It becomes abundantly clear that people that sing together are a special crowd. The Hansa Choir Brampton has the honour to invite every year other regional choirs for the Hansa Saenger-Fest, and when seven of them get together the hall is nearly full and only very few fans get an opportunity to join in, such as husbands and wives and club executives.
Host Wolf Schepp, who is the Hansa Choirs conductor, discussed with me the difference between a choir and a Gesangsverein. We established that a Gesangsverein does more than sing together. Members of such an organisation also go to other events together and brake into song at all sorts of occasions, even if the conductor is not present. A choir of course just meets regularly for rehearsals and then performs at certain functions.
It became abundantly clear this night in early March that members of these choirs are more than just choir members, or even Gesangsverein members, they are an important part of their communities, sharing their joy of living through song with the rest of us. A friendly rivalry exists among them and people will have a favourite choir or, in my case, two or three or four… Actually I like them all for different reasons, even though some of them are better, even much better as a choir than others. The important thing in all of these choirs is that they do sing together. It seems to give them purpose and pleasure, makes for a communal feeling like no other activity.
It is a real shame that most of these choirs have an aging membership and have not managed to interest a lot of younger people into their fold. This in itself creates a problem for the conductor too, because older voices do usually not become stronger, rather the opposite is true. The participants through a change in repertoire overcome this challenge with enthusiasm.
This evening started after a reception and dinner as they all do, with the uniting Sängergruss, "Brüder reicht die Hand zum Bunde", a rousing composition by Dr. Alfred Kunz, who is a notable musician/composer/conductor/teacher and of course also the conductor of the Concordia Choirs from Kitchener, among others.
The Hansa Choir Brampton
Loreley Singers from Oshawa
Monica Cotton conducted the Loreley Singers from Oshawa through some "Kunst-Lieder" from Beethoven and Schumann.
Heidelberg Rheingold Singers Niagara
Lucille Vogel conducted the choir with the longest name: Heidelberg Rheingold Singers Niagara, and St. Kitts (?), accompanied by Gaye Impey. "Freunde lasst uns singen", "Mein kleiner gruener Kaktus", "A place to stand" proved to be real crowd pleasers.
The Germania Choir, Hamilton
The Edelweiss Choir, Toronto
The evening continued with the Edelweiss Choir, Toronto, under Manfred Petz. Six typically Austrian songs were alternated with poems, for which he had to take much well meant ribbing later on from other conductors.
Two of the biggest choirs followed this humorous performance. First the full and well practised sound of the Maennerchor Harfentoene resounded in the hall. And I must admit I am still very partial to the strong bass section that lends so much "Kontrapunkt" to the music. The choir was conducted this evening by Alfred Schormann, who had a few years ago handed over his baton to Horst Hartmann for health reasons. Currently both of them are not doing well at all and we wish them all the best and a speedy and full recovery if possible. Their contributions to the enrichment of our lives are duly noted and we thank them!
Alfred Schormann said to me that he never thought that he would ever conduct this choir again, before he left early that night, needing his rest. I think it is wonderful that he showed for the occasion.
I recall him and his choir way back when in the Club Harmonie on Sherbourne Street after rehearsals. How often were we sitting together in the "Schenke" and suddenly there was an outburst of song from where the choir was sitting. A couple of the singers, one of them was tenor Alfred Uhl, sang solo with me in one of my Caravan productions. Those were the days…of "Never on Sundays" and "Lola"…shanties and cabaret songs…
This night the selection was totally reminiscent of all those wonderful days of the past: A rousing version of "Fruehling" and "Heimat", among others, gripped the heartstrings.
The Concordia Choir
And, if this was not enough for one evening, our cup did run over when the Concordia Choirs from Kitchener gave their usual fabulous performance, spiked by the delicious humour of Dr. Alfred Kunz and generous praise for other choirs and conductors.
The Concordia Choirs
From "Wir machen Musik" to "Julischka" and "Wir fangen euch den Sonnenschein", also composed by Kunz himself, and other songs like "Amazing Grace", the audience was most enthused and applauded wildly.
All the Choirs
And when all choirs got up to sing together, the conductors changing places, and even the accompanists, specially acknowledged by Host Wolf Schepp, also conducted the mighty mass choir, we had hardly any strength left to reward the many wonderful performances.
The rest of the evening was dedicated to a raffle, a bit of socializing, thank-yous and of course a Hansa Choir "Auf Wiedersehn".
If everyone finds as many Easter eggs as we heard marvellous songs that night then it is going to be a very happy Easter.
Happy Easter everyone!
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