THE SAENGERFEST OF 1908
The most publicized event to take place in [Indianapolis between 1905 and 1908] was the 1908 Saengerfest of the North American Saengerbund. This festival was undoubtedly the largest and most brilliant musical festival ever to be held in the state of Indiana. The city became ablaze with flags and bunting to welcome the 75,000 guests for the events, 4,000 of whom were Germans from outside the city. The first concert, on the night of June 17, was a wonderful success. A reporter noticed that outside of a brief welcome in English, the entire proceedings were carried out in German.
The orchestra for the festival was none other than the New York Symphony under the direction of Walter Damrosch, who came from Breslau, Germany, and became America's most influential music director between 1885 and 1927. Among other special features were: an address by Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks, a Maennerchor faithful; a chorus of 2,000 children from the Indianapolis public schools; and a picnic at Germania Park. Concerts were held each night from June 17 through June 21 at the State Coliseum, where at the first concert a group of 2,500 men sang in a massed chorus. The audiences varied from 5,800 to 10,000, but this figure does not include the singers themselves, who numbered well over two thousand. While the festival cost $40,000, the surplus amounted to $10,000.
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Updated: 29 April 2004, RKB
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