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Members of Franklinville-Schwarzwald Männerchor, Brauhaus Schmitz staff, patrons, Philadelphia, 3 Dec 2017

I know a German who does not drink beer. I have heard there are others, but he is the only one I know. I have never heard, however, of Germans who do not sing toasts. Even the German I know who does not drink beer, sings toasts, when others are drinking beer. It’s what you do. It is liberality itself; it may be, in fact, the essence of civilization. That non-beer-drinking German may be the most civilized person in the world.

Well, he does drink Schnapps.

My Männerchor, the Franklinville-Schwarzwald Männerchor, loves to sing toasts, because they love to sing, and because they love to drink beer or to be in the company of those who drink beer. They sing the ubiquitous Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit, which means “A toast to Gemütlichkeit,” or, “Here’s to Gemütlichkeit,” or ”Boy, Do We Like Gemütlichkeit.” You understand that there is no translation for Gemütlichkeit.

Gemütlichkeit is the feeling of home, or, better yet, the feeling of home in someone else’s home. It is a universal feeling, but is expressed differently in every country—it is Mi casa, su casa, for instance, but with more meat, a fireplace, and Bier or Schnapps instead of red wine (well, Germans love singing to Wein, too). It is when you are seated at a long table in a hall, or at a table at a wedding reception, or at a crab-and-corn-on-the-cob festival, a table where nobody knows anybody else, and yet after three minutes you are all laughing. That’s a gemütlich table. It is laughter and warmth and acceptance and hugs—I’m kidding about the hugs; these are Germans. Americans hug, Germans do not. Germans shake hands, but they mean it. There is much shaking of hands and looking in the eyes with Germans. With them, it feels like a hug. It feels like Gemütlichkeit.

So I thought I’d arrange Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit for the guys, gussie it up a bit. I gussied it a little too much, actually, on the first try, so I ungussied it some, then thought (only then I thought) about how it might be used in a concert, so I re-gussied it—with piano, with audience, and with “Eins, zwei, drei, g’suffa”—to this version. I’ve also made an SSAA version. 

Here’s the premiere by the Franklinville-Schwarzwald Männerchor at the United Singers of Philadelphia annual Evening of Song, 4 Mar 2018 at the Canstatter Volksfest-Verein in Northeast Philadelphia, complete with laughter from the woman recording this, when she realized what it was. The audience joined in at the right time.

Then I was inspired by a moment at Brauhaus Schmitz on South Street, where we had been invited to sing German Christmas songs. After a set, we sang Ein Prosit of course, and then one of the boys started the spirited Prost, Prost, Kamerad. I joined in, having heard it a few times, but when I looked it up later I discovered I wasn’t it singing it correctly. So I arranged Prost, Prost, Kamerad, including a surprise ending. Here’s the MIDI, and some of the score:

Last and least, I came up with my own original Prost. A musical phrase came to me, to which I fit the ingenious words, “Ein Prost, ein Prost, ein Prost, ein Prost, Prost, Prost!” The rest of the notes and words tumbled after, and so Ein Prost, ein Prost, ein Prost was born. The other composer in our group, who is from Germany, helped fine-tune the words (the differences between zu, auf, and an have still avoided being pinned down by me).

These last two are only one page long. Most of each song is here, but if you’d like to see an entire score, or all of them, or the SSAA one, don’t hesitate to ask.

Stay gemütlich, my friends.

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