New York State Saengerbund Inc.
1897 - 2016

Immigrants from many lands contributed to the melting pot of American musical creativity. A specifically American form of musical culture emerged in the 19th century at a time when the German element in the United States was most active and effective in shaping musical tastes and traditions. German singing societies, the Saengerbunde, were formed to give testimony to the German-Americans' perennial love for music, sociability and conviviality.

Unfortunately, the Germans found it difficult to integrate in sizable organizations and had a tendency to dissipate their social energies in small groups. By 1881 in Cincinnati, where the Nord-Amerikanischen Saengerbund was formed in 1849, there were 18 major German clubs and six different choral societies. When new works by Richard Strauss demanded a larger scope of the choir, a recommendation was made to add female voices.

Singing societies in the cities of the Atlantic states felt the Nord-Amerikanische Saengerbund was too far west, so they formed their own Nord-Oestliche League in 1850. In July of 1897, Karl Koch of Albany attended the Nord-Oestliche Saengerfest in Philadelphia and conceived the idea of forming a Saengerbund in Upstate New York. At an annual meeting of the editors of the German Newspapers Association, Koch, a poet and the editor of the Albany Sonntags Journal, wrote an article calling for the establishment of such an organization. He was supported by John C. Schreiber, editor of the Utica Deutsche Zeitung, and Jacob Birkmayer, editor of the Troy Freie Presse. The next month, on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the Troy Maennerchor, a number of societies pledged themselves to this endeavor and in October of 1897, at its first convention in Albany, representatives of 22 societies signed the provisional constitution of the Central New York Saengerbund and elected its first officers.

Saengerfeste were held in 1898 in Utica, 1901 in Albany, 1903 in Syracuse, 1906 in Troy, 1908 in Utica, 1911 in Albany and 1913 in Syracuse. During World War I, the societies strictly adhered to singing and remained neutral following the precepts of their adopted country. ln 1922, the Saengerbund celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Arion Hall in Syracuse and resumed the Saengerfeste in Troy, in 1925 in Buffalo, 1928 in Schenectady, 1931 in Poughkeepsie, 1934 in Rochester and 1937 in Utica.

For its first 41 years, the Saengerbund was restricted to male singers but various singing societies had already formed their own ladies' choruses. On October 30,1938, Elsie Dossert of Syracuse organized these ladies' choruses into the Vereinigte Frauenchore of Central New York (United Women's Choruses of Central New York). Since then, this organization has been extremely supportive of the Saengerbund and instrumental in its development.

The Saengerfeste were interrupted again during World War II and resumed in 1947 in Syracuse on the 50th anniversary of the Central New York Saengerbund at which time the United Women's Choruses of Central New York presented the Saengerbund with its first Bundesfahne. This tapestry was cherished and proudly displayed at official meetings of the Saengerbund for the next eleven years. Subsequent Saengerfeste were held in 1950 in Troy, 1953 in Buffalo and 1956 in Syracuse. On the occasion of the 1959 Saengerfest in Rochester, the United Women's Chorus of Central New York presented a new Bundesfahne, based on an original design by Hans Brand of the Syracuse Liederkranz. This tapestry replaced the original which had been consumed by a fire that destroyed Germania Hall of Poughkeepsie where it was being stored temporarily. This new Bundesfahne was another masterpiece of the Kunststickerei of Baden-Wuerttemberg which had crafted the original tapestry.

The Saengerfeste continued in 1962 in Utica, 1965 in Albany, 1968 in Buffalo, 1971 in Troy, 1974 in Poughkeepsie, 1977 in Albany and, in 1980, the 25th and final Saengerfest of the Central New York Saengerbund was held in Utica. After almost 30 years of discussion, the Central New York Saengerbund merged with the United Women's Choruses of Central New York in September 1980 during the convention in Syracuse and both organizations were united under the name of the New York State Saengerbund. The event was commemorated by the attachment of two richly embroidered banners to the Bundesfahne. The office of president of the United Women's Choruses ceased after the merger and Carol Daly took office as the first vice-president of the New York Saengerbund. Karl Haeussel continued as president of the new organization until his death in 1984. He was succeeded by Carol Daly, elected in 1986 and re-elected in 1989. In 1992 Werner Franz was elected President and reelected in 1995 and 1997. He was succeeded by Herman Koelmel, elected in 2000 and reelected in 2003, 2006, and 2009.

With the uniting of the men's and ladies' choruses, the Saengerfeste continued with the additional competition of mixed and ladies' groups in 1983 in Troy, 1986 in Binghamton, 1989 in Utica, 1992 in Syracuse and 1995 in Binghamton.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the New York State Saengerbund, the 31st Saengerfest was advanced to 1997 and hosted by the Utica Maennerchor and Ladies Chorus. Thereafter, the tri-ennial cycle was resumed with the 32nd Saengerfest in 2000 in Buffalo. The Saengerfest was hosted by the Buffalo Schwaben Choir and celebrated the end of the Twentieth Century.

To start the new millennium, the Kingston Maennerchor and Damenchor hosted the 33rd Saengerfest in 2003. The Bundes Music committee developed Prize Singing rules designed to promote and encourage more participation of choruses by adding a non-competitive category of performance for the Saengerfest. An integral part of this Saengerfest was the participation of the Kinderchore represented by the Buffalo Spatzen, Utica Kinderchor, Poughkeepsie Germania Kinderchor, and the Kingston Engelchor.

The German American Club of Binghamton hosted the 34th Saengerfest in 2006. In June of 2009, we celebrated the 35th Saengerfest hosted by the Utica Maennerchor.

On 19 October 2008, at the Annual Convention in Buffalo, the delegates ratified amendments to our Constitution and By-Laws to reflect the course of action and operating procedures necessary to maintain and sustain the Saengerbund in the 21st century.

In 2009 we became a member of the New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc. and on 11 March 2010 the New York State Department of State issued our Certificate of Incorporation. On 13 Feb 2014 we received our 501c3 determination letter indicating that the New York State Saengerbund Inc. was designated by the IRS branch of the Treasury Department as a 501c3 Not for Profit organization. On 26 Mar 2014 we received our New York State Tax Exemption Certification; the last step of our 4 year journey toward our goal of recognition and acceptance as a 501c3 Not for Profit organization.

In tribute to Gemuetlichkeit, Freundschaft, and Kameradschaft each Saengerfest is dedicated to a weekend of German culture and tradition through music and song. In June 2012 the Germania Singing Society of Poughkeepsie, our oldest continually active Sanger Chor, hosted our 36th Saengerfest. In June 2015 the Utica Maennerchor, on the occasion of their 150th Anniversary, hosted the 37th Saengerfest and continued our celebration of German-American musical heritage.