Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 1, 2004

Maennerchor brings abundance of history to Winsted

A special kickoff for the Winsted Winter Festival will be featured at St. John’s Lutheran Church this year, with a limited number of seats available for a special dinner concert.

The Cold Spring Area Maennerchor will perform one show Friday, Dec. 3 with a sit-down dinner beginning at 5 p.m., followed by the concert at 7:30 p.m.

A rich history en route to Winsted

Reprinted from www.csmaennerchor.com

It is 1937. The world is still in the throes of the Great Depression.  Jobs are slowly becoming more available in the United States.

Other governments are slowly getting in position to, ultimately, join forces. In China, there are occupation troops in place from Japan. In Europe, the Nazi party is consolidating its strength and starting activities that will ultimately cause it to be regarded with great horror.

In the United States, the political position is one of isolation from the problems looming on the world horizon. It is difficult enough to feed the populace when unemployment is still over 20 percent.

In this climate, a group of men get together in Cold Spring for the sake of discussing politics, the economy and just some general fellowship. Most of them are still unmarried and quite happy to just have a good job. One of their interests is wine tasting.

After all, these men grew up during Prohibition and now they were able to acquire these beverages again. So an interest in the wines of their ancestral countries was one they all shared. 

These men begin to meet once a month for some wine tasting and singing. The group grows in size and their singing becomes more organized.

These activities begin to be known among their other friends. One of the men’s fiancee (later his wife) is a school teacher. She is preparing a program with her students and feels that it may be nice to have the men sing some of their songs at this program.

Under the direction of Glanville Smith, this is done much to the satisfaction of all of the members. The old songs such as “Home on the Range,” “Holy God We Praise Thy Name,” and “Viva l’Amour” are among the variety of music used in those first activities.

Encouraged by this activity, the group gains more members during 1938. One of the original members was Ted Krebsbach. Currently Ted Krebsbach is still singing with the Maennerchor – of course this Ted Krebsbach is the son of the original member.

By the autumn of 1938, one of the first members started to get the group more properly and officially organized. This man was Maurice O’Connor.

In September 1938, a name was selected for the group. After considering Cold Spring Singverein (Singing Society) and Maurice’s Glee Club; the name Cold Spring Glee Club was selected. The first singing outing was for Christmas. Twenty-seven members were involved in this first public presentation.

Sometime during the first few years, the name of the group evolved to Cold Spring Men’s Chorus.

In May 1939 the first official concert was presented. Fathers of other current members were in this program. One was Nick Terhaar, father of Jim Terhaar, who until recently was a member of our cass section. Another was Alphonse Fuchs, father of John Fuchs, a member of our baritone section.

These men were charter members of the original chorus. That same year, a Christmas “Beanfest” party was organized. It met with such success that this same event was performed for 12 years.

The war years suspended many of the singing activities. After this time, the group had serious difficulty getting revived on a regular basis even with annual Christmas concerts.

In 1973, under the guidance of Jay Engel, the group reorganized. It has never looked back. To help remind many members of their Germanic heritage, the name of the organization became “The Cold Spring Area Maennerchor.”

In 1981, the Maennerchor joined the Associated Male Chorus’s of America. This provided a regular opportunity to sing with other choruses from the Upper Midwest. It also included the annual challenge to learn new music for use at a regional concert called The Big Sing. This event brings together up to 14 similar choruses for a common concert and participation in a group of hundreds of voices.

These events provided the first opportunities to sing with international groups and also to perform internationally in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Big Sing events are still an annual affair. The Maennerchor will host this event in Cold Spring in April 2007.

Ten years ago, the Maennerchor organized and participated in its first European tour and concert trip. This trip started in Germany, went to Austria, Switzerland, on to Paris, and back into the western part of Germany, by way of the Black Forest and Rhine River.

Five years later, the Maennerchor again ventured to Europe, visiting and singing their way across the United Kingdom.

Annual events for the Maennerchor that have developed during this last decade include spring dinner concerts and occasional German songfests with other Minnesota choruses, all the while singing for area civic and health care organizations. In the mid 1990s, Christmas concerts were re-started and have again become an annual event.

The first three singing seasons of this new millennium have seen the Maennerchor enjoying its third European trip. Concerts in Germany and Austria were capped by the opportunity to sing at a Papal audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Equally thrilling was singing for evening Mass in St. Peter’s Cathedral.

Membership of the Maennerchor has continued to grow with a current roster of 51 singing voices. We have had the good fortune of having the same director for the past decade.

If you want to go

St. John’s Lutheran Church has a limited number of seats available for the dinner and concert.

For information, call (320) 485-2857 or (320) 485-2353.

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