Germans migrated to North America in the 19th century and many of them settled in Fort Wayne.
We are fortunate to have the Fort Wayne Mannerchor/Damenchor, a men’s and women’s choir that sings traditional German songs, here in the Waynedale area. They are one of four German heritage groups in Fort Wayne, all of which have brought some of the old traditions and food from Germany right here to our own backyard.
Recently, the Fort Wayne Mannerchor/ Damenchor celebrated Schlachtfest.
Schlachtfest is the celebration of a slaughter. Back home, in Germany, it was tradition to slaughter a pig. A butcher would visit the farm, butcher the hog and make sausage according to the family’s recipe. The family, and often neighbors, would then get together to sample the meal.
Here in Fort Wayne, preparing for the Schlachtfest celebration, members of this local singing club got together to make sausage/bratwurst and do some twiddling. But before they twiddled, the pork meat is ground and prepared using secret spices brought back each year from their homeland, Germany. The sausage is then stuffed into the casing. As the crank turned on the meat grinder, out came the long tube of sausage. This is where the “twiddling” comes in. A couple of men twist or as they call it “twiddle” the sausage into the correct length forming the bratwurst.
On Saturday, March 24 the Schlachtfest dinner was served using that freshly made bratwurst with all the fixings. The Haus Kapelle (a 2-piece house band) played Roll Out The Barrel along with many other fine German tunes. And of course, Warsteiner filled ones stein.
After taking a sip from his German stein, Chad Trouten-President of the club, spoke of the badge of honor. That was to talk about their German beer. Bach beer was his favorite. Yuengling beer was on tap at the Schlachtfest, but there were a lot of German beers behind the bar. “Warsteiner, Kostritzer-the dark beer are the preferences for men,” said Herman Quake, who came to America when he was 18. Sally, his wife, said, “However, the women prefer what is called a Radler, which is half and half-half dark beer and the other half 7-up.” Herman, grew up in Rheinland Pfalz area and takes a trip every year back to Germany to visit his sister, who is in her 80s.
After enjoying a stein or two of beer and dinner everyone gathered upstairs where hanging proudly from the rafters inside Park Edelweiss, are 16 flags representing the German states. And, on display from 1902, is their club flag which has the German message Gesang Verein written on it, which means “song club.” Also written are the words Concordia, meaning harmony and Saxonia, where the original club was from-the Saxony region of Germany. Decorated along the walls are memorabilia and photos dating back to the early 1900s. “Fort Wayne is made up of many Germans. A lot of the last names on these photos you will recognize as street names,” said Pres. Trouten.
Many of the men were donned in traditional Lederhosen, soft leather shorts with suspenders and a drop-front flap, and the women in Dirndl, a blouse with short puffy sleeves and a full skirt with an apron tied around the waist.
Mike Popp has been a member for about 40 years, and, is German-born. He noted that about 2/3rds of the members in this club are German born.
In an effort to keep the German singing group active, you no longer need to have a German heritage. “It is no longer a Germans-only membership, the club is made up of good ol’ folks who enjoy singing. Singing in German however.” Trouten went on to say, “Our German singing club sings 95% of its tunes in German. All except the Star Spangled Banner.”
Everyone is welcome! They meet every Thursday to rehearse in the upstairs loft of the barn. Ladies at 7:30p. Men at 8p. The director is Tom Ramenschneider.
A lot of the members are older. The youngest member is 30. And the longest standing member is from Munich area, Franz Magin, who has been a member for 62 years.
About 30 people show up on Thursday evenings, at Park Edelweiss, the group’s meeting place at 3355 Elmhurst Drive, for a stein of beer, and to sing a little. The attitude is… the more, the merrier.