Homeland Choir Tours Strasburg Area

Wald, Katie Glatt. "Homeland Choir Tours Strasburg Area." Emmons County Record, 2 September 1997.

As my husband, Felix, and I were attending the 27th annual convention of the Germans from Russia held at the Jamestown Civic Center at Jamestown, we had the great pleasure of meeting many members of this Homeland Choir.

The Friday evening, July 18 performance at 8 p.m. in the Civic Center, as part of the GRHS convention entertainment, brought together a record crowd. Many people off the street, were in attendance to hear the beautiful voices of this German choir.

Sunday morning, July 20, the group’s journey took them to Streeter High School Gym at 8 p.m. Here again, there was a large crowd in attendance, the choir members stayed with host families at Jamestown, Streeter, Strasburg, Bismarck and Richardton.

Monday, July 21, the Homeland choir departed from Streeter and were met at Napoleon by John and Margaret Gross along with Felix and Katie Wald.

After a most interesting tour through the Logan County Museum with local tour guides, John and Leo Gross, Anton G. Schatz, Joe Fettig, Matt Gross and Mr. And Mrs. George Lubbers, among others explaining and answering questions as to the use of various tools, equipment, etc., including a home, church, school, train depot, hand operated printing press, stationary engine and much much more. Your trip to visit this museum is a must. The beloved German people even sang a few numbers in the little church, and yes, Leo Gross played the piano and sang a beautiful number in the house.

It was lunch time as we all gathered in the Korner Bar and Café at Napoleon for a delicious dinner of ham and chicken with all the trimmings. John and Margaret Gross were in charge of all the arrangements in Napoleon. Entertainment by John and Margaret Gross, Mike Welder playing the harmonica and everyone including local area residents joined in singing German songs as sung by our generation and also the Stuttgart Choir. What a wonderful time.

But all too soon, it was time to move on and head out for Strasburg. After a visit to the Sts. Peter & Paul cemetery, as these people are very anxious to find names of relatives, the choir had time to practice at the Sts. Peter & Paul Church. After which a potluck dinner was hosted by our local GRHS members and all the host couples. As the group of about 70 people gathered in the Blue Room and enjoyed their evening dinner, many more people from the area started coming in to see and meet these wonderful people of the Homeland Choir.

Soon after the tables were cleared, the evening’s fun and entertainment began-as additional members of the Young German Singers (Kasmier and Ann Wald, Julius and Carol Vetter, August and Loretta Vetter and John and Margaret Gross) came and joined our GRHS members with Ben Vetter on the accordion. The joyful singing began, with the singing group of the Homeland and our Strasburg people joining together as a family to sing with their hearts of joy in being able to come together in America.

Later dear friends of mine, Victor and Barbara Wald of Napoleon, joined us also. Victor with his accordion started the rhythm beat of polkas and waltzes and wow! Our groups intermingled and danced just like old times – oh, what a great time as the seating was fully occupied with spectators.

Katie Wald introduced all the host couples and the choir members for their two night stay at Strasburg as the evenings together had to come to an end.

Tuesday, July 22, Felix and Katie (tour guides for the day) started with a 9 a.m. visit to the Lawrence Welk Homestead farm. Rosemary Schaefbauer and Elaine Wald assisted with explanations of Lawrence’s life on the farm and his musical world. The choir members were most interested and knew about Lawrence Welk, purchasing many souvenirs as a remembrance.

From there, our next stop took us to the pioneer cemetery just outside of Hague. This was another point of interest, many indicating that the wrought iron crosses are indeed very similar to some in the Homeland.

Our visit to the beautiful St. Mary’s Catholic Church at Hague was an inspiration for everyone, as Katie Wald shared a brief message on the struggle of our fore fathers to rebuild this historic site after it was so tragically destroyed by fire in 1929.

With a little free time before lunch, the choir sang several numbers for practice. Oh, how beautiful sounded and how proud I was to have this Homeland Choir of Germany perform in our church. If only Fr. Niebler could have been with us.

Now, we are off to the Hague Café for our noon lunch, and it is a German Day menu, of course: with bean soup, apple and pumpkin blachinda, fry bread and my special request, cheese buttons! Our dear friends tried to sample and test everything by sharing with each other. However, it all was so good, they just ordered more and more, enjoying it all so much. They said "This is just how we used to eat at home." Stefan Kloetzel commented over and ever again-"It’s been 54 years since I last had pumpkin blachinda-since 1943 when my mother last prepared some for me." Our host couples did not have to prepare a big supper that day.

In order to also give them a fuller understanding about our heritage and way of life on the farm, our next visit took us to the Wald farm (Duane and Eileen, our son and daughter-in-law) seeing the large equipment used today, the grain and corn fields, large round bales-they were amazed at how much hay the farmer needs for his livestock.

