The “Gesangverein Virginia” (German for “Singing Association of Virginia”) is one of the oldest German clubs in the United States, having been founded as a men’s singing society by German immigrants in Richmond, Virginia, on July 2, 1852. Today it is a men’s social organization, which promotes good German and American relations and knowledge of Germany and other German language countries, German culture and language. Some of its members form the “Männerchor,” a men’s chorus, which rehearses weekly and sings primarily German songs at local functions. Today its membership consists of German immigrants, American born men of German descent and men without a drop of German blood, all of whom enjoy the “Gemütlichkeit” of club functions and the singing traditional favorites such as “Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann”, “Lilli Marleen”, “Du, du liegst mir im Herzen” and many others to live piano and accordion music.
The club members meet regularly on the second Wednesday of every month at the North Chamberlayne Civic Association Center at 8:00pm. For the members that arrive earlier at 7:30pm, the Gesangverein offers German educational classes taught by one of the members.
The beer keg is tapped and the meeting begins. Following the short business portion of the meetings, which is frequently interrupted with the singing of "Ein Prosit" as a toast to a club member who has done something for the club or who is celebrating a birthday, the musicians of the club grab their instruments and the singing begins. Sometimes there is a speaker on travel in Germany or some other topic, generally related to Germany and its culture. The night ends with food and conversation. The food is often belegtes Brot (open face sandwiches of ham, salami, liverwurst, and cheeses), potato chips, pretzels, and pickles. Occasionally, members are treated to something special, like grilled bratwurst or BBQ. Of course there is always a keg of beer to drink. After the food is gone and the beer keg is empty, everyone slowly departs for home saying "auf Wiedersehen".
Besides the monthly business meetings, there are other Gesangverein events held throughout the year. There is the annual dinner complete with appetizers, open bar, a full meal, and live music for dancing. There are the fish fry and the Sommernachtsfest during the summer, the Richmond Oktoberfest in the fall,and a Christmas party in December. Occasionally there is even a day or evening trip to some German related event.
The Gesangverein, in joint cooperation with the Deutscher Sportclub, helps to bring the largest German Bavarian Oktoberfest to Virginia. The Richmond Oktoberfest has been held every October since 1968.