Heimat Choir

Heimat Choir History

As we are celebrating the 35th Anniversary of our Heimat Choir, it is only proper to look back and record some of the history. I went back through the Choir documents for the past 35 years; it will not be easy to tell in a short talk of the many important periods of our existence. As with any group of people the Choir's history consists of diver's personalities which have shaped the destiny of our Heimat Choir.

We can read in the New Homeland, February edition 1975 in the Secretary's report: "Attention to all singers or those who think they can sing: the foundation meeting of a Rhein Donau Club mixed Choir has been arranged for Thursday, 6th February, 1975 at 8pm at the Club. Every Member is cordially invited to attend. Signed, David Zeller."

According to the minutes taken on the day, 34 members attended the meeting and the Choir was officially formed. Konrad Hopfmüller was elected as the first group leader and Georg Berlach as our choirmaster. Tuesday, the 11th was suggested for the next meeting and everyone present would be tested by George to see if he or she was suitable for the Choir. 30 Members started with Georg in the weekly rehearsals. At times we must have stretched his patience to the limit. After many suggestions of a name, on the 6th of May 1975 the name "Heimat Chor" was suggested by Rita Zeller and selected by the members.

At the next A.G.M. Gustav Jerke was elected as the second Group Leader, as Konrad went for a 6 months' trip to Germany. Due to ill health 18 months later, Konrad was once again elected group leader until his resignation after some problems in the Committee. As Club-Secretary, I was unable to be elected as group leader at the time, so I stepped into the acting position, until a new group leader could be found.

Wally Cluss was elected to the position on 9th September 77 and served until the AGM 79. During this time we celebrated the 150th anniversary of WA and had many public performances all over the region. After some unrest in the Choir, mainly about the number of performances and disagreements about the selection of songs a new committee was elected. At the AGM 79, David Zeller was elected the 4. Group Leader and served the choir from the end of March 1979 until mid-April 1983.

During this time we attended our first German Sängerfest in Adelaide 1978, the 4th Festival of German Songs. The trip cost us $ 9,000.00, the Choir paid out of the kitty $ 3,000.00 towards it. At this time our ladies also received the blue dirndls from Germany just in time for the trip. For our first Sängerfest attendance, a banner was produced designed by Georg and donated to the choir by Helmut Watzek and David and Rita Zeller.

In September 1979 Georg had to retire as choirmaster due to a heart attack. During our Hawaiian Dance on the 2nd February 1980 we gave Georg an outstanding farewell performance appreciated by all present. We also performed in many public places and in the Concert Hall in Perth. The choir consisted at the time of 44 Members. In 1981 the Heimat Choir elected George Berlach and Konrad Hopfmüller as the first Honorary Life Members.

After some help from Norm Snow, the Conductor of our Brass Band for the next few months, we were able to obtain the services of Frank Arndt as from 4 December 1979 to his retirement due to ill health in November 1985.

He also introduced during this time David Helfgott to give recitals during our Concerts with the Karrinyup Symphony Orchestra from 1980 and David was our Choir pianist from July1982 to October1983. These regular performances with us were David's first public performances after his illness and helped a lot to rehabilitate him.

At a performance in the Perth Concert Hall on 31 March 1980 we received a letter of thanks from the organizers "As you must have been aware, by the thunderous applause, the singing of your choir was outstanding." In 1980 we attended the 5. Sängerfest in Melbourne. With the song of Ländliches Fest and An der schönen blauen Donau our performance was excellent. The cost of this trip was $14,100.00 the contribution of the choir was $ 10,000.00, 35 Choir Members made the trip. In February 1981 and we were able to buy a Baby Grand Piano for $ 3700.00.for the Rhein Donau Hall. The Choir paid $1400.00 towards the cost of the Baby Grand Piano.

At the AGM 1983 the Members elected as the new Group Leader Hilda Billstein. In 1984 Gustav Jerke was elected as Honorary Life Member. February 1985 we celebrated our 10th Anniversary and each member received a 10-year Heimat Choir badge. As we prepared for the trip to Melbourne the tension in the Choir rose somewhat. At the AGM 1985 half the committee resigned along with the Group Leader. After much discussion I once again let myself be elected as Group Leader. We attended the 7th Sängerfest in Melbourne on 8 June 1985. Due to the late preparation and due to the ill health of the choirmaster, some of the songs selected were not up to the usual standard.

