Du Liegst mir im Herzen, You Linger in my Heart: Concert Tour of the Stuttgart Choir in the USA
Moderau, Walter. "You Linger in my Heart: Concert Tour of the Stuttgart Choir in the USA." Volk auf dem Weg, October 1997, 19-20.
Translations from German to English by Brigitte von Budde
|Choir of the Homeland at the University of Mary campus, Bismarck, North Dakota, July, 1997.|
The initiative for this trip, which we continued with a rented bus after the flight from Stuttgart to Minneapolis, was taken by Michael M. Miller who is of German-Russian origin and who is involved in genealogy as a bibliographer at the state university in Fargo. The state university in Fargo is located in the state of North Dakota with a population that consists 30 - 40% of descendants of German Russians who settled there between 1874 and 1910. They came mainly from the area of Odessa and from Bessarabia but also from Volhynia and from the Crimean peninsula.
Reason for the emigration was a 1874 law by the Russian Czar, which required all young men to serve in Russias military. At the same time, it limited the special privileges which Catherine II had promised the German "colonist" settlers. During that time, news from America reached Russia: a vast grassland country up to then almost uninhabited was to be settled. Many German Russians, feeling unsure and scared by the new regulations of the Czar, decided to imigrate to America and settled primarily in North Dakota where they turned the prairie into fertile agricultural and grazing land.
Today, the people are proud of their German heritage; some still speak the Swabian dialect that was spoken more than 100 years ago in the former villages of South Russia. They have founded German societies, whose main task is genealogy. The library of the state university in Fargo owns the most extensive documents for this research. Prof. Miller showed us the library and its cultural collections.
Our choir gave its first concert at the 27th annual convention of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society in Jamestown; it was attended by people from throughout USA and even Canada. Approximately 400 listeners were welcomed in English on behalf of the choir by our choir member, Elfriede Moderau, before the performance. There was a banquet the next day; Ruth Klötzel from the business office in Stuttgart extended greetings from the chairman of our society, Alois Reiss, and chairman Anton Wangler. We also had brought along a flag of our society. We viewed with interest the convention exhibit with numerous books and other documents relating to genealogy.
After a three night hospitality with ethnic countrymen in Jamestown, we drove with our bus to Strasburg, the birth place of Prof. Miller. The tiny village is named after the German village near Odessa, carrying the same name and from where the ancestors of most of its people originate. The people of Strasburg are very proud of their beautiful church which they built with their own financial means. We sang some hymns and also folk songs in this church. We paid great attention to the farm of the Wald family with its huge wheat fields and pastures; originally, this family came from Strasburg near Odessa.
We were especially impressed by the almost seemingly unending vastness of the country where our ethnic people are farming and raise cattle. Our travels led us to Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. Our arrival was filmed by TV and shown during the evening news. In Bismarck we visited the capitol where the Governor of the state of North Dakota, Ed Schafer, welcomed us. We sang some folk songs for him which he very much enjoyed. He thanked us and said personally good-bye to each of us.
In Richardton, our next stop, we sang hymns during morning mass in the large monastery which was filled to capacity. The church service was broadcast on TV. Afterwards we enjoyed breakfast which the monks served. Our two English-speaking ladies, Ruth Klötzel and Elfriede Moderau, gave a TV interview expressing their impressions of our trip to America.
At other stops we also had performances during the day, including a senior nursing home, a senior citizen center and a convent for nuns.
Not only our choir but also our soloists, Lydia Klein and Emilie Schwan, as well as the two musicians, Stefan Klötzel and Waldemar Hergert (accordion) met with great approval and had to give encores. Listeners joined us enthusiastically, when we sang Du liegst mir im Herzen. Many concert-goers came from distant places to hear us sing. Even local and regional newspapers wrote about our concerts.
In between our official engagements, we found opportunity to visit North Dakota's places of interest, such as a National Buffalo Museum, an American Indian Museum, a horse parade and a Western musical. We had much time to get acquainted with this region and its people, staying either in hotels or with five guest-families who welcomed us very warmly and fed us well. We thank them.
A pleasant end of our trip was a detour to South Dakota where Tony Schwan, a cousin of our choir members, Lydia Klein and Eugen Schwan, lives. Tony Schwan invited our choir to Aberdeen for a family reunion to which 40 relatives from all parts of the USA came. We had a big buffet, where we experienced some memorable hours with songs, music and dance. The invitation included an over-night stay in a well-appointed hotel. Thank you very much Tony Schwan!
We covered about 2,500 kilometers on our concert tour. We saw and experienced much. Prof. Miller organized the travel events, accompanied us on our tour for our performances and introduced us to audiences when we performed. Thanks to him also. According to his words, it was an historical visit for the German-Russians in North Dakota.
Our appreciation is extended to Brigitte von Budde for translation of this article.
Reprinted with permission of Volk auf dem Weg.