25 Years TdSC - The Anniversary 1999

Extracts from the Anniversary Brochure

Looking Back on 25 Years

Singing Shanties is fun - even more fun when singing along with other choirs. That was the basic idea for a festival that has become one of the biggest events in Cuxhaven meanwhile - the Tag der Shanty-Chöre that started on June 9, 1974. This anniversary brochure is to look back on 25 years, provide information about how it has developed and show some of the remarkable highlights. Of course we cannot go without some introducing words regarding the Shanty-Chor Cuxhaven accompanying this event right from the beginning.

Cuxhavener Lotsenchor bei einem Auftritt am 1. Tag der Shanty-Chöre Cuxhaven has always had a special connection to the sea and seafaring being an important part of the town′s history. And we are proud of having one of the best shanty choirs in our town, enhancing the image and keeping this important part of our history alive. The Shanty-Chor Cuxhaven preserves the life of the fishermen, sailors and seafaring men during the bloom of the big freight liners in the songs. The idea of a get-together of shanty choirs was born in 1974 and goes back to health resort director Hans Demgen and Otto Prieß (director of the event administration).

Together with Kurt Kniesche, the (former) musical director of the Shanty-Chor Cuxhaven, the choirs - hardly known in those days - were invited to Cuxhaven. And they all came as could be looked up in the following newspaper article of the "Cuxhavener Presse" from June 10, 1974:

Extracts from the report "Cuxhaven möchte Shanty-Chören eine feste Heimstatt bieten" (Cuxhaven wants to offer Shanty Choirs a continuous home)

Health resort director Hans Demgen obviously had the right idea. Thanks to his initiative the first Tag der Shanty-Chöre took place in Cuxhaven. About 1000 people came to see the shanty choirs at the Kurpark. "We have invited 14 choirs", Otto Prieß reports. "Ten of them have answered. Five of them took part in the first Tag der Shanty-Chöre. Two of them - the Helgoländer Karkfinken and the Shanty-Chor Aurich sent delegations. For the evening show the Shanty-Chor Finkenwerder has accepted." The shanty choirs from Hamburg and Geestemünde showed interest however, they had to reject for lack of time.

1980 im Kurpark - Shanty-Chor Einbeck Shanty-Chor Bielefeld - 1986 Otto Prieß said: "The choirs were grateful for being invited. There were a lot of questions, such as where to get the sheet music for the shanties? How about GEMA? We have good reasons to establish the Tag der Shanty-Chöre as a regular event!"

The pioneers were the Shanty-Chor Marinekameradschaft Wilhelmshaven 1894, the Shanty-Chor Marinekameradschaft Bünde of 1900, the Shanty-Chor Bremerhaven, the Shanty-Chor Cuxhaven-Döse and the Shanty-Chor of Cuxhaven Pilots.

Herforder Shanty-Chor - 1989 A report of the "Neue Cuxhavener Zeitung" (it is worth pointing out that there were two daily newspapers in Cuxhaven at that time) quotes impressive words of the health resort director: "The Kurpark Döse saw a world premiere. A festival of shanty-choirs - for the first time in Cuxhaven and for the first time in the world".

Following up the success of the first Tag der Shanty-Chöre the second event of this kind took place one year later with already seven choirs participating: Shanty-Chor MK Bünde, Shanty-Gruppe of the Emden Sailing Club, Shanty-Chor Marinekameradschaft Wilhelmshaven, Shanty-Chor Norderney, the Wattenpieper from Wursten, the Dorum Choir and of course the Shanty-Chor Cuxhaven. Newspapers also compliment the second Tag der Shanty-Chöre:

Extracts from the newspaper article of the "Neue Cuxhavener Zeitung" from June 13, 1975 "Gestern wurde in Döse die Zeit der Windjammer wieder lebendig" ("Yesterday, the windjammer era came alive again"):

Bright sunshine and a stiff breeze from the sea, now and then a seagull in the blue sky - could you imagine a better scene for all the shanties and seasongs than yesterday at the Kurpark? In front of a big audience of guests and locals the illusion of wind and waves, seafarer′s joy and sorrow could not be more present. The Tag der Shanty-Chöre, taking place for the second time, attracted all those feeling wanderlust when watching the ships passing Cuxhaven on their way to the far sea.

Since more and more choirs have been interested in participating and many of them already arrive on Saturday, the 4th Tag der Shanty-Chöre already extends to one more day and shows are planned for Saturday, too. The audience gratefully accepts the shows in the health resorts and especially those at the Alte Liebe in the harbour right in front of the seafaring lane offering a beautiful scene, absolutely unique for and exclusive to Cuxhaven.

Klaus Erlewein und Gisela Plambeck After the 6th Tag der Shanty-Chöre the local press reports: "4000 visitors came to see the Tag der Shanty-Chöre". 1300 portions of pea soup were sold by the volunteer assistants of the German Red Cross on Sunday at the Kurpark. At this time, the soup, which is prepared at the hospital kitchen or in the casern kitchen, is still carried to the Kurpark with private cars of the Shanty-Chor Cuxhaven. It is said, that one of the singers spilled the soup over his trousers...

The 7th Tag der Shanty-Chöre is described as varied - also regarding the weather. The audience wrapped in raincoats (the so-called "Ostfriesennerz") and well equipped with umbrellas celebrate the festival anyway, but not only because of free entrance due to the heavy rain that leads to moving the shows into the Kurparkhalle later from 13:30 o′clock.

Dismal prospects and rainy weather unfortunately also in 1981. For the second and last time the choirs are singing indoor again but most of the 2000 visitors have to listen outside via the speakers due to shortage of space. The newspaper reports: "Everyone has enjoyed the event and even the outdoor stage was not empty. Many of the visitors had a picnic with pea soup on stage".

