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date: 17 November 2019


  • Karen Ahlquist


A chorus of male singers in the German tradition, or a work, usually on a German text, composed for such an ensemble. The Männerchor achieved prominence through student chorus performances at nationalistic events such as the Wartburg Festival in 1817. By the Revolutions of 1848–9, Germany had built an extensive network of choruses linked together into Bunden (federations), which facilitated festival planning and political communication forbidden by the authorities (see Sängerfest).

The first American Männerchor was founded in Philadelphia in 1835; as German immigration increased, others quickly followed. Many Männerchöre were embedded within fraternal organizations, while others grew into all-encompassing Musikvereine (music societies), whose directors had musical training and professional status. Except at a Sängerfest, Männerchor audiences consisted largely of nonsinging, or “passive,” members, who shared in the numerous social activities associated with the chorus’s musical life.

Männerchor music in Germany consisted of a cappella part-songs on social, amorous, musical, natural, and patriotic themes, along with works with orchestra, including oratorios for male voices. American Männerchöre continued to look to Germany for repertoire, and favorite composers were well known internationally. Mendelssohn, Weber, and later Brahms composed Männerchöre, and Silcher arranged songs by Schubert for this medium. Opera choruses-even full productions-were performed, as were mixed-chorus works, for which ...

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