History
New York State Saengerbund Inc.
1897 - 2017

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 community in the United States was most active and effective in shaping musical tastes and traditions. German singing societies, Saengerbunde, were formed to give testimony to the German-Americans' eternal love of music, sociability and camaraderie.

The Germans however found it difficult to integrate in sizable organizations and had a tendency to dissipate their social energies into small groups. In 1848 in Cincinnati, choral societies from Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland, and Indiana created the Nord-Amerikanischer Saengerbund. By 1881, there were 18 major German clubs and six different choral societies in Cincinnati. It is estimated that by 1908, there were 50,000 singing members in the entire saengerbund. When new music by Richard Strauss demanded a larger scope of the choir, a recommendation was made to add female voices.

Singing societies in the cities along the Atlantic coast felt the Nord-Amerikanischer Saengerbund was too far west, so they formed their own Nord-Oestliche League North-Eastern 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 Jacob Birkmayer, editor of the Troy Freie Presse, and John C. Schreiber, editor of the Utica Deutsche Zeitung.

The next month, August of 1897, on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the Troy Maennerchor, a number of societies pledged themselves to this endeavor. In October of 1897, at its first convention in Albany, representatives from 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. In 1922, the Saengerbund celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Arion Hall in Syracuse and resumed the Saengerfeste in Troy. Saengerfeste were held 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 30 October 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 was extremely supportive and instrumental in the development of the Saengerbund.

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 that 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 had been temporarily stored. 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.

Mr. Haeussel's term was completed by Carol Daly who served as President for 8 years, being elected in 1986 and 1989. In 1992 Werner Franz was elected President and reelected in 1995 and 1997. He was succeeded by Herman Koelmel who was elected in 2000 and is serving his 6th term through 2018.

In a tribute to Gemütlichkeit, Freundschaft, and Kameradschaft each Saengerfest is dedicated to a weekend of German culture and tradition through music and song. With the uniting of the men's and ladies' choruses, the saengerfeste continued with the additional competition of mixed and ladies' choruses 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 triennial 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 youth choruses represented by the Buffalo Spatzen, Kingston Engelchor, Poughkeepsie Germania Kinderchor, and the Utica Kinderchor. The German American Club of Binghamton hosted the 34th Saengerfest in 2006 and the Utica Maennerchor hosted the 35th Saengerfest in 2009.

We continued to work diligently to maintain our traditions while growing leaner and wiser. We met the challenges of the new millennium by adapting and streamlining the operating procedures necessary to maintain and sustain the Saengerbund in the 21st century. We updated and amended our 20 year old Constitution and By-Laws in 2008, 2014, and again in 2017.

In 2009 we joined 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 February 2014 we received our 501c3 determination letter indicating that the New York State Saengerbund Inc. is designated by the IRS branch of the Treasury Department as a 501c3 Not for Profit organization. On 26 March 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 Nonprofit Organization.

The Poughkeepsie Germania, the oldest, continuously active, German-American chorus in upstate New York since their beginnings in 1850 celebrated their new clubhaus by hosting the 36th Saengerfest in June 2012. The Utica Maennerchor celebrated their 150th Anniversary by hosting the 37th Saengerfest in 2015.

Although the 2015 saengerfest was successful and reminiscent of previous events, it became apparent that our tradition of competitive singing was no longer feasible. To sustain our sängerbund we needed to adapt and modify our sängerfest format. After much discussion, deliberation, and review, a revised two-day sängerfest format was developed and unanimously ratified in October 2016.

We are enthusiastically looking forward to continue our celebration of German-American musical heritage with the new two-day format at our 38th Saengerfest hosted by the Kingston Maennerchor and Damenchor in June of 2018 in celebration of their 150th Anniversary.