Nordöstlicher Sängerbund of America
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The Washington Sängerbund

Sängerfest Conductors & Orchestra

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Host Chorus:
Washington Sängerbund
~ founded 1851 ~
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2434 Wisconsin Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Rehearsals: Friday at 7pm

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The Lyre, the Symbol for Singing

The 50th Anniversary of the Nordöstlicher Sängerbund of America (NOSB), to be held in Washington, DC from May 22-24, 2009, is presented under the sign of the lyre.

The lyre is a stringed instrument that singers in ancient times used to accompany their singing, and images of the lyre have been found depicted on the walls of caves. Discoveries in ancient Mesopotamia and Babylon estimated to be from before 3000 B.C. include remains of stringed instruments related to the lyre. Those early instruments were primitive, but prove to us that music and song is as old as the history of men who dwell on this earth. Humans have always loved to sing.

The lyre was a perfect accompanying instrument in antiquity. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, written in stanzas, were most likely performed as songs accompanied by the lyre. In Greek mythology Hermes, the son of Zeus, gave the lyre to his brother, Apollo, and it has been the symbol for poets and thinkers ever since. The Greek God Orpheus, and other gods, are seen on ancient paintings and carved in marble, singing and playing the lyre. We read in the Bible that King Solomon sang to the Queen of Sheba playing the lyre; he was rewarded for this with a largess in gold. The lyre is, symbolically, the instrument of heaven, the Gods, and a heavenly medium for man on Earth.

wikipedia picture
Picture: Wikipedia
The ancient lyre consisted of a sound box, (early examples utilized tortoise shells), to which two horns of a goat or a steer were fastened. Three to four strings were stretched from the tailpiece at the bottom of the sound box to a crossbar and then tuned. The singer plucked the strings of the lyre to accompany the lyrics of the song.

The modern harp is widely considered to be the follow-up musical instrument to the lyre. This advanced instrument has more strings, therefore, a wider range of tones, and is more easily and reliably tuned.

Throughout history, humans have sung in all stages of life, from childhood, into very old age, and every momentous and mundane occasion in between. We sing when we are happy, we sing when we are sad, we sing about the beauty of nature, and we sing when we are in love, in trouble, or in despair. And when we sing, we dramatize, we communicate, and we characterize moods and emotions through song. For our ancestors in ancient times, the lyre was the chosen instrument to accompany their songs.

As singers of the Nordöstlicher Sängerbund, we sing to our audiences and to ourselves as well, to celebrate the rich tradition of German song. We continue the ancient tradition of singers and choruses in using the symbolism of the lyre: the musical instrument of the ancient singer and his Gods.

The Nordöstlicher Sängerbund was founded 1850 in Philadelphia, PA. This Sängerbund was modeled after a Sängerbund (Singers Union) established in Germany during the 19th century. The first German Song Festival (Sängerfest) was held in Würzburg in 1845. This was revolutionary at the time, for it was the first of its kind in Germany at a time when authorities feared uprisings. Prior to this first festival, coal miners formed various choirs and music bands in the Saarland. This early movement spread with enthusiasm throughout the German workers' movement, and was supported by liberal citizens during that time. As word of these Song Festivals spread, the formation of new choruses and festivals continued throughout the different regions of Germany. The traditions of these Song Festivals were then carried around the world by immigrants, and carried on in these new communities of German Singers.

German immigrants who came to the United States during the 19th Century brought this tradition with them. We continue to celebrate the Sängerfest today as part of the heritage of the singers of the NOSB of America.

Submitted by: Edgar Grunwald