Concordia Opera House
117 N. First Street
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HEYDAY OF OLD CONCORDIA SOCIETY TOLD IN ARTICLE
A sketch of the Concordia Musical Society, one of the city’s most famous musical organizations of generations ago, is contained in a reprint from the October 6, 1890, issue of “Der Seebote,” a Milwaukee publication. The article was written by the late Emil E. Gaebler and was part of his memoirs which the paper printed.
Part of the article is being reprinted here. It follows:
At the time Emil C. Gaebler came to Watertown, in 1859, there was an established musical society here, called the Music and Singing Society and when Gaebler organized a new society, called Philharmonic, there was an effort to combine the two. The two finally joined but the passive members tried to run it and after six months the active members seceded and formed their own society in July, 1862, called the Concordia.
Emil Gaebler had organized a musical society in 1852 at Danbury, Conn., and was familiar with the management of the Northeastern Singers league of New York. He, therefore, organized the Northwest league shortly after he came to Wisconsin and to this league the Concordia gave its support, so actively, that at the first saengerfest held in La Crosse in 1866 Watertown won the first prize, a silver loving cup, now on display in the historical museum in Madison.
Thereafter the following saengerfests (conventions or music festivals) were held: Watertown, 1867; Milwaukee, 1868; Madison, 1869; La Crosse, 1871; Dubuque, 1873; Watertown, 1875; Freeport, 1877; Milwaukee, 1879; Madison, 1881; La Crosse; 1883; Watertown, 1885; Freeport, 1887; Minneapolis, 1889; Milwaukee 1891; Dubuque, 1896. There was also a band convention in Watertown in 1879.
As early as 1885 interest began to lag and young people turned to amusements rather than to music. In its “floruit” the Concordia undertook many projects besides regular concerts and opera performances in Watertown. The old music hall on North Second Street burned to the ground and a new opera house was built at a cost of $11,872 of which $2,158 was raised by the women members or auxiliary of the organization. The Concordia Society also purchased the Tivoli island, planted trees on it, built a pavilion, and painted it themselves. In 1879 an octagon band stand was built on the island, forty feet in diameter and was first used for the band convention for which occasion Mr. Sleeper was director and Mr. Mulberger, field marshal. Many concerts and picnics were held on the island, a windmill supplied water power for the large fountain, a garden, and a fine bowling alley helped make this a very popular place.
A large collection of manuscript music, opera scores, and instrumental numbers are to this day reposing in one of our local stores waiting for the day when Watertown will again take an interest in local amateur musical activities. WDT 05 20 1935
Concordia Society formed in 1862 under direction of Max Gaebler. Gaebler served for many years served as musical director of the Concordia Musical Society.
John Keck also helped to organize the Concordia Society.
Frederich Misegades was charter member
PURCHASED AND NAMED CONCORDIA ISLAND
In 1874 a German singing group, the Concordia Music Society, purchased and named Concordia Island. The society had been formed in 1862 under direction of Mr. Gaebler. Concordia Island served as a host to many saengerfests, music festivals in which most of the singing organizations of the state would take part. Local citizens held picnics and heard frequent band concerts on Concordia Island. Unions, clubs, and trade guilds from throughout the state rented the island for annual gatherings.
Concordia members landscaped the island, planting many trees and shrubs of various varieties, some of which are mature trees today. Members constructed numerous buildings including a beautiful central pavilion. The island was graced with one of the first fountains in this area. Located in front of the pavilion, it sent sprays of water splashing into a circular basin in the center of which stood an ornamental statue. A secluded water tank kept the fountain at play, while a windmill pumped water into the giant container. It also had a circular bandstand with beer, candy and ice cream sales on ground level and quarters for musicians on the second floor.
