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Published: Tuesday, 1/20/2009

Like to sing? Two German choruses are looking for you

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Wanted: Male singers - especially tenors - to help sustain a German chorus that got its start 142 years ago at a former downtown Toledo beer garden.

No need to understand German. Auditions are not required. Drinking beer is optional.

Teutonia Mannerchor, the Toledo area's oldest continuing performing-arts organization, hopes to more than double its roster of active singers to 40. Tenors are especially in need for the chorus, which rehearses weekly and has members from Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, Monroe, and Hancock counties.

"Our chorus has gotten older, people have dropped out, people leave for job changes," said Tim Pecsenye, president and a member since 1975. "We've had some attrition."

The chorus performs a variety of songs in German and English, ranging from silly to sacred. Teutonia Mannerchor and its 40-year-old women's counterpart, Teutonia Damenchor, hold two annual concerts at Oak Shade Hall in Oregon, sing at other events, host choruses from elsewhere, and have various fund-raisers.

"It's one of the oldest ethnic groups still going," said the Rev. Jim Van Brussel, a member since 1993 and spokesman for the two choruses.

Teutonia Damenchor has about 25 active members, at least 15 of whom are German natives, said Kris Abel, president of the women's choir and a member for 26 years.

Teutonia Mannerchor welcomes prospective members to drop by weekly practices from 8:15 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays at Oak Shade Hall, 3624 Seaman Rd., Oregon. The women's and it too is looking for more singers, especially second sopranos and altos.

The two choruses participate in national and district song festivals, including a planned trip to San Antonio next year. Some members would like to revive German concert tours, which the choruses haven't done for more than a decade, Mr. Pecsenye said.

"I'd like to see it - if we get the right infusion of singers," he said.

Teutonia Mannerchor continues to host choruses from Europe, including 30 singers from Dresden, Germany, last fall. It is part of the German-American Festival Society, which holds the popular gathering at Oak Shade Hall, slated for Aug. 28 to 30 this year.

"We're very proud of the Toledo area," Mr. Pecsenye said. "We're very proud of our group out in Oregon."

While Teutonia Mannerchor continues to promote its German roots, some aspects of the singing and social group have changed since its founding at the former Entemann's Garten at Monroe and St. Clair streets in 1867.

Singers no longer have to be of German descent, much less German birth. Not all songs are sung in German.

And, within the last couple of years, the chorus adopted a rule prohibiting alcohol use during actual rehearsals. Some singers have a beer or two beforehand, however, and Oak Shade Hall's private clubhouse is conveniently located near the rehearsal area, Mr. Pecsenye said.

"We go into the clubhouse afterwards for a little conviviality and a few brewskies," he said.



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