Reference : Choral societies: Luxembourg
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Arts & humanities : Performing arts
Choral societies: Luxembourg
Sagrillo, Damien mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms
Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe
Leerssen, Joep
Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms
[en] Community music ; Luxembourg

Before 1848 only few choirs existed in Luxembourg: “Les Villageois” in Contern (1825), the parish choir of Echternach (1834) and the Société d’amateurs de chant (also known under the German name of Liedertafel in Luxembourg City (1843). In 1848, the Dutch King William II (who was also Grand-Duke of Luxembourg) proclaimed, under the pressure of the European wave of democratic revolts, a more liberal constitution, which conferred the right of association. As a result, amateur ensembles began to emerge all over the Grand-Duchy. During the following five years about ten choral societies were founded – a large number for a small country.

Wind bands and gymnastic clubs also proliferated. The main objective of these societies was to engage in cultural-collective leisure pursuits; no professionalization was involved (to this day, Luxembourg still lacks a professional choir.)

At this early stage, choirs were men-ony. They followed the German model of Zelter’s (Berlin) and Silcher’s singing societies (“Liedertafel”). The repertoire consisted at this initial phase of four-part songs of German Romanticism. Later on, Luxembourg composers like Jean-Antoine Zinnen (1827-1898), Laurent Menager (1835-1902) and their successors Gustave Kahnt (1848-1923) and Alfred Kowalsky (1879-1943) furnished local compositions. Analogous to these secular societies were the church choirs, one of the first being in 1844 the Caecilian association (Cäcilienverein) of St. Peter, today Notre-Dame cathedral in Luxembourg City. (Luxembourg became an independent diocese in 1870.) It introduced the tradition of the German Cecilian movement to the Grand-Duchy.

A first wind band and choir competition was organized in 1852; eight choral societies participated. In the following years, the demand for competitions and song festivals increased, and they were organized in many localities by a semi-official federation. In 1864, 26 wind bands and choral societies founded an official federation (Allgemeiner Luxemburger Musikverein). The concert celebrating its official foundation was the occasion of the first performance, by 500 singers and musicians, of Zinnen’s anthem Ons Hémecht (“our homeland”), later to become the Grand Duchy’s national anthem.

By 1914 the number of choral societies had grown to ca. 40. Many of these were based in the indistrial south with its developing steel industry. Here, choral societies and wind bands became meeting grounds for the sociable integration of Italian immigrants.
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