1883 La CROSSE SAENGERFEST
06 20 The members of the Concordia Society who were in attendance at the Saengerfest at La Crosse returned Monday night, and all are loud in praise of the delightful time they spent. Our delegation upon their arrival at La Crosse Thursday evening, received a splendid reception from their brethren and were welcomed in a fine speech by Dr. X Otilie, which was happily responded to by Constance Wiggenhorn. At the concert in the Germania Hall Friday evening the Watertown delegation presented the former director of the Concordia Society, Prof. E. C. Gaebler, now residing at La Crosse, with a beautiful lyre composed of the choicest and most delicate flowers, which was a complete as well as a happy surprise to the recipient. J. B. May performed the task presenting the testimonial in a graceful manner. The Saengerfest is pronounced a fine success and all came home highly pleased with La Crosse and her hospitable people. WR
1886 ESTIMATE FOR BUILDING New Opera House
05 21 Wm. Waters, architect of Oshkosh, was in the city last Monday and made an estimate for building the new Opera House for the Concordia Society, figuring it at $11,000. The society instructed him to draw a plan of the building, which he will have ready in about a week. The new building will be a two story brick with basement. The gallery will be fitted up with 277 opera chairs, and the main hall with about 300 perforated seat chairs. In the basement there will be a bar room and a double bowling alley. The money for building will be raised by issuing 4 per cent bonds payable in 5 years. WG
1888 CONSTRUCTION OF, Concordia Opera House
Occupied since December of 1916 by the Watertown Elks Lodge.
03 09 DROP CURTAIN AND SCENERY
The ladies of the Concordia Society have ordered an elegant drop curtain and scenery of Sosman & Landis, Chicago, for the new opera house and will present the same to the society. The cost of these articles is $800. WG
10 17 DANCING SCHOOL TO BE CONDUCTED
The ladies of the Concordia society have made arrangements with Paul Thom to conduct a dancing school at the opera house. Those desiring to attend are requested to report at once so as to take advantage of a full term of instruction. Following are the terms: Friday evening sessions 8 to 10 o'clock, $3 perterm for twelve lessons; Saturday afternoon sessions, 4 to 6 o'clock, $2 per term for twelve lessons. The first lesson will be given this week Friday. WG
01 02 ANNUAL NEW YEAR'S BALL
The annual New Year's balls of the Concordia Society have long been noted as elaborate social affairs in dancing circles, and this year's event, which took place Monday night at the opera house, far eclipsed all previous efforts. A more brilliant or enjoyable function is seldom experienced here. Dances commenced at 9 o’clock and was of several hours' duration, a varied program of choice numbers being enjoyed during the while. A large number of handsome new gowns were displayed by the young ladies, and it was the general opinion that Watertown's sex was never more charming or becomingly beautiful than at this time. WR
12 05 ANNUAL THANKSGIVING BALL
The annual Thanksgiving Ball of the Concordia Society was held Thursday night at the Opera House. The attendance, while not large, was select, and the pleasures of the dance, enhanced by the excellent music of Hardege’s Orchestra, was zealously entered into. At midnight luncheon was served in the lower hall. WR
01 02 NEW YEAR’S BALL
Once a year there is recorded in the social archives of Watertown an occasion that is anticipated with exceptional interest by the dancing set, it being the annual New Year's ball of the Concordia. Legend is that society is at its best, the ladies resplendent in new gowns and the gentlemen vying with each other for gallantry
Last evening was the date of this year's event, and the [Concordia] Opera house, between the hours of 10 and 12 o'clock, when the festivities were at their height, were the scene of an unusually brilliant and pretty spectacle. The dancing floor was completely filled, while from the balcony a considerable number of interested onlookers passed judgment on the affair. Many of the costumes, especially on the young ladies, were particular creations for the evening and of an elaborately beautiful nature that conveyed dreams of perfection regarding the dressmaker's arts’. . . a delightful program was danced, inspiring music being provided by the Hardege orchestra and Paul Thom guiding the merry "trippers" through the figures of the square numbers. Luncheon was served in the lower hall during the evening. WR
03 15 "THE CREATION"
The first full joint rehearsal of the Choral Union and the Concordia Society on "The Creation" will take place on Friday evening of this week, under the direction of D. F. Stillman. For general information, we will state that Bach's full orchestra, twenty men, of Milwaukee, has been engaged for the production, with Mr. Bach as concert master. This will no doubt be the most complete orchestra ever heard here. Applications for seats from out-of- town have already been received, although tickets have not yet been issued. They will be ready next week. WG
03 20 The prices of seats at Turner Opera House for the production of "The Creation" on Easter Monday evening are as follows: Body of parquette, reserved, $1; general admission, sides of parquette, not reserved, 75 cents; rear of balcony and front row or sides of balcony, reserved, $1; balance of balcony, not reserved, 50 cents. Tickets have been issued and can be obtained from members of the Choral union. Time and place of exhibiting the reserved seats diagram will be announced later.
