When I was invited to attend the Saengerfest weekend with all related activities, I did not know what to expect. Thursday night was designated a “Welcome Party” where the 8 choirs from Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Spokane, WA, as well as Kelowna, Richmond, Vancouver and Victoria met at the Alpenclub & sang together. Friday night, June 5th, was the Concert in the Chandos Pattison Auditorium, with an Afterglow Party at the Sheraton-Guildford Hotel. On Saturday morning, bright and early, the chosen delegates from each choir (Conductor, President and other reps) met for a “Delegates Meeting” at 9 am, following a combined breakfast. Finally, there was a Banquet held on Saturday evening to present awards, thank sponsors, announce the location and host of the next Saengerfest, which will be held in 2017. After the formal presentations, the party began. Sunday was then either a day of rest or a day of travel back to everyone’s home.
Special guests at the Concert were Consul B. Dierkes-Leifeld and Beatrice Schreiber, President of the German-Canadian Business Association. Beatrice also brought Paul & Ruth Buten. Paul, a Deep Cove Artist, was raised in a picturesque village in the mountains of Bavaria where he was tutored by his artist father as well as by regional painters & wood carvers and came to Canada in 1970. Seated in the front row, was also Pastor Manfred Schmidt, who recently began working as a bilingual Pastor at the Martin Luther Church in Vancouver. The combined choirs, around 230 people, ended the concert with Haendels Messiah and then everyone sang “Kein Schoener Land in Dieser Zeit” together.
After the Concert, my parents and I attended the “Afterglow Party”, where the singers enjoyed Pizza & Beer and the accordion player who went from table to table, playing a wide repertoire of German music. The atmosphere was subdued at first, while wave after wave of singers arrived. It took time for those who wanted beer to line up and get their Krombacher. Beers and wine were made available at a very good price, thanks to 2 sponsors: Krombacher & Select Wines, run by Werner Schoenberger. Horst Zimmermann, Chairmen of the Saengerbund Planning Committee, gave a few announcements and thanked everyone for the excellent concert.
Kecia Boecking and I were invited as special guests to present at the Delegates Meeting the next morning. My talk was entitled “How to use the Internet to attract new members” and Kecia’s was “The importance of the Personal Touch, along with Mentorship and encouragement” to receive and retain younger members.” Thanks to a certificate in Public Relations, I have spend the last 3 years promoting one German-related event after another, writing for my blog or digital magazine “Westcoast German News” and working with social media to get the word out. I also teach at the Westside German School, am a Director of the German-Canadian Business Association and attend the meetings of the Deutscher Platz. Kecia is on the Board of Directors at the St. Mark’s Church, she organizes the German Table at the European Festival and has started a “Kindergruppe” that is still going strong after 10 years. Kecia also teaches part-time and is Superintendent of the Sunday School Program. Kecia and I have worked on a variety of projects together over the years and make a good team. After the meeting several choir members did talk to us about ideas how to begin intergenerational activity by connecting with the German School and/or churches.
The final event was the Saengerfest Banquet, held at the Hellenic Community Centre on Arbutus Street. There were over 300 guests, including Consul B. Dierkes-Leifeld. The MGV Lyra was the host choir and Horst Zimermann was the MC. Horst began by honouring those who had been singing for 25 to 75 years already. The Nord Pazifischer Saengerbund still belongs to the Deutschen Chorverband (DCV). Nachdem der Deutsche Sängerbund (DSB) und der Deutsche Allgemeine Sängerbund (DAS) auf ihren Sängertagen am 26. und 27. Februar 2005 ihre Verschmelzung zum DCV beschlossen hatten, folgte die Gründung des neuen Verbandes am 28. Februar. As member of the DCV, they have the option to apply for a pin or an award for their members to present at the Gala Dinner:
- Für Chorleiter, die eine Chorleitertätigkeit von mindestens 25 Jahren nachweisen können, wird das Chorleiter-Ehrenzeichen in Silber mit Urkunde verliehen. (after 25 years, receive a silver pin and a certificate)
- Für Chormitglieder, die eine aktive Mitgliedschaft von mindestens 50, 60, 70 Jahren nachweisen können, wird ein Ehrenzeichen in Gold mit Urkunde verliehen. (after 50, 60 or 70 years in membership, receive a gold pin and a certificate)
- Für Chormitglieder, die eine aktive Mitgliedschaft von mindestens 75 bzw. 80 Jahren nachweisen können, wird eine Ehrenurkunde verliehen. Ein Ehrenzeichen ist hierfür nicht vorgesehen. (after 75 years, receive a certificate)
- Für Chorleiter, die eine Chorleitertätigkeit von mindestens 40 bzw. 50 Jahren nachweisen können, wird das Chorleiter-Ehrenzeichen in Silber mit Gold bzw. in Gold und mit Urkunde verliehen. (choir conductors receive a conductors-medal in silver & gold and a certificate after 40 years)
- Für Personen, die sich um den DCV herausragende Verdienste erworben haben, wird das „Goldene Ehrenzeichen des DCV“ verliehen. Diese Ehrenzeichen ist eine Auszeichnung, die unabhängig von Alter und Zeit, Leistungen, die über die Erfüllungen der durch das verwaltete Amt erwachsenen Pflichten hinausgehen, würdigen soll. Dieses Ehrenzeichen hat seinen Wert nicht zuletzt in der Seltenheit.
The meal was either salmon or chicken and desert was a variety of delicious cakes, served with “Kaffee”. Announcements included the fact that Kelowna was going to be the site of the next Saengerfest in 2017 with President Susie Kaul and Conductor Rory Rader. In 2011, Rory Fader was the Conductor for the Swiss Choir in Vancouver, who held a Saengerfest in the Chan Centre at UBC. Then they officially handed the flags to the choir Presidents. The entertainment started with the “Lyra Version of the 3 Tenors”, which the audience truly enjoyed. After this, the formal part of the entertainment was concluded, the band “The Silver Stars” began to play and the dancing started. This is when I said “goodnight” and went home.
What I learned from being a part of this major event was that the sense of community that some German immigrants miss from back home – their childhoods, their families, their cultural celebrations – are all brought to life through their regular choir practice and events, such as the Saengerfest. Some people describe these events, such as a “museum approach to German Culture”, but I still feel that their main point was: “to be committed to continue what all of our founding members enjoyed and wanted to preserve: German songs, German culture, the German language, German Gemütlichkeit, building strong friendships among choir members and their families, other German choirs in the Northwest, and our community.” And that is what it was all about.