Elmhurst Ladies