On our return trip from Hague to Strasburg we made a brief stop at our home for a cold drink and a short visit. The choir members were rather anxious to get back to their host couples for a little relaxation and time to get ready for the evening performance.

As scheduled, the evening performance was at 8 p.m. in Sts. Peter & Paul Church. Low and behold the church was filled. People came from Mobridge, Selby, Pollock and Herreid, S. D., Linton, Hazelton, Moffit, Wishek and Zeland to mention just a few that I am aware of.

The crowd listened very attentively and applauded, also giving very generously for their free-will collection (which was to help them pay for the long trip to America). Special attractions of the choir were Thomas Backer, 16, who played the trumpet, with certain numbers that gave you goose bumps, duet singers Lydia Klein and Emilie Schwan were always asked to sing "Louisa." Words cannot describe the inner feeling that would overcome the audience as these people of our Homeland performed. Conductor/choir master-Marina Bauer is the daughter of Alexander and Lydia Klein. Lydia is a sister Eugene Schwan. Wendelin Backer, father of Thomas and brother of Emilie Schwan, Barbara Martin, sister-in-law of Klemens and Amalie Martin.

Lack of time just did not permit really getting into family relations to a big extent. Only brief conversations revealed names like Schumacher and Schwartzenberger. Mr. and Mrs. Schwan of Strasburg and also Schwans attended the GRHS convention. The entire group attended a Schwan family reunion at Aberdeen, S. D.

Mr. And Mrs. Schwan (whom we had the pleasure of hosting along with Stefan and Ruth Kloetzel) and Mr. And Mrs. Klein, also indicated a relation going into the Walds and some that they are even acquainted with. It’s a small world, but yet so many miles apart.

Many comments heard were, "I still can’t believe it-that we finally got out of Siberia to Germany and not to America." These good-hearted people were overjoyed people were to be here and spend time with us.

A reception for the public was held in the church’s downstairs dining hall following the performance. This was also filled to capacity, with our local GRHS members hosts for the occasion, serving a variety of goodies, coffee and lemonade. The choir sang several more jolly numbers like "Musikan" accompanied by Waldemar Hergert on the accordion. Waldemar Hergert and Stefan Kloetzel on the Balalaika (a Russian instrument) also played duets together as two of the ladies danced a Russian dance (very enjoyable to watch).

It was through the efforts of Michael Miller, NDSU, that the Heimatklaenge Choir came to America and North Dakota. Michael attended each performance with them and asked each member to introduce themselves with a brief note on their life. Their stories were all very sad, having lived in Kassachstan, Siberia-many losing a loved one-(who was taken and never seen again).

Life had been very difficult for most of them, but they are rejoicing and glad to be back in their homeland (Germany).

Wednesday morning, July 23, the time had come for their departure to Bismarck for the next two days. It was picture taking time as the choir members all gathered in Lawrence Welk Park with their host families. This was one big, happy family as Michael Miller also joined us and took group photos.

With hugs, kisses and tears, our last good-byes were said, and everyone waving as the bus slowly made its last turn out of Strasburg.

After spending two full days with these dear and kind-hearted people, we have come to be so close that we attended the concert in Bismarck just to see them one more time. Isadore Gross, local GRHS member, also attended.

It was such pleasure to spend this time with these people, who spoke very little English, but that was no problem, I am sure the Homeland Choir members of Stuttgart, Germany, will always remember Strasburg.

The Logan County Community Church is located at the Logan County Museum. Ruth and Stefan Kloetzel stand in the foreground.
The day’s tour included a stop at the Pioneer Cemetery near Hague with Felix Wald answering many of their questions.
On our farm visit, Felix and Katie Wald explained the use of various large equipment at their farm.
Stuttgart Choir members are pictured in the wheat field near the yard where they asked numerous questions and offered comments. As choir member, Lydia Klein, commented to me at the end of the day, "Oh yes, Katie, today I learned a lot, and it was most interesting." The choir members, our friends, thanked us over and over again for the wonderful time we had together.
The Homeland Choir, including all host couples, is pictured at the Lawrence Welk Park, minutes before their departure. Host couples are Andy and Regina Senger, Felix and Katie Wald, Oscar and Isabel Ternes, Pius and Benedict Scherr, Delores Hulm Dramer, Rita Gefre, Mike and Theresa Wold, Albert and Ange Feist and Magnus and Helen Heidrich. Bus driver, Clem Heidt of Dickinson, is pictured at the right.
The German Choir is pictured after a gourmet luncheon at D & D’s Korner Bar at Napoleon.

Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.


Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller