157-year-old Singing Society marks 100th year in ‘new home’

One hundred years ago on August 14, 1917, the headline on the front page of the Sheboygan Press read “CONCORDIA SINGING SOCIETY TO HAVE NEW HOME SEPT. 1.” Today, 34 members strong and directed by Frederick Strassburger, Concordia Singing Society is still rehearsing in that “new home” at 1130 North 9th Street in Sheboygan.

Organized in 1860, Concordia set out on a journey to share not only the joy of singing, but also the desire to keep alive a part of the German ethnic heritage and culture through song, to be enjoyed by present and future generations.

As early as October 1861, the first Sängerfest (German singing festival) was held in Sheboygan, hosted by Concordia Singing Society. Other societies attended from the Town of Wilson, and cities of Kiel, New Holstein, Manitowoc, Plymouth, and Two Rivers. After a brief interruption due to the service of many members in the Civil War, performances resumed on February 12, 1874. Initial rehearsals of the men-only group were held in members’ homes, but as the chorus grew, and added women’s voices, the need arose for a larger rehearsal space.

Sometime in the late 1870s, property was purchased by the Concordia Singing Society on Ontario Avenue and eventually a small hall was erected to accommodate the now seventy some member chorus. During this period the organization became a member of the Northwestern

National Sängerbund, a league of similar societies of the northwest. Several fests of the Eastern Wisconsin circuit were held in Sheboygan between 1892 and 1913. This structure was eventually sold to the Congregational Church and became known as “Mead Hall.” It later became the YMCA.

Once again in need of a new home, in February of 1916 Concordia bought the 46 year old house which was built in 1870 on the corner of North 9th St. and St. Clair Ave., from the Ernst Hildebrand Estate. The members voted to raise sufficient funds to remodel the house to meet the needs of the Society. It was about September 1, 1917 that the remodeling was completed and the Society could move in and once again have a place to display their pictures, trophies, documents and records, as well as meeting and rehearsal space. The entire second floor was occupied by a full-time janitor. Over the past 100 years there have been additions and updates to the interior and exterior, while preserving the original German character.

Fast forward through many years of rehearsals and concerts, new members and directors, and much gemütlichkeit and success both in and beyond Sheboygan, to 1978. After having served as Director of Concordia for 54 years, Professor Theodore Winkler, the recognized “Father of Music in Sheboygan,” was honored with the creation of the “Professor Winkler” Concordia Vocal Music Scholarship, which has been awarded by Concordia to a qualifying High School student from the Sheboygan area annually for the last 39 years.

The upcoming annual Concordia Oktoberfest Dinner, Concert, and Dance, held this year on October 21st at the Immaculate Conception Activity Center, is the main fundraiser for the Music Scholarship.

Concordia also participates in the annual Kommers – a competition among the 7 other German Singing Societies active in southeastern Wisconsin, Milwaukee’s German Fest weekend celebration, the St. Peter Claver German Mass in October, Walderhaus Gingerbread Christmas activities, and Sheboygan Rotary’s Festival of Lights.

They are also available to entertain at Retirement/Nursing Homes and other private events throughout the year.

Concordia always welcomes new members who share a love of singing and belief that “Music is the universal language of mankind” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). Speaking the German language is not necessary.

Rehearsals are typically 7:00 to 8:30pm on Tuesday evenings. For more info please go to: www.concordiasingerswi.org www.facebook.com/ConcordiaGesangverein/ email at info@concordiasingerswi.org.call 920-783-0040.

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