It was back in the nineteen-thirties when a handful of young women gathered regularly in Ella Drecoll's kitchen on Haven Road in Elmhurst on Monday nights, exchanging recipes, trying out new needlework patterns or just talking. While their husbands were rehearsing a few blocks over with the Elmhurst Men's Chorus, the ladies had grown tired of waiting for them home alone. Often they found themselves humming along with their work or singing a little tune they remembered from back home in Germany ... that's how it all started.
In January 1936, Ludwig Lohmiller, the handsome and charismatic director of the Men's Chorus, finally agreed to take eighteen enthusiastic young ladies under his wings - the Elmhurst Ladies Chorus was born. That same year they held their very own concert. Soon the ladies became members of the North American Singers Association and participated in all National Song Festivals sinces 1938. In 1956 they even went to Stuttgart/Germany for the International Song Festival.
In the 1960s the membership went down dramatically, but thanks to some determined singers, among them our Elly Neufeld, and the unfailing support of the Maennerchor, the Damenchor eventually recovered. In 1976, under the leadership of Lilo Cronenberg, some very enthusiastic new singers joined the chorus and in 1979, after a 13 year hiatus, they held their first Spring Concert again.
A year later in 1980, their beloved director Ludwig Lohmiller retired. What followed was a succession of directors who, each and every one in his own way, brought something special to the repertoire and performing style of the group: John Olivo, Dr. Jim Lucas, Jim Goodrich, David Crane, Dr. Alfred Gras, Alan Wellman, Catherine Wendt, Glen
1950 - The ladies are featured in an Elmhurst Press article, together with Director Ludwig Lohmiller (but unfortunately without their first names - those were the days, girls!)
1996 - Spring Concert in the Grand Ballroom of the Holiday Inn, Naperville
Right: Dr. Alfred Gras and wife Helga
1993 - NATIONAL SONG FESTIVAL IN WASHINTON, D.C.
Above: touring the Capitol and getting ready for the mass chorus (3000+) on the west steps, accompanied by the German 'Bundeswehr' brass band - Below: Picnic at the German Embassy - ELC Treasurer & Vice President of the North American Singers Association Linde Green with German Ambassador Dr. Immo Stabreit during the reception
Sorgatz and now Laura Susanne Schmuldt.
The past decades have been spectacular, the ladies have been featured in local newspapers, have published a cook book and, together with the Men's Chorus, released two CDs. Participation in the Elmhurst Country Fair, cooperation with the Historical Society , appearances at the Elmhurst Oktoberfest and the TV magazine "Elmhurst, Our Kind of Town," as well as their fabulous annual Advent Bazaar strengthened their ties to the local community.
Although gone are the days in the spectacular upper ballroom of the former Elk's Hall where they intensely rehearsed with Hollywood's Kenny Ortega for a dance number in 'Ferris Buehler's Day Off' (only to become victims of the final cut - ah, the pitfalls of fame), now you will find them actively supporting some of the German language services in the area around Christmas time. And besides their annual spring concert and participation in the Men's fall concert, they throw a great annual picnic, together with the men, for all their families, friends and supporters
every year in August.
Thanks to the leadership of many dedicated presidents over the years, Lilo Cronenberg, Gerda Pilz, Brigitte Lenke, Uschi Kundmann, Petra Hentzel, Brigitte Lenke (again) and since 2016 Petra Hentzel, the Elmhurst Ladies Chorus proudly shows a strong membership of active singers (and quite a few helpful passive members). Coming mostly from Elmhurst and neighboring suburbs, some of the ladies come from as far away as Barrington, Joliet, Matteson, Sugar Grove and Huntley. They truly enjoy their rehearsals and friendship every Monday night and welcome anyone to join them.
Ella Drecoll, the group's beloved founder and talented soprano (fourth from the left in the front row of the Damenchor photo of 1939), active well into her 80s, is still remembered today with quiet visits to a wrought-iron bench at the Wilder Park Memorial Garden which was dedicated by the Ladies Chorus in her memory in 2003.
In 1885, the Elmhurst Damenchor almost made 'movie history' during the filming of Ferris Buehler's Day Off in Chicago. Being hired (and paid) to perform the 'Twist & Shout' during the parade scenes, we practiced with famed choreographer Kenny Ortega (Michael Jackson - Thriller!) at the Elks Hall ... only to fall victim to the cutting board.
At least our friends from the Rheinische Karnevals Verein and some of our girls, Natasha Omel &Tina Schmidt (between the ballons, with Kenny Ortega cheering on the left) made it into the movie - while we had the honor of singing the National Anthem with then Governor Jim Thompson (right). Oh well!
Right: President Lilo Cronenberg with Founder Ella Drecoll in 1981
Our talented Alto Rita Omel is responsible for the beautiful decorations & center pieces
1982 - Participating in the annual Elmhurst Memorial Day Parade, pictured on the left:
President Lilo Cronenberg and founder Ella Drecoll
Christmas Parties, Performances and Luncheons over the years
The first rehearsals of the were held in the public hall upstairs of the Mahler Building on 124 W. Park, Elmhurst
1992 - Advent Bazaar at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Elmhurst, by then our regular rehearsal site
1991 - President Gerda Pilz with German Deputy Consul General Karl Georg Schon at the Schmidts on 4th of July
1981 - the Ladies all in white, singing with the Maennerchor in Fall of 1981 to a packed audience at the Elks Hall
In the 1980's, the grand ballroom of the Elmhurst Elks Hall on York & Schiller was home for the concerts, rehearsals downstairs
Singing at the Octoberfest at the brand new Elm Square with the Elmhurst Maennerchor.
Left: Mayor Martucci addressing the 'krauts'
Right: 1981 - How times have changed: The Damenchor's Spring Concert in the grand ballroom of the Elks Hall.
With President Lilo Cronenberg next to Director John Olivo on the right, Founder Ella Drecoll front row, center
1983 - Bus trip to Columbus/Ohio - and watching the audience watching us at the 51th National Song Festival of the North American Singers Association
OF THE ELMHURST LADIES CHORUS
History of the Elmhurst Damenchor since 1936
Elmhurst Ladies Chorus since 1936 - Elmhurst, Illinois
Right: 1982 - Elli Neufeld serving her famous potato salad at Schmidt's annual 4th of July party (1982-1998)
Below and right: 1982 - Brigitte Lenke hosting a Hawaiian Luau for the girls, followed by a pool party (sorry, no photographers allowed)
1989 - Spring Concert, the Ladies with Director David Crane
1989 - The Chicago Choruses with Dr. Alfred Gras at the National Song Festival in Louisville, KY - and lining up for the bus trip
1986 - Our Spring Concert at the Oak Meadows Country Club, Addison, with Director Jim Goodrich
1986 - Above right and below: Scenes from the bus and memories of the National Song Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio
1990 - The Elmhurst Ladies Chorus is invited to sing at the International Pavilion during the Illinois Country Fair in Springfield - Director David Crane