On Saturday the Gala Night takes place for the first time. Six shanty choirs perform at the Kurparkhalle, moderated by Klaus Erlewein. New records in 1983: within one hour 1000 portions of pea soup are sold. The Shanty-Chor Bünde attracts 2000 people with the show at Strandhaus Döse. The Gala Night on Saturday is sold out and on Sunday more than 4000 paying spectators are recorded (additionally to the singers and accompanying people not paying).

At the 10th Tag der Shanty-Chöre the incredible happens: for the first time in the history of the festival a female choir takes part - the Brunsbütteler Heulbojen. The audience is excited - the singers take it easy. With 19 participating choirs this is the biggest festival. The singers find their audience at the Gala Night, in the health resorts, at Kurpark Döse and amongst the harbour and the old town festival.

The date for the 12th event is postponed to end of May due to the "Deutscher Seeschifffahrtstag" (German Maritime Shipping Day). So, the choirs not only perform at the Kurpark, but also in the harbour in front of the great scene of the harbour festival. On Sunday the "Hafenkonzert" (harbour concert) of Radio Bremen takes place at the Kurpark and Dieter Kirchner moderates the following shows. At the same time, the 8 hours lasting event "Shanties, Show und Segelschiffe" moderated by Peter Mordhorst starts at the quay of the fishery harbour. Every choir performs for 30 minutes.

In 1987 the organizers make a change. On Saturday they invite to a "Norddeutscher Bierabend" (Northern German Beer Night) at the Kugelbake-Halle. Themed "anyone can join in" seven of the shanty choirs shape the event spontaneously. The audience enjoy a varied night from shanties sung in Bavarian dialect to even a parody of Hans Albers. The about 500 visitors also witness a premiere: for the first time a choir from Bavaria takes part - the Seemannschor Nürnberg debutes on Saturday night.

20. Tag der Shanty-Chöre - Finale Many of the involved people have good memories of 1990. A choir from the GDR makes his debut at the 14th Tag der Shanty-Chöre - the "Shanty-Gruppe Saalhund der Volkswerft Stralsund". They were acknowledged with really big applause. Moderator Karl-Heinz Mangels explains, that the Shanty-Chor Cuxhaven exerted themselves for years to have a choir from the GDR particpate in the event. So they contacted the Shanty-Chor Stralsund immediately after the Fall of the Wall. The chairman of the Shanty-Chor Cuxhaven, Jens-Otto Meyn, and his colleague Horst Will spontaneously travelled to Stralsund to invite the choir personally. The singers of Pomerania were grateful and thanked for the friendly invitation. As a matter of course the Cuxhaven singers offered accommodation to the East-German guests in their private homes.

For the first time, the Isar-Möwen from Munich take part and can inspire the audience without any Bavarian accent. It is absolutely unique that also women are allowed to sing in this choir. All other choirs (still) can refuse membership of women.

This already changes at the 19th Tag der Shanty-Chöre. The headline of the newspaper article of the "Cuxhavener Nachrichten" says: "500 singing sea bears and here and there a female cadet". This year guests from Skagerrak arrive: the singers of the Norwegian choir Langesunds Mannsangforening - sweeping off the visitors′ feet as the singing ambassadors of their country.

The 20th Tag der Shanty-Chöre starts with a live broadcast: Alster-Radio Hamburg broadcasts the performance of the Shanty-Chor Neuwulmstorf live from Nordersteinstrasse. Gerhard Schlichting announces in an interview that he talked to Neptune and the weather god in order to guarantee good weather. However, this arrangement must have gone wrong somehow because the sun did not show all throughout the 15 performances of the choirs. On Saturday the "Maritime Night" was sold out and ended with an impressive finale when all choirs performed "Leise kommt die Nacht" and visitors lit their lighters.

On the 21st event the weathergod beats time. Health resort director Schormann goes on stage saying "It has never been so valuable". In fact he is talking about that canvas he has to keep above the 21st Tag der Shanty-Chöre all day long in order to protect the event from rain. On Saturday, the weather god overburdens a single man as the rain protector. Thunder and lightning overtakes the choirs in the afternoon. On Sunday the weather god takes pity on the event and keeps the watergates closed.

Erfahrungsaustausch unter Insidern About 400 active singers and many fan clubs arrive in Cuxhaven for the 24th Tag der Shanty-Chöre. The Shanty-Chor Spiez takes the longest way - right from Switzerland where usually the long alpenhorn sounds across the land. A serenade in the fishery harbour secures an invitation to a meal of fresh fish from Cuxhaven.

The Noszélie Singers from the Netherlands specially prepare songs with German lyrics only for the Maritime Night. And for the first time, a maritime devotion with pastor Wilhelm von der Recke is held in the morning at 9.45 o′clock accompanied by bright sunshine. The banks are filled and in spite of the soccer match Germany vs. Yugoslavia many of the spectators persevere all 8 hours long.

And finally, we reach the end of our chronicle. The Tag der Shanty-Chöre, first being organized by the health resort administration for a quarter of the century and then followed by the event administration centre in cooperation with the Shanty-Chor Cuxhaven, has become a highlight in Cuxhaven′s event calendar. Due to the high musical standard our town has become a real capital of shanties and meeting point for choirs from both home and abroad. The Tag der Shanty-Chöre has always remained vivid since every year new choirs participate. The singers get to know our beautiful spa and the choirs - close friends in the meantime - really enjoy coming back again. And both locals and guests may enjoy this event year by year.

Hope, this will remain for a long time.

Gisela Plambeck