The first joint rehearsal of the Choral Union and the Concordia Society on the work, last Friday evening, was largely attended and very satisfactory as to results. Some eighty singers were present. WR
06 12 FINAL CONCERT OF THE SEASON
The Concordia Musical Society's final concert of the 1894-95 season occurred at the opera house last Wednesday evening, under the direction of William Forane. The program was an elaborate one and furnished an evening of pure musical delight, all the numbers being given with a finish and beauty unmistakably marked the concert as an artistic success. The attendance, however, was not nearly what was deserved. WR
11 06 YOUNG MEN BOWLING CONTEST
John Molzahn has another frog display this week. It depicts the recent Concordia Young Men bowling contest, several incidents being caricatured in a manner that is amusing to knowing ones. But if John persists in libeling his friends by representing them as common, bloated bull-frogs, he may look for no end of trouble. WDT
06 20 OFF TO THE SAENGERFEST (Dubuque, IA)
The Musical Society Concordia leaves tomorrow morning about 10:30 on a special train over the St. Paul Road for Dubuque, la., to attend the biennial Saengerfest of the Northwestern Saengerfest, in session from the 23d to the 26th, inclusive. The train will also carry the Milwaukee, Waukesha and Oconomowoc societies. The route is via Madison and Prairie du Chien.
A fine appearance will be presented by the Concordias, in their natty suits of blue sack coats, gray trousers and linen tourist hats, and that they will acquit themselves creditably in the concerts is assured by the careful and rigid training they have undergone.
The society, as it will appear at the Saengerfest, is made up as follows:
First tenors—Edw. L. Schempf, Alfred Baumann, Fred W. Lehmann, Jacob Weber and Gus Buchheit.
Second tenors —Fred Vullmahn, Carl Manz, Wm. Sproesser, Adolph Hilgendorf and Max Wegemann.
First basses —Gus Exner, Fred G. Keck, C. R. Blumenfeld, Oscar E. Meyer, Eugene Wiggenhorn and Arthur Wiggenhorn.
Second basses —M. H. Gaebler, C. J. Wenck, Oscar Wertheimer, C. H. Jacobi, J. W. Wiggenhorn, Henry Daub, Wm. T. Dervin, Frank Petro, Otto Waltz and Edward Jantzen.
Director —William Forane.
Librarian —Carl Schwendke. Watertown Republican, July 22, 1896
01 26 ANNUAL "OLD FOLKS" BALL
Watertown's married contingent had an opportunity enjoy a dance all by themselves last Friday evening, unrestricted by the whims and fancies of the younger dancing set, and it is said that everybody present embraced those desirable conditions and experienced an evening of unalloyed pleasure. The occasion was the annual "old folks" ball arranged by the Concordia Society and the opera house was scarcely commodious enough for all who desired to participate in the giddy mazes. Dancing was begun at 9 o’clock and it was not until the proverbial “wee small hours” that the last gay couple wended its weary way homeward. Sergel’s Orchestra was in attendance and at midnight the ladies of the society served an appetizing repast in the lower hall. The program to a large extent was composed of the old-time dances that were wont to make glad the hearts of the participants in the days of long ago. WR
Lewis Monument dedication participant
04 05 CONCERT FEATURED MRS. FELD
The concert Monday evening at Concordia Opera House given under the auspices of the Concordia Society, was one of the most remarkable musical entertainments ever given in our city. And with such distinguished and accomplished artists as Messrs. B. Steindel, E. Bare, J. G. Beyer and Mrs. C. R. Feld, how could it be otherwise? . . . Mrs. Feld enchanted the audience with her charming vocalization of “One Spring Morning,” which necessitated a response to an encore. Mr. Beyer, the tenor, rendered two waltz songs, which were well received . . . Mrs. Feld is especially to be congratulated on the great success scored by her. Her stage presence was a perfect picture of composure, and her beautiful voice, while not of a strong or robust character, is as musical and enchanting as is that of the sweet bird warbler. Her work at the piano in the trios was also a marvel of correct and exquisite finish, and greatly delighted her audience with its superior excellence. When it is taken into consideration that Mrs. Feld sung two numbers, took part in two trios, one in German and one in English, and responded to an encore in the second number, besides her work at the piano, it will be seen that her labors were necessarily severe and exacting. Our music-loving people are also under obligations to this lady for securing the talented gentlemen, Messrs. Steindel, Bare and Beyer. WR
06 20 PICNIC, COMMENCEMENT, ALUMNI BANQUET