The trip cost the choir aprox. $ 17,000.00, each singer receiving $ 420.00 for the attendance. 42 choir members took part. Largely due to our Oktoberfest Food Stall over the years, our choir was reasonably well financed.

In November 1985 our choir elected Dorothea Waschk as Choirmaster. The Heimat Choir progressed steadily and we concentrated mainly on Club functions and some concert performances in old people's homes. We also had many more social functions within the Choir like BBQ's and Dinners and bus trips to Bunbury to keep up our spirits, as taking part in a Sängerfest over East came to be too costly for most of our members. Some members left the choir leaving us with a shortage in the bass and later also in the tenor sections. For a while consideration was made to turn the Choir into a Ladies Choir. In May 1989 Dorothea left the Choir to move to Denmark in the South West of WA.

In July 1989 we were able to contact Jacek Slawomirski. He insisted on having a few practice sessions with the choir. On the 8th of August the committee was delighted to appoint Jacek as our Choirmaster with the addition of his wife Dorothea as the new pianist and assistant conductress. Their dedication to German music and songs has greatly enhanced the Heimat Choir. In my report at the AGM 1990 we read: "Since their appointment our Heimat Choir has improved greatly and members and guests have commented very favorably on our performances. We hope they will be able to be with our Heimat Choir for many years to come". To give the choir a boost, we opted to attend the 9th Sängerfest held in Tanunda during June 1991. All who attended had a very good time and the performance and spirit of the trip was extraordinary. The trip cost the Choir $ 12,900.00 and each of the 30 choir members received from the Choir $ 430.00 assistance. Unfortunately Jacek could not attend due to professional commitments, but Dorothea was able to conduct us very successfully. We still remember our shivering in the cold tent as it was raining outside prior to the performance. "A bottle of Schnapps wouldn't have gone astray".

In 1993 for the first time, an Australian German Choir, the "Adelaider Liedertafel 1858" visited the Rhein Club and we held a "Bunter Abend" and the next day a Concert in the Rhein Donau Hall. Both functions were well attended and thoroughly enjoyed by our visitors As the club members get older, so do the choir members and during the past years our membership has shrunk somewhat down to 32to 35 members. We read in the report of 93 " some of our members are not supporting our choir fully'. Our choirmaster can only do so much to improve our performances."

In early 1994 our Choirmaster Jacek & Dorothea resigned and after some searching we elected Egbert Guichard as choirmaster. Being a professional teacher, but only English speaking, we had moments of problems with our German songs and pronunciation but most of us remember him by being told "to sit up straight and not to cross your legs". I'm sure most of us were thinking if only we were able to get Jacek and Dorothea back. At this point we finished the year with 29 members.

During February 1995 we celebrated our 20th Anniversary with a dinner and later in the year with a Family Concert with the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. From an AGM report 1995: "As I had been elected President of the Rhein Donau Club the year before, my commitments to the Club had to take preference and I looked around for a new Group Leader. After a total of 14 years as your group leader, David felt he had served his share of responsibility and sincerely hoped a new group leader would bring some new life and new choir members into the group."

On 11 April 1995. Marlene Porzig was elated Group Leader. In May Edgar Guichard was transferred to Queensland and the choir was able to call on Dorothea Slawomirski to be our new Choir Mistress until August 1997. The choir once again got some new members and we were on the way up in performance and spirit. In April the same year, a dispute arose over the Heimat Choir photo records since its foundation. The librarian, Lore Wirthenson insisted she collect and preserve the photo records as her private album and refused to hand it over to the choir. After representation of the Club President we were able to settle the dispute by colour photo copying the whole album. Peter Huber donated the cost for this. On Oct. 17, David Zeller was elected Honorary Member of the Heimat Choir.

In August 1997 we obtained once again the services of Jacek as Choirmaster with Dorothea standing in for him in his absence whenever required. We also decided to attend the 11th Sängerfest in Brisbane held in June 1998. This decision gave renewed interest within the choir. The cost was estimated at $ 700.00 per person with the choir paying $ 100.00 towards the airfare and accommodation and official dinner costs.

The Heimat Choir made a holiday trip out of it with plenty of time for sightseeing. "Generally, a good time was had by all and the whole trip was well organized by our Group leader Marlene Porzig. The cost was very well worth it and we look forward to the next Sängerfest to be held in Mt Barker next year. During the official dinner, David Zeller received the honorary pin of the German Choral Association Inc. "Australischer Sängerbund. "Für Verdienste um das Chorwesen." (For sevices to the Choir)"

1999 was a very busy year with 20 performances during the year. The Heimat Choir was able to welcome some new recruits and at the end of the year there were 39 active choir members. In March 99 the three Foundation Members: Peter Huber, Rose Mellor and Rita Zeller had been elected Honorable Life Members of the Heimat Choir.

