Ready to Sing in Joy and Suffering (Satis Shroff)
The men’s choir in Kappel has a flag with the motto: ‘Ready to Sing in Joy and Suffering’. The flag is the pride of the men’s choir and accompanies a member to his grave and it is the most natural thing for every member of the verein (association).
I remember we sang at the funeral of one of our dear members Lambert Weis. After we’d sung our sad song Richard Linder, who’s the most active member and standard bearer, lowered the massive, ornamental flag into the open grave thrice as a homage to the deceased. You could hear the blonde daughter-in-law and his eldest son weeping audibly. I’ve never seen a man cry so loudly in public. It moved you to tears.
The German word ‘Fahne’ means a flag and is derived from the olde German language (Althochdeutsch) in which ‘fono’ means linen. The Männergesangverein (MGV) flag is made of heavy cloth fixed with embroidery at the four ends. One side is dark green and the other is beige with the words: Männer Gesang Verein ‘Liederkranz’ Kappel and the above mentioned words:
In Freud and Leid,
Zum Lied Bereit.
A red lyra and green leaves are painted on it. This standard (flag)is unique and bears an individual character. The first flag in the western world was the Roman vexillum with military connotations and became a Reichsfahne under Konstatin I. The Catholic developed its own church flag in the 10th century.
It might be mentioned that Nepal has a quaint flag from the times of the Shah dynasty and had its origin in Vedic times. The chariot of the Hindu God Krishna shows a similar triangle-shaped flag with the elements as symbols. The vedas are the Sacred Lore of the Hindus written in the old form of Sanskrit between 1500 and 1000 BC. This Sacred Lore has been has been passed on as mantras and hymns from four great literary collections, the best-known being the Rig Veda. The Upanishads have their origin in 500 BC.
It was the Emperor Heinrich II who introduced the lance with the flag in the 12th century. In accordance with the sovereignity symbol, the flag became a territorial symbol. The beginning of the men’s choir dated back to the 19th century when, after the French Revolution, the citizens began to organise themselves in theatre groups and music societies. One of the first associations (verein) was the one founded by Karl Friedrich Zelter in 1809, which was called ‘Liedertafel.’ Most of its members were poets, composers and professional singers, and this Liedertafel was an elite group. The development of the folks-choir came from Switzerland under Hans Georg Nägeli.
The newly founded choirs that started shooting up began to compete with each other and soon there were well-organised song-festivals in an atmosphere of with friendship and competitive songs The choirs began to create regional organisations like the Badische Sängerbund founded in 1862. The Badische alone had 1435 associations in 1987 with 245,886 members. The MGV Kappel, as an example of a choir, is normally led by the vorstand (chairman) with the first (Klaus Sütterle) and second (Richard Linder) chairpersons, a cashier (Rainer Keller), a writer (Satis Shroff), a Beisitzer and a conductor (Johannes Söllner).
The song ‘Freut euch des Leben’ is 200 years old and was composed by a tradesman from Zürich named Johann Martin Usteri (1763-1827). This song became a hit during the time of Goethe and took pandemic proportions world wide. It was also the favourite song of Goethe’s mother. In the course of the 19th century this song became popular in the whole of Europe, in Norway, the Russian Steppes, South Africa and even in the USA. The song goes thus:
Freut euch des Lebens,
Weil noch das Lämpchen glüht;
Pflucket die Rose,
Eh’ sie verblüht.
Man schafft so gern sich Sorg’ und Müh,
Sucht Dornen auf und findet sie,
Und lässt das Veilchen unbemerkt,
Das uns am Wege blüht.
Some of Germany’s famous songs are ‚Königskinder, Goethe’s ‘Heideröslein,’ Mathias Claudius’ ‘Abendlied’ also known by children as a song about the moon: ‘Der Mond ist aufgegangen.’
People sing songs because they have the power to motivate us, and change our spirits from sadness and melancholy into those of joy, longing and happiness. However, folk songs don’t always make us cheerful. In the love songs, the dominating themes are: love-sickness, separation due to a journey being undertaken, a krieg or bidding farewell to one’s home country, one’s beloved or family. On the other hand, there are songs devoted to different professions. The heavy weight to be carried during work, the dangers of the working place under the earth in coal-mines, quarries, fishing out in the North Sea. Or work in the mountains during tunnel-building, dangerous jobs as mountain-guides where a precipice, avalanche or flood can bring life to an end. Then we have the Soldatenlieder (songs of the soldiers) and their anticipation of death and angst. There are newspaper songs (Zeitungslieder) and Bänklesang which have lyrics about horrible crimes, family tragedies misfortune and natural calamities.
During World War II, many of the MGV Kappel singers had to serve under the Third Reich and were sent to the front. The men’s choir was decimated by the war. On May 8,1945 the great wandering of people to be gassed in Europe’s concentration camps came to a stop. The people stood in front of bombed towns buried beneath heaps of ashes and debris. Processions and gatherings of people were forbidden by the Great Powers in the different sectors of Germany. It was in July 13, 1947 that the MGV ‘Liederkranz’ Kappel was given formal permission by the French Military Government to get together and sing. On July 16-17, 1950 a founder festival has held and the Kappeler verein’s flag was blessed by a priest in a ritual ceremony. The verein ‘Frohsinn’ Littenweiler’s chairman handed the traditional flag to the new flag bearer Lambert Weis.
Lambert passed away this summer, one of the few members who were small boys when there was war in Europe. Richard Linder holds this traditional position now.