During the period preceding the Civil War, German American singing groups
sprang up all over America, preserving German musical tradition and
keeping the culture alive. Interest in the music of Germany was at its
January 9, 1847, a group
of 25 men of German heritage founded a male singing society, dedicated in
particular to the promotion of vocal and instrumental music. The
society's name was “Deutscher Liederkranz der Stadt New York”.
After the Civil War,
interest in German culture continued to grow steadily. By the time a New
York Sängerfest was held in Brooklyn, New York in 1900, over 6,000 singers
from 174 German American singing societies flowed into the city. To this
day there are still Liederkranz
[Garland of Song]
Societies around the country.
Fourteen years after its founding, the Liederkranz Club Chorus was
selected to sing with the Philharmonic Society Orchestra. Its performances
in New York at the Metropolitan Opera House, in Boston and Philadelphia in
excerpts from Richard Wagner's operas were a 'first' in the United States,
introducing these celebrated works to American audiences.
Civil War found one fifth of the Liederkranz Club members - over one
hundred - serving in the Union Army; four returned with the rank of
Brigadier General. The rest of the membership did their share for families
of members who had volunteered their services.
William Steinway, who served as President of the Liederkranz Club
intermittently from 1867 until 1896, was one of the greatest presidents of
our club. It was under his leadership that a building fund for a clubhouse
was raised in the amount of $150,000 within 2 days. The cornerstone was
laid on October 1st, 1881 at 111-119 East 58th Street, east of Park
Avenue. The total cost of the building including land represented an
investment of $325,000. It should be mentioned that the building’s
acoustics were such that it was used at one time by RCA Victor for
During World War I, the Board of Trustees passed resolutions offering the
facilities of their clubhouse to the government for the duration of the
war. President Theodore Roosevelt, accompanied by his family, made a
stirring speech in which he commended the Liederkranz Club for its
tradition and called for subscription to the 4th Liberty Loan. The members
responded with purchases amounting to $2,149,000.
1919 the name of the organization was officially changed to “The
Liederkranz of the City of New York”. Its official language was likewise
changed from German to English. During World War II, Liederkranz Club
members bought more than $8,000,000 worth of United States Government War
Bonds in succeeding bond drives. Many of the club members and their
relatives served in both world wars in the armed forces of our nation.
Some made the supreme sacrifice.
Unfortunately, both wars resulted in a greatly reduced membership of our
club. The beautiful building on East 58th Street had to be sold. Through
the generosity of our loyal members the present building, formerly the
Henry Phipps townhouse, was purchased.
take pride in the fact that honorary members of the Liederkranz Club have
included Dr. Walter Damrosch, and Lauritz Melchior. Carl Schurz, United
States Senator and Secretary of the Interior, was another distinguished
In 1893, the Chorus
sang at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, combining
this with a tour of many American cities. The great musical genius,
Ferrucio Busoni, was the piano soloist during that year.
1915, Frieda Hempel, Margaret Ober, Otto Goritz, and Albert Reiss
performed with the Liederkranz Club Chorus in Die Fledermaus.
Numerous other operatic presentations were held at the Liederkranz Club
including Act III of Die Walküre with soloists from the
Metropolitan Opera and the Chicago Grand Opera Company.
Metropolitan Opera and the Liederkranz Club have had a long-standing
friendship. The “Fancy Dress Balls” and the German Charity Balls,
sponsored by the Liederkranz were held at the Metropolitan Opera House
before World War I. These gala occasions were considered the highlights of
New York's social season.
concerts have been highly regarded throughout its history. The male chorus
of 250 voices was considered to be one of the finest in the country.
President Theodore Roosevelt, who had become an honorary member of the
Liederkranz Club while he served as New York's Police Commissioner, later
invited the chorus to perform at the White House with Ernestine
Liederkranz Club was active in many charitable affairs
throughout history. For over sixteen years, our chorus gave benefit
concerts for the “German Hospital”, afterwards renamed the Lenox Hill
Hospital in New York City. Many of our members also served on the boards
of charitable institutions and foundations. Concerts were held for the
benefit of various churches, for the destitute of the Great Chicago Fire,
for the “Society for the Improvement of the Poor”, the yellow fever
victims, the Seventh Regiment, the St. Francis Hospital, the “Deutsche
Guest artists who have performed at the Liederkranz Club or with its
Chorus include Johanna Gadski, Victor Herbert, Raphael Josephi, Emma Juch,
Jenny Lind, Lauritz Melchior, Helen Traubel, and in more recent years
Lucine Amara and Marti Talvela. This is truly a great musical heritage.
The Liederkranz Club
was founded in order to promote artistic endeavors and good fellowship.
It was in this spirit that the Liederkranz Scholarship Awards have been
awarded to worthy young artists since 1951. Many have gone on to careers
with the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, and the world’ s
leading opera houses. Some past and recent winners include Gene Boucher,
Dominic Cossa, Justino Diaz, Renée Fleming, Batyah Godfrey, Kelly Kaduce,
Kyle Ketelson, Gladys Kriese, Olga Makarina, Barbara Shuttleworth, Tatiana
Troyanos and Deborah Voigt.
Nothing could better describe in brief our many activities than the
plaque, presented to us at the American Bicentennial Festivities in 1976,
which is in the lobby of our building.
The Damen Verein
Liederkranz Damen Verein [Women’s Association] is a woman's
that looks back on a rich history. Established in 1895, the Damen
committed to support the Liederkranz Club and Foundation in their
philanthropic and social activities.
members of the Damen Verein met several times a year
at the Liederkranz Club and held holiday fundraising events. The wonderful
statute of Polyhymnia, which graces the courtyard of our building, was
their gift to the Liederkranz. Although the organization officially
disbanded in 2009, this lovely statue serves as a permanent reminder of
the spirit and generosity of the Damen Verein.