In 2000, 11 Choir Members received a 25 -year-Anniversary needle from the Australian Sängerbund. Peter Huber, Ernst Kurz, Rose Mellor, Olga Pfaff, Franz Prandl, Hanni Prandl, Emma Rogers, Gerda Rohr, Gisela Werner Rita Zeller, David Zeller.

The highlight of the year in 2002 was the attendance of our Choir at the 12th German Sängerfest in Mt. Barker SA. 23 Heimat Choir members and our conductor Jacek Slawomirski and 10 guest travellers were attending the Festival. Due to the shortage of accommodation in Mt Barker, we booked into a Motel in Adelaide and travelled to and from Mt. Barker with 2 mini buses at a cost of $ 2500.00. The weather was cold and rainy at the venue and we had to make up for some choir relaxation in Adelaide to have some fun time. At the Annual-Meeting of the Australian Sängerbund, Perth was chosen for the 13th German Sängerfest to be held in 2005.

In June 2002 Jacek introduced Martin Rein as our new conductor as Jacek was unable to continue due to other commitments. As Martin was a young German conductor very good at playing the piano and organ, the choir lost somewhat the ability to sing without the piano to the regret of some choir members. We definitely lost some of the sparkle and enjoyment of singing a cappella and the ability to have more balanced choir performances. We were fortunately to have some new members joining our choir for the planned Sängerfest to be held in Perth.

At the AGM in 2005 I was once again elected as our group leader. It looks like, that history repeated itself, as Marlene Porzig after 10 years as our Group leader was elected as our Club President. The year 2005 was our Perth Sängerfest. For 4 years the Sängerfest committee with the Heimat Choir have been planning this Song Festival to be an exceptional event and to show what Perth was able to organize. Jacek Slawomirski was our musical director of the 13th Choir Festival and with his Allegri Chamber Orchestra we were able to have an outstanding evening concert in the Perth Concert Hall. With 400 choristers and the orchestra it was an unforgettable event. The afternoon choir concert with 16 individual choirs performing to a full house, thanks to the sponsored Lotterywest event, was also very well received. All went well and it was the best Sängerfest ever, especially the evening concert and the socials held in our club premises. All choirs were very happy with the organization and had an exceptional good time in the West. The Australian Sängerbund reported in their circular December 2005 "I take this opportunity of thanking the Rhein Donau Club in Perth once again most profoundly for being such splendid hosts to the Sängerfest 2005. No doubt the members of the Heimat Choir Perth were among the movers and shakers and our thanks go to our brother and sister choristers also. Very well done, all of you."

In March 2006, Martin Rein left for a teaching appointment in London and at very short notice we once again had to find a new musical director for our Heimat Choir. I was able to approach Glenn Rogers and he was appointed as our choir master on 18th March 2006. At the November Heimat Dance we invited the Triune Choir for a new concert programme, organised by our musical director Glenn Rogers. It went very well and the audience was delighted with the overall performance. In November 2007 we held our first Concert Dance-night "Wine Woman & Sing" We invited the Dutch Singers and the Triune Choir to join us. It was held over two Saturdays.

The 14th German Sängerfest was held in Adelaide in 2008. With the help of some Dutch Singers we performed as a choir with 31 members, our conductor Glenn and pianist Hazel Pott. We had 21 guests travelling with us. The performance was excellent and we all had a good time. The choir was able to pay for the air fares of all Heimat Choir members attending. We also finished the year with a choir buffet dinner.

In 2009 we once again Concert Dance-night "Wine Woman & Sing" We invited the Dutch Singers and held an Concert Sunday afternoon, to enable senior members to attend a choir function. Both nights were successful.

Over the past 35 years, there were many members with the choir, some left due to personal or professional reasons, and some felt that due to age they no longer were able to attend. We also remember the members who passed away. Thank you to all of them for their support and effort given to the choir and making the choir what it is today.

We thank especially all choirmasters, group leaders and committee members who served the Heimat Choir so well during all those years. We are proud to have 3 foundation members in the choir. They are Peter Huber, Rita and David Zeller. After 19 years as your group leader, I feel it is time for some other person to lead the Heimat Choir. I therefore will not be available for reelection this year.

David Zeller