The annual picnic of our public schools will be held next Friday afternoon on Concordia Island. All the schools with the exception of the high school will close the day before, the latter continuing to have sessions next week. The high school commencement exercises will take place on Friday evening June 30 and the alumni banquet will be given July 1 at Concordia Opera house. WR
10 03 PASSION PLAY
The celebrated Passion Play as produced at Oberammergau was given a presentment at Concordia Opera House Wednesday and Thursday nights through the medium of moving pictures. The play, as is well known, represents different incidents in the life of Christ and the pictures were faithful reproductions of these scenes, which are wonderfully realistic. The entertainment awakened considerable interest among clergymen, teachers and students. WR
11 21 "BOB" FITZSIMMONS SPARRING MATCH
"Bob" Fitzsimmons, ex-champion pugilist, and his vaudeville company held forth at the Concordia Sunday night, the house being well filled by people anxious to see the noted prize-ring artist at his work. In this they were somewhat disappointed, for "Bob" cut out his bag-punching business altogether and only sparred about three minutes with his sparring partner, whom the sports generally class as a "dud." The vaudeville portion of the program is said to have been good and clean. WR
Cross Reference: Robert James "Bob" Fitzsimmons (26 May 1863 – 22 October 1917)
01 09 QUEENAN AND CRAIG SPARRING MATCH
The sparring match between Queenan and Craig announced for Saturday night at the Concordia was given up owing to a lack of patronage. Only about fifty sports had put up a dollar apiece and the promoters considered this too small a purse for the men to go after. It was understood that the fight was to have been to a finish. WR
02 13 DANCING PARTY
One of the most elaborate and altogether enjoyable social functions ever given here was the reception and dancing party held at Concordia Opera House last Friday evening, the Misses Minnie and Jennie Sproesser and Miss Veina Sleeper being the hostesses who on this occasion so royally entertained their friends. The younger society element was represented in large numbers, and all were agreed that Watertown has never witnessed a prettier party – one more complete in its appointments and arrangements, or more happy and congenial in its atmosphere and environment. WR
12 19 AMERICAN STEREOPTICON PRESENTATION
The American Stereopticon View Company will present the Oberammergan Passion Play at the Concordia Opera house this evening. The presentation of this sacred play has created considerable enthusiasm among Watertown theater-goers and it is expected that there will be a large attendance. The price of admission is only a 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children. WDT
10 26 LaFOLLETE SPEAKS HERE
Bob LaFollete, the Republican candidate for governor, visited our cities Thursday morning and is spoke at Concordia Opera House for about one hour. He arrived here at 11:45 and departed at 12 45 for Jefferson. His meeting had been advertised far and near, and the Sinnissippi band had been out in our streets for sometime before his arrival – still only a small audience greeted him. The day was delightful one, and though Robert is a fine orator, but very few people from out-of-town, or in the city, were at the opera house to hear him – about 350 and all. Mr. LaFollete was in poor voice, but made a good speech from a republic standpoint. WG
12 28 THE OLIVER STOCK BIG MINSTREL SHOW
The amusement lovers of this city have had to endure much during the past season in the way of colored shows which lacked merit and naturally feel that all entertainment of that character are inferior. In order to prove that there still exists genuine talent in this line, and to show that the management of the Oliver Stock Big Minstrel do not wish to obtain money under false pretenses, we are authorized to notify the public that anybody visiting the performance of this truly meritorious organization at the Concordia Opera House on Dec. 30 will be given their money back at the box office if the performance is not exactly as claimed — first-class in every respect. There is hardly a company travelling in America today that has received more well-deserved praise from public and press, and the determination of the management to refund money to any patron to satisfy, proves that the Oliver Stock Big Minstrel caters to the public and live up to their agreement in every way, and this guarantee should insure them a packed house. WG
During the early 1900s, the Concordia building housed two theaters - the Empire and the Colonial - which featured both film and vaudeville acts.
