Schwarzwald Chronicle: A Hundred Years of Songs in Ebnet (Satis Shroff)
We’re 100 years old,
You can believe us,
A toast with a glass of wine:
Life is lovely
The text is actually a parody on the song sung by Germany’s oldest singer and actor Johannes Heesters. This song was sung during a traditional evening to celebrate Ebnet’s 100th anneversary. Ebnet is a small town in the outskirts of the historical town of Freiburg. From Freiburg-Kappel you can not only see Ebnet but also the peak Rosskopf and the snuggy towns of Stegen, Buchenbach, Kirchzarten, Oberried and St. Peter in the blue Black Forest Mountains. Ebnet was formerly a bottleneck, as far as commuting by car to and fro from the Black Forest highway was concerned, but a good solution was the B31 tunnel which now speedily brings thousands of commuters from the area.
The festival began on Saturday with a big concert in which Ebnet’s choir sang folk-songs from different countries in the local Allemanic tongue, as well as old German hits, gospels and melodies from operas and operettes. ‘The Dreisam Sparrows’ from Ebnet contributed to the lyrical evening and the blonde opera singer Silke Gäng was a highlight.
The Sunday began with a mass at the local church performed by J.Kienzle and Ruth-Klumbies. The spiritual prayers were concluded with gunfire in the air as a form of salutation, followed by a procession to the Dreisam Hall to the accompaniment of all the associations of Ebnet led by its music-verein with a lot of oomph. After that it was ‘Frühschoppen’ time in the Dreisam Hall, a term used to denote eating and drinking with one’s friends and relatives after church. Such a tradition binds the community and you can talk about your maladies and also business, in case you have new proposals or things need fixing in your household, office or homestead. The personal contact is preferred to the mobile and sms mails among the older generation. The younger generation have their mobiles, I-phones and what-have-yous and talk about going shopping in downtown Freiburg’s Kaiser Joseph Strasse or in Karlsruhe or the nearest town where they have a Burbury’s or a Mango Outlet: Basle, Zürich or Paris. Commuting by car or the sleep, white ICE (inter-city-express) trains.
The Ebnet’s Landfrauen had organised lunch. Landfrauen is a term used for the provincial woman but today there are modern mothers and wives who work in offices and shops and join the women’s association as an important, traditional recreation.
The afternoon was devoted to the different choirs, mixed and predominantly men’s choirs from the Dreisam Valley. The concert commenced with a song ‘Wir laden uns ein’ a song from the operette ‘Die Fledermaus’ by Johann Strauss and sung by the mixed choir of Gesangverein Ebnet, followed by ‘So schön wie heut’ and the Irish Journey Blessing. The conductor was Sabine Pander, a tall young brunette on the piano.
We from the Männergesangsvewrein Kappel ‘Liederkranz’ sang: ‘Durch’s Wiesental gang I jetzt na,’ a sad song about someone who collects flowers from the meadows, goes to the grave of her beloved but he isn’t in the grave and has taken another woman. I love the refrain ‘I han kai Schätzle meh!’ I don’t have a beloved anymore. An expression of the loss of love. The other song we sang was: a farewell heimat song entitled ‘Nun ade du mein lieb Heimatland,’ a song which emphasises that the singer has to leave his home country and go a-wandering and bids adieu. The third song was ‘Sonnenaufgang’ composed by Peter Cornelius in 1843. A song about the longing evoked by the purple glow of the mountains; the sun which is called ‘O heavenly light’ as in many cultures like the ‘Surya namaskar’ (worship of the sun at the beginning of the day among the Hindus). The singer pleads for a storm of the night after which the sun should shine in its old glory.
The choir Edelweiss from Buchenbach in light grey blazers sang ‘Freunde, lass uns singen, Sing mit mir and Reinhard May’s popular song from the late 70’s ‘Über den Wolken,’ a Luftwaffe or Lufthansa pilot’s delight. The conductor was Dieter Agricola, a burly, bespectacled guy with powerful fingers. It made me think of Horowitz.
The singers from ‘Schwarzwald’ Oberried sang Luigi Denza’s popular ‘Funiculi, Funicula’ followed by a Dalmatian folk-song ‘Kadsi bila mala mare’ with Michael Weh as its conductor. Liederkranz Zarten sang Otto Groll’s ‘Das Aue Maria der Berge’, Ulrich Furrer’s ‚Nach Süden sich nun lenken’ and Walter Hart’s Ein frohes Lied, to cheer us up.
The men’s choir Kirchzarten came up with Toni Ortelli’s well-known ‚La Montanara, Franz Philipp’s ‘In einem Wiesental’ and an Allemanic Volksweise Z’Mülle an die Post.
The long, delightful afternoon was brought to a good end with all the men’s choirs of the Dreisam valley singing the following songs: H. Casimir’s ‘Breisgauer Sängergruss, P. Pracht’s Morgenrot, conducted by Sabine Pander.
Great folksongs on an otherwise drizzling afternoon at the Dreisamhalle in Ebnet. This small town on the right bank of the river Dreisam, which flows through Freiburg, maintains contact with Innsbruck, Tirol. It is a pity that young people don’t want to sing and uphold this wonderful tradition of the Gesangsverein. Ebnet is a typical example of this tendency among the youth of Germany. In 1993 a group called ‘Young Singers’ and a Children’s Choir were founded and the singers in Ebnet were elated and hoped more young blood would join the singer association. By 2001 there was there was no one who was interested in singing the old traditional German songs (Deutsche Liedergut) and the ‘Young Singers’ became a thing of the past. The youth prefer listening to their downloads in their MP3s and mobiles and it’s English songs from the USA or UK they prefer or German rap and Heavy Metal and not songs about the holy mountains and heimat.
In 1939 when there was World War II in Europe, the choir-activities came to an abrupt end. There was no time for singing except for old Soldier’s songs and Lale Anderson’s version of ‘Lili Marleen.’ Actually this song with text by Hans Leib and music by Norbert Schultz becume an international solder’s song which was very popular and has been parodied a lot. I remember travelling to the Isle of Langeoog (North Sea) where this song and Lale Anderson’s memories still lingered there. (Do read my article on Langeoog). Like the Männergesangsverein Kappel, a lot of singers died during the krieg or were reported missing. It was in 1947 that a new start was made through the permission of the Occupation Powers. The country was divided into the Canadian, US, British, Soviet, French sectors. In Ebnet and Kappel’s case it was the French authorities. In 1950 there was a big concern and festival to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gesangsverein Ebnet. But when the men, who’d experienced hardships in the krieg, started dying out, the men’s choir like everywhere in the country changed their names to ‘Gesangsverein’ or ‘Chorvereinigung’ like in Hochdorf whereby the ladies became the new members.