History of the Kingston Maennerchor and Damenchor Inc.
The Kingston Maennerchor and Damenchor is a dynamic Organization which has been meeting continually since its founding as the Rondout Social Maennerchor on February 22, 1868 in the Village of Rondout. The founding members were German immigrants drawn together by their common language and love for music, singing and social activities. The club’s “Washington Hall” became a gathering place for German Organizations up and down the Hudson River. During World War I “Washington Hall” was burned down and many records were lost including the names of the 61 members at the time of incorporation. Names of early members include Salzmann, Drautz, Crispell, Weber, Schuster, Graffe, Jacobs, Rupp, Block, and Schmidt – names that can be found in the Ulster County area today.
In 1872 the Villages of Rondout and Kingston joined to form the City of Kingston and on January 26, 1887 the “Rondout Social Maennerchor” of the City of Kingston was incorporated by the New York State Department of State. The Petition of Incorporation stated that the object and business of the Organization would be “the mutual improvement of the members through social interests and the cultivation of vocal and instrumental music.”
In 1918 the Maennerchor moved to the McMillen Building on the Strand where their 50th anniversary was celebrated. In the l930’s their current property on Greenkill Avenue was purchased and a new building was dedicated on February 4, 1940.
With the exception of the WWI and WWII years, membership in the Maennerchor has been maintained between 100 and 140 members. The Maennerchor struggled during the years from the beginning of WWI until the end of WWII. After 1945 there was a resurgence of activity and on February 21, 1948 the 80th Anniversary Concert was held. On May 5, 1950 the Organization formally changed its name to the Kingston Maennerchor, Inc.
February 19, 1968, one hundred years after its founding as the Rondout Social Maennerchor, the Kingston Maennerchor and Damenchor, Inc. name was adopted. On this date the Ladies Auxiliary, which had been formed on March 16, 1932, became an equal partner.
With the growth of membership and activities more room was needed and in 1977 a 40-foot addition was begun. The newly expanded hall was dedicated on May 14, 1978 when the members celebrated their 110th anniversary. It is to be noted that although construction of the shell was contracted out most of the interior work was done by members.
Another milestone in the growth of the Maennerchor occurred in the summer of 1997 when the adjacent property to the north was purchased. The building on the site was demolished and a much-needed parking lot was developed. The property was dedicated on October 11, 1998.
Part of the longevity of the Maennerchor can be attributed to the continuity of directors which the chorus has enjoyed over the past sixty-five years. Julius Hochmuth was director for more than 30 years, followed by Dorothy Narel for seven years, Dr. John Galish for fifteen years, Frank Bosher as an interim director for one year and Jerry Hoch for five years. In October 2011 we welcomed Dr. Dorcinda C. Knauth as our new and current Music Director. The chorus has been fortunate to have Sherry Thomas as Assistant Music Director since 2005. Our chorus presents two concerts a year and has done so continually since 1948. They also sing at nursing homes and participate in the Sängerfests (Song Festivals) of the New York State Sängerbund which are held every two years. We are honored to have hosted the 33rd Sängerfest in June 2003 and the 38th Sängerfest in June 2018.
As the Maennerchor has grown over the years, and with more and more non-singers joining, the bylaws have evolved to reflect a growing interest in promoting German language and culture. In that respect one of our concerts is a sing-along specifically structured to involve audience participation in songs sung in English and German. We sponsor scholarships for high school seniors studying the German language or choral music, encourage adults to learn German and host a variety of related activities. On June 24, 2006 the US Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service designated the Maennerchor as a 501c3 not-for-profit public charity.
We are grateful to all those who have helped our organization grow over the 154 years of our existence and are proud to be the longest continually functioning ethnic organization in the City of Kingston. We see the work we are doing today as a strong building block toward keeping our organization and its purpose of the promotion and preservation of German music, culture, and language alive for future generations. We are looking forward to celebrating our 155th anniversary in 2023.