Schwäbisher Männerchor - 87 Years
In 1934, driven by the desire to preserve fond memories and the proud heritage of the home they had left behind, 14 German immigrants founded the organization that is today called the Schwaben Male Chorus of Detroit or Schwäbisher Männerchor.
This was the time of the Great Depression, when people sought each other's company for entertainment, social activity, and support. The 14 founders were no exception. They were young men, mostly skilled craftsmen just beginning to learn the language and customs of their adopted homeland. Instinctively, and from what their elders had taught them, they knew that song and camaraderie could create a special spirit that can mend the body and soothe the soul.
With this purpose in mind, they organized the Schwäbische Sängergruppe (Schwaben Singing Group). Meeting once a week for rehearsals, the group usually gathered in the back room of a favorite local beer garden that provided a comfortable meeting place.
At first they concentrated on producing a Spring Concert and a Christmas Concert for the public. Soon these popular annual events attracted new members, opening up more opportunities for social activities.
Masquerade Balls and New Years Eve parties became regularly scheduled functions and summer picnics were a must.
Rehearsals and concerts continued uninterrupted throughout World War II. We can look back now and appreciate how dedicated these men must have been not to falter under the pressure they felt as a German speaking organization in the USA at that time.
Perhaps the most dynamic growth period in our 87 year history occurred immediately after World War II when once again immigration entry by Germans was opened and encouraged.
With over 100 active singing members and 250 supporting members, the choir spread its wings and began giving performances in Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee, and other Midwestern cities. The door to even further travel and musical adventure was opened in 1948, when the choir became a member of the prestigious North American Singers Association. The early 60's ushered in radical social changes -- many of which had a profound impact on groups such as the Schwäbisher Männerchor.
As immigration slowed, fewer immigrants meant fewer new singers and the introduction of TV entertainment provided stiff competition for our audience as well.
To counteract this trend, the choir added a small number of English language songs to our repertoire, hoping to be more attractive to second-generation Germans, especially our own family members.
With our future membership in mind, we also added ballpark excursions and father and son canoe trips to the choir's activities.
The early 90's were a most difficult period for the Maennerchor and almost brought with it our dissolution.
Membership was at the lowest ebb since the founding in 1934 and a strong movement was afoot to give up our sovereignty and join with another singing group as a way to maintain a viable performing size choir.
Fortunately, a small core of resilient and dedicated SMC singers who were not willing to give up their SMC identity prevailed and guided the chorus back to solid membership health by recruiting family members and friends into the fold.
Today, we enjoy the fruits of these efforts as the only German male chorus performing independent concerts and social programs in the greater Detroit area.
In 2009, a fifty-two man chorus celebrated its 75th anniversary with a jubilee concert along with singers from the Wäschbeuren Liederkranz from Baden -Württemberg, Germany and the Schwäbisher & Schleiswig-Holsteiner Sängerbund from Chicago, Illinois.
Cooresponding by e-mail and having a web site address has brought us in to the 21st century but our fundamentls remain the same. WIth the exception of adding English as a co-language for official use, we still maintain the founders' original ideals and operate consistent with the original frame work they initiated 87 years ago.
Today, we look forward to the future knowing that where there is life, there will be strong desire for song, and we feel that the Schwäbisher Männerchor provides a fine vehicle to carry that song for many years yet to come.