Thursday, August 13, 2015

Liederkranz der Stadt New York

There are more than 49 million people with German ancestry in the United States, a number that accounts for 16 percent of the American population. In the 1670s the first significant groups of German immigrants arrived in America, settling primarily in New York and Pennsylvania.  Europe's tragic loss of 1848 became America's gain. After the dissolution of the Frankfurt Parliament and the failure of the democratic revolution, thousands of Germans reluctantly left their homes to seek freedom and greater opportunity in the New World. Between 1847 and 1858 almost two million Germans entered the United States.  From 1850-1870 German was the most widely used language in the United States after English.

Immigration continued  during the 19th century, with eight million arrivals from Germany. By the 1850s, New York had become the principal port of arrival for German immigrants.
Germany has always been known for its brilliant musicians, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Frederic Handel, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Joseph Haydn, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann. Professor  Albert Bernhard Faust of Cornell University, in his work, "The German Element in the United States" says: "The thesis may be maintained without hesitation, that the Germans are responsible for the development of musical taste in the United States." The symphony orchestras in Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston were founded by German Americans.


 One Sunday afternoon in the fall of 1846 a group of 150 men were assembled in the Shakespeare Hotel on William Street, New York City, as the result of an invitation published in the New York newspapers.
The speaker said: "Gentlemen, those who are really interested in the founding  of a male singing society in New York please contribute twenty-five cents each to a common fund to finance its organization."
The final accounting showed a fund of $6.25 contributed by twenty-five men. These twenty-five enthusiastic men who first met in the fall of  1846 finally organized the club under the name " Liederkranz der Stadt New York" at a meeting on January 9th, 1847.  The young but energetic society went into action immediately. Its first concert was held on May 17th of the same year at Apollo Hall.


By 1861, the society was invited to sing with the Philharmonic Society Orchestra, and its performances of Wagner excerpts at the Metropolitan Opera House and in Boston and Philadelphia were among the first performances of Wagner in the United States. The year 1861 brought new responsibilities. War disrupted the peaceful plans of the club. One-fifth of the former club's members (over 100) served in the Union Army— four returned with the rank of Brigadier General.
In 1919 the club changed the name to “The Liederkranz of the City of New York”. Its official language was  changed from German to English. After the Second World war the number of the club members drastically reduced and the club had to  sell his large building at eat 59 street and later   the Henry Phipps townhouse   was purchased.


Phipps estate in Long Island

 The Henry Phipps family of the United States was founded by Henry W. Phipps, Jr., the son of an English shoemaker who emigrated in the early part of the 19th century to Philadelphia.  His son Henry Phipps Jr. was a lifelong friend and business partner of Andrew Carnegie. The second-largest shareholder in Carnegie Steel, he had a brilliant mind for finance and accumulated one of the 100 largest fortunes in American history.  In 1901, Phipps sold his holdings in the Carnegie Company -- which he owned with Andrew Carnegie -- to J. P. Morgan for more than $50 million. He had lived in Pittsburgh, and in 1904 he built   an elegant 6-story granite and limestone townhouse    at 6 East 87th Street, on Manhattan's Upper Eastside across from Central Park and Fifth Avenue's Museum Mile.



Jay Phipps, son of Henry Phipps had bought over 175 acres of Long Island property and built there a magnificent mansion, the most well-preserved of the original gold coast estates. I wrote about his estate, Old Westbury Gardens, in one of my posts.


There is a beautiful statue  of  Polyhymnia, the Greek goddess of poetry, by Giuseppe Moretti just to the left of the house.  Unveiled in 1896, she commemorates the 50th anniversary of the German art and music society. The statue was relocated from the club's earlier headquarters on East 58th Street when it moved in 1949.
Giuseppe Moretti   was one of the world's most renowned sculptors. Moretti worked on the base of the Statue of Liberty, and his heroically scaled 56-foot-tall, 60-ton Vulcan, still the world's tallest cast-iron statue, won the Grand Prize at the St. Louis Exposition of 1904. 
In the middle of the 20th century, before the club, the mansion was used by  the   Soviet Government   as a private school for the children of the Soviet consulate employees.


Daytonian in Manhattan wrote
About 70 Russian children attended school in the former mansion, which was partially converted to living quarters for some teachers.  But the school had barely begun operating when building inspectors reported violations, saying “as a school it needed fire escapes, a sprinkler system to guard against fires, and other special facilities.”  As a private home, these were unnecessary; but now as a multiple dwelling and school facility, they were required by law.
The Russians claimed diplomatic immunity against New York law and refused to comply.  Mayor La Guardia preferred not to rock any diplomatic boats and looked the other way.  But in 1947, with a new administration, the City lost patience when the Soviets refused to pay its water bill.Threatened with eviction, the Soviet Government went to court.  Then, somewhat abruptly on June 2, 1948, newspapers announced “The Russian Private School at 6 East Eighty-seventh Street, conducted since 1941 for the children of Soviet Union officials and employes in the New York area, will be closed when its term ends tomorrow.”  The children, aged 9 to 18 years, were returned to the Soviet Union.



For many years the Liederkranz has (usually two per season) and occasional presentations of operas in concert.
  Every year Liederkranz Opera Theatre produces fully  staged operas and operettas, usually two per year. Last year the theatre produced  'Madame Butterfly'  by Puccini and ' La fille de regiment' by Donizetti. This year is not announced yet