Elmhurst Ladies Chorus
Elmhurst Ladies Chorus since 1936
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 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.