Swiss Singing Society of San Francisco
|The purpose of the Swiss Singing Society is: “To keep alive the songs of Switzerland as they are sung in our native country, to arrange festivals in the various states, and to promote among Swiss the best feeling and understanding.To promote Swiss folk singing, yodeling, and music; foster their common cause; and to encourage friendship and camaraderie among the members of the societies. This purpose shall be carried out mainly by holding song festivals periodically.”||
History of the United Swiss Singing Societies of the Pacific Coast (USSSPC)
Attracted by the natural beauty and spacious stretches of the Pacific Coast, many Swiss immigrants were among the first West Coast settlers. After the newcomers from the valleys and mountains of Switzerland had established themselves in their new homeland, they found the time and means to resume the musical traditions they had acquired in their youth. With large communities established, it was only natural for Swiss singing clubs to be formed.
The Pacific Northwest became the cradle of Swiss singing and yodeling along the Pacific Coast with three well-known male choruses among the singing groups. In 1933, the Helvetia Sänger Club of Portland invited the Männerchor Edelweiss of Tacoma and the Swiss Male Chorus Alpenrösli of Seattle to join them in a combined concert. On January 21, 1934, the 120 male voices performed in the Swiss Hall in Portland. After the concert the presidents of the three choruses met the following day and agreed to form a federation with the title “United Swiss Singing Societies of the Pacific Coast”. The founding fathers were Otto Hausermann, president of the Helvetia Sänger Club, who was presiding, Charles Bischofberger, president of the Männerchor Edelweiss, and Hans Forster, president of the Swiss Male Chorus Alpenrösli.
The purpose of the new organization was described in its first constitution as follows: “To keep alive the songs of Switzerland as they are sung in our native country, to arrange festivals in the various states, and to promote among Swiss the best feeling and understanding.” Some 55 years later, when the constitution was revised, this purpose was slightly enlarged and defined as follows: “To promote Swiss folk singing, yodeling, and music; foster their common cause; and to encourage friendship and camaraderie among the members of the societies. This purpose shall be carried out mainly by holding song festivals periodically.”
Charles Bischofberger was appointed festival president. The three choruses, number more than one hundred voices, presented a so-called Grand Concert on the first day of the Festival, followed by a singing and yodeling folk fest on the second day. Mr. Bischofberger was later awarded the title “Sängervater” (Father of the Singers), an honor that has been bestowed upon every festival president to this day.
The festivals were suspended during World War II, and resumed in 1946 in Seattle. For the next eight years they were held every other year, rotating among the member societies. Beginning in 1954, the interval between Festivals was increased to three years. The Festivals have grown with the addition of ladies and mixed choruses. An all-time high of thirteen choruses participated at the San Diego Festival in 1990. The Enzian Swiss Ladies Chorus of Tacoma, Washington, was the latest chorus to become a member in 1990. While there were only 105 singers in the Tacoma Festival in 1935, 406 participated in San Diego in 1990. The largest group (427 singers) performed when the Swiss Singing Society Harmonie hosted the festival in 1984 at Long Beach, California.
The Swiss Festival to be held in Portland Oregon will be the 26th Festival since their modest beginning in 1935. These Swiss singing choruses have every reason to be proud of their accomplishments in perpetuating the songs, customs and costumes of their native homeland.
Swiss Singing Society of San Francisco
Info: (415) 897-9504
6 Tyler Street
Novato, CA. 94947-4471