European Culture: German Songs in Gündlingen (Satis Shroff)

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Towards European Culture: 140 Years of Men’s Choir Gündlingen (Satis Shroff)

Gündlingen is a small, scenic town among the vineyards of Kaiserstuhl on the way to the border town of Breisach, near France. We, the men’s choir from Freiburg-Kappel, were invited to sing at the 140th anniversary of the men’s choir in Gündlingen on May 21,2011 at the Malteser Hall. The hall was almost full when we arrived and the other guest-choirs were from the Kaiserstuhler Sängerrunde: Chorgemeinschaft Breisach, MGV Eintracht Ihringen, Chorgemeinscaftt Umkirch, MGV Vogelbach-Malsburg and MGV Buggingen.

After a short introduction with the words: ‘you are present with your presents, and your presents are the songs you’ve brought with you,’ the men’s choir Gündlingen, wearing velvet waist-coats, sang ‘Der Vierstimmige Choir’ (F.J.Otten/P. Thibaut) conducted by Mathias Untsch, who’s been working with Gündlingen since 20 years. The hymn was more or less about themselves. ‘Heimat deine Sterne’ (E. Hehrer) was sung slowly, with feeling. The lyrics were beautiful, but was a song from the Third Reich and was sung during the war against Russia, confided an elderly singer to me.

Ms. Hildegard Schlager took over the moderation, a short-haired brunette in a black evening dress and white pants. In her moderation she asked a rhetoric question: what made the men move towards their destination? Their motto was ‘In Freud and Leid zum Lied bereit, that is, in joy and suffering ready for a song, comradeship, the tones of the Heimat with faithful sons. Even then in those bad times, they had joy, love, and the desire to sing. And with that the men’s choir Gündlingen sang ‘La Montanara’ (Trentiner Bergsteiger Chor) which was sung well with all those manly voices.

The Chorgemeinschaft Breisach, which has a 166 year tradition, sang ‘Auf das Leben’ (Dieter Frommlet), which means ‘to life’, a song as a toast-proposal dedicated to life, love. We raise our glasses when we sing, it’s fun. This was followed by ‘Ein frohes Lied’ (Walter Hart), a song about the German Heimat. The singers were dressed in black with long flowing scarlet blazers. ‘Amazing Grace’ (Gerd Onnen) was sung in German and it sounded a bit strange to someone used to the English version. Somebody in the audience shouted ‘Zugabe!’, which is ‘encore’ but they didn’t comply.

Ihringen, which is known for its high temperatures and its excellent wine, cames up with MGV Eintracht Ihringen singing a hilarious song with the title ‘Hochzeit der Frosche’: the Marriage of the Frogs. All frogs decide to become singers, a ‘halli-galli’ lyric about the kaiserstuhl, with the refrain of the amphibians: ‘quak, quak, quak!

Volksweise aus Jugoslawien was the next song, with lyrics by Alfons Burkhard, followed by ‘Bajazzo.’ The last song was ‘Zigeuner’ (Gus Anton), which is the German word for ‘gypsy,’ depicted by a young girl with a violin. It received the biggest applause.

The Chorgemeinschaft Umkirch started their programme with ‘Mailied’ (Felix Mendelsohn Bartholdy), a song about the month of May. The choir wore black dresses: the men with blue bow-ties and the ladies with long blue satin shawls around their necks, and their second song was ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ (Charles Dumont), a chanson made popular by Edith Piaf. Their last song was ‘Wiener Spezialitäten (Otto Groll), that is to say, Vienna Specialities with the Radetzsky March, which had the audience clapping their hands to the beat of the song. The German audience always loves to clap along.

After the intermission we, the MGV-Kappel ‘Liederkranz’ sang ‘Durch’s Wiesental gang i jetzt na,’ a sad love song in which a lover goes to the grave of the beloved with flowers, only to discover that the person she loves isn’t in the grave. She’s been betrayed. The other song was ‘Nun Ade du mein lieb Heimatland’ about a person who’s leaving his beautiful home country and bids adieu to his home, where his heart is. The last song was ‘Good News’, a quick-beat song which received thunderous applause. Our encore number ‘Heaven’ was also very well received. As we went back single-file to our seats we were showered with praise. A nice feeling, indeed.

MGV Vogelbach-Malsburg sang about ‘O let me dream and feel happy with wine’ in a joyous rendering. Then came MGV Buggingen, which is a 175-year old choir, began with the ‘Markgräfler Wine Song.’ The Bugginger men were dressed in mauve waist-coats, blue trousers, white shirts and had 19 singers. The Markgräfler wine was praised as a superb drink. One had the impression that they were praising their own Badische wines too obviously, but the folk-songs are in fact centred on the people and products of the land. The next number was a song made popular by the elderly Austrian singer Udo Jürgens: ‘I haven’t benn to NY yet’ which in the original is ‘Ich war noch niemals in New York’ to the accompaniment of guitar and piano.

MGV Buggingen and men’s choir Gündlingen sang together three songs in the end. The first one was ‘Via Mala’(E.Hehrer) which has also been filmed with Mario Adorf, then came the German version of ‘If I Only Had Time’ translated as ‘Hätt ich einmal nur Zeit’ (E. Hehrer) and Frankie Boy’s evergreen ‘My Way’ which sounded so: ‘So war mein Leben’ (E. Hehrer).

Such concerts do enrich cultural life in the hamlets and towns and contacts are established between choirs according to sympathy and friendship, and they invite each other to sing together or as guest choirs. The traditional comradeship between the music and choir associations (vereins), and the feeling of togetherness grows with time when choirs travel throughout Europe, and more and more European choirs should exchange and invite choirs to sing, feast, be-merry-together and take home wonderful memories and experiences which can be reciprocated with the passage of time, and thus move towards a European Union in which its member countries and communities share their cultural and traditional heritage together.

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