The performers in the opera house circuit would change wardrobes in the attic of the building because the area next to the stage was too small. The actors may have also slept in the attic between shows.
In three sections in the attic, some of those actors carved their names into the roof. 1905, 1906 and 1907 is when they had painted their names and dates. Watertown Daily Times, 09 10 2007
E. J. Brandt was president of the Concordia Musical Society.
01 11 “WHAT HAPPENED TO JONES”
The company which presented “What Happened to Jones” at Concordia opera house last Monday evening was one of the best which have appeared in our city this season. While there is absolutely no plot to the play it abounds with laughable situations throughout; each part was well cast and the audience was kept in constant merriment; the fun is clean and wholesome, never approaching the vulgar; if more such plays could be brought here our people would soon be content to attend the theatre here at home instead of going elsewhere.
02 08 SEEBOECK, famous pianist
Seeboeck [William Charles Ernest Seeboeck], the famous pianist, will give one of his grand recitals in the Concordia opera house, Tuesday evening, Feb. 12th. Seeboeck will be assisted by Miss Cora. E. Chatfield, soprano. He brings especially for this recital a new Steinway Grand piano, which will be placed so that all can see the keyboard. Seeboeck was Rubenstein’s greatest pupil. As a composer, studying under the great Brahms, he has achieved world-wide recognition, playing his own concerto with the Thomas orchestra in Chicago. His playing is a revelation to those who have heard the other great artists, his wonderful pianissimo effects have never been equaled . . . . All who love the best in music should not fail to attend this recital. WG
02 27 LIQUID AIR LECTURE AND EXPERIMENTS
Tomorrow evening at Concordia Opera House the liquid air lecture and experiments will be given by Prof. J. Ernest Woodland. The management promises a sufficient quantity of the fluid to insure a highly satisfactory and successful demonstration. Seats for the unique entertainment have been selling well and the body of the house is all taken.
03 08 LECTURE ON LIQUID AIR
A large audience attended the lecture on liquid air at Turner Opera House last week Thursday evening by Prof. J. Ernest Woodland. Professor Woodland is a pleasing talker, and aside from the remarkable things he illustrated liquid air was capable of doing, his lecture in itself was a real treat . . . Those who heard the lecture and witnessed what liquid air can do, are anxious to be given another opportunity of witnessing and hearing another such treat.
01 31 KINODROME SHOW
The Kinodrome show commenced a three-night engagement at the Concordia Opera House, January 30th. A few words explaining what the Kinodrome show is. The Kinodrome is the moving picture machine now in universal use in the leading vaudeville theatres in the country. We mention this to demonstrate the high order of the pictures this machine must exhibit to retain its prestige and constant use in the theatres it is at this time being operated in. The Kinodrome show is an exhibition of moving pictures sent on tour under the direction of the company operating these various machines in the manner stated. It has been found necessary to gain public favor and interest in our moving picture exhibitions at various theatres, to obtain at all times scenes and incidents of having things up to date, and in so doing we have accumulated the largest and most varied stock of animated pictures in existence. Up to the introduction of the Kinodrome show on tour the public outside of the cities had only a slight knowledge of what is being accomplished in motion photography, the rapid advancement, ingenuity and quality of highest photography being obtained in the mysterious art . . . The exhibition promised is of the most interesting kind, and should be seen to be appreciated. Seats now on sale at Gamm's. Admission 10, 20, and 30c. Saturday matinee. WG
03 23 HUMPTY DUMPTY & THE BLACK DWARF PERFORMED
11 17 LECTURE ON CHARLEMAGNE
A large audience assembled last Thursday evening to hear the lecture on Charlemagne. The use of Concordia Opera House has been generously donated, as the capacity of the assembly room was altogether insufficient. The hall, however, was poorly heated to the discomfort of many, and the bowling was also the source of some annoyance. The next lecture takes place Thursday, Nov. 19, the subject being Lorenzo di Medici. WDT
The Elks Lodge purchased the old Concordia Opera House on Jan. 5, 1916.
PROF. HARDEGE DIRECTOR
During his early career Prof. Hardege served as director of the old Concordia Society.
History of Watertown, Wisconsin