- Karen Ahlquist
A male chorus festival (“singers’ festival”) in the German tradition. German Sängerfeste originated in the 1820s and by the 1840s featured choruses of 2000 or more, allowing Germans to cross boundaries of region, social class, and religion, develop a standardized male chorus repertory, communicate politically, and foster hopes for a unified state.
The Sängerfest in North America took off in the wake of increased immigration following the failed 1848–9 Revolutions. As in Europe, a Sängerfest was organized by a Sängerbund (federation of male choruses), the first of which, the Nord-amerikanische, was founded in Cincinnati in 1849. Others included the Northeastern (1850), German-Texan (1855), and Northwestern (1856).
A Sängerfest brought male choruses from a multi-state region to a host city for three to five days in the spring. It offered concerts, choral competitions, parties (including Kommers, or drinking parties), balls, picnics, tourist excursions, parades, and time for socializing by chorus members, host city residents, and festival attendees. Dozens of committees organized the event, sometimes even building a Sängerhalle to accommodate an audience of thousands. In some cities, public buildings were decorated and businesses and schools shut down for the opening parade, allowing an entire population to participate. Unlike pre-Revolutionary Sängerfeste in Germany, however, an American Sängerfest lacked covert political activity because of German immigrants’ loyalty to the US system of government....