONG FESTIVAL

It's hard to pin point for certain who laid the groundwork for the first song festival here in Buffalo but it can be assumed that the members of the German Young Men's Society, the oldest German society in Buffalo, were primary catalysts to the establishment of German song here in Buffalo.

On April 8, 1844 the brotherhood of singers met at the home of Heinrich Weiser at 384 Main Street and decided to create a society under the name German Singing Society of Buffalo. The founding members of the group were Georg Dickman, Karl Esslinger, J.S. Van Arr, Anton Drescher, Jacob Emig, Wilhelm Fenstermacher, Johann Christian German, Christopher Haak, Peter Klein, Johannes P. Klein, Martin Sickie, J.N. Seidenstricker, Georg e Sandrock, Heinrich Weiser, Georg Zahm, M. Zahm, Fr. Zahm, Fr. August, Dr. J. Hauenstein, Dr. Weiland. The society officers were G. Zahm, president; M. Zahm, secretary, and K. Esslinger, treasurer. (Dr. Hauernstein is the only one of those members still living.) The rehearsals were held at the home of the conductor, Christian Haak at the corner of Oak and Genessee Streets. When Mr. Weiser changed residences, it was necessary for the society to leave its birth home in May of 1845 and find new quarters at "Baker's Block", the northeast corner of Main and Huron. Buffalo Savings Bank stands there now. The society performed publically only once on July 3, 1845, the day commemorating the death of president Andrew Jackson (June 8) at his home, the Hermitage in Tennessee. After that time the Weltbürger, the only German newspaper in Buffalo at the time, never mentioned the society. We therefore assume that the group disbanded. A year afterwards, the Buffalo Glee Club was established by members of the German Singing Society. It is the only society still in existence and has just celebrated the golden jubilee in 1895.

THE UNITED SONG FESTIVAL OF 1860

The two oldest singing societies, the Glee Club and the Sängerbund, established during the first decade of the North American Singing Society, participated in the song festival in Cleveland in 1859 and wished to host the song festival for 1860. At that time Buffalo had about 80,000 residents and had no specific location for holding the festival. The great depot of the New York Central Railway was by the kind permisssion of the railway authority, changed into a concert hall for the main concert. Railway business was conducted during the intermissions.

On the 23rd of July, 1860, the song festival began with an opening concert in St. James Hall. The singers were under the direction of Julius Moevius. According to those groups present, afterwards the singers were picked up and carried through the festively decorated streets to their quarters. Buffalo's press corp spoke highly of the concert series, which contained the first act of Weber's "Euryanthe" and Becker's "The Gypsies". Carl Adams, who's still alive, was the festival conductor - he was also the conductor for the 1883 song festival. The soloists including Miss Schmidt, Mrs. Carl Adam and the Messieurs Stammann, Wagner, and Woehnert were favorably mentioned and the chorus' performance was praised as having been excellent. This was of course an giant pat on the back for the festival. It had not failed. Buffalo made its name for the first time as a city of song festivals.

SCATTERED ROSE PETALS

When this issue of the Volksfreund gets into the hands of the people, this festival's singers will be arriving and setting themselves up in their quarters. The Young Men's Chorus of Chicago and the Chicago Singing Circle arrived yesterday afternoon. Last night they visited their headquarters at Teck Theater and at 9:30 took a trip by ring railway to the Pan-American Exposition where they awed by the show of lights. Today both groups are going to Niagara Falls. This reporter made a good friend when he met the master of ceremonies of the Glee Club, Mr. Herrman F. Borneman, whose voice was a little hoarse due to the rigors of travel.

Mayor Diehl visited the German American Hall yesterday in order to extend his greeting to the singers and to make sure that everyone was faring well.

The program for the opening celebration this evening has had to be altered due to a death in the Lautz family. Charles A. Wenvorne, chairman of the Press Committee will give the official greeting to the guests in place of William Lautz, chairman of the Opening Ceremony Committee. William Miller, first vice-president of the Festival Committee will receive the Society Flag from Hanno Deiler, the Society president.

There were so many representatives of the press asking questions in the press club this morning that the chairmen did not have the time to give us the names of all the singers who were coming.




From Earlier Buffalo Picture Book, p.467

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Page Design and Translation by:
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks
May 24, 2001
Revised April 3, 2003