Thursday, September 20, 2001

Herwegh Society marks 125 years

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer Contributor

        ELMWOOD PLACE — If there was ever a time to cut a rug, it's Saturday — the 125th anniversary of the Herwegh Singing Society of Cincinnati.

[photo] Above: Vera and Dudley Nash of Blue Ash warm up for the 125th anniversary dance of the Herwegh Singing Society this Saturday at The Place on Vine Street. The dance party in Elmwood Place will be open to the public.
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
        The Herwegh Society — founded in 1876, when the waltz was king and many of Cincinnati's residents spoke German — has survived social upheavals, world wars and economic downturns. Members say that's because the organization promotes fun and fellowship, in addition to being the best entertainment bargain in town.

        “We have a dance here every Saturday night,” said Blue Ash resident Vera Nash, who's preparing a local club, The Place, for Saturday's birthday bash.

        “Vera and I have danced many, many places over the years,” said her husband, Dudley. “We stuck with Herwegh because the musicians they have here are very skillful. They can play anything from a polka to a tango.”

        Live music, beer, soft drinks and refreshments for a modest fee keep many dancers coming back week after week to The Place, where Herwegh members and friends have met since 1993. But with the anniversary approaching, Mrs. Nash said, the club is concerned about its dwindling numbers.

   • What: 125th Anniversary Dance, Herwegh Singing Society.
   • When: 8 p.m. to midnight, Saturday.
   • Where: The Place, 6005 Vine Street, Elmwood Place.
   • Admission: $8, which includes food and drink.
   • Information: 791-8410.
        “One of our big problems is a lot of our members are getting up in years.”

        Saturday's celebration will include a dance performance by the Step-n-Out Dance Studio of Northern Kentucky, a jitterbug contest with prizes, and an evening of danceable ditties.

        The organization will also pay tribute to its unique history, which began with the formation of the Herwegh Maenner-Chor (men's chorus). It first met in the Workmen's Hall on Walnut Street and often practiced on the streets of Over-the-Rhine. The group's name honors the memory of German poet Georg Herwegh.

        In 1926 the society expanded to include women.

        “William Kappelhoff, Doris Day's father, led the singing for about 30 years,” said Bonnie Meyer of Belleview, Ky., who has compiled a history of the society.

        Gradually the group's meetings consisted of more dancing than singing, and non-Germans joined.

        The group moved its weekly dances to Norwood, and then to The Place, where the dance floor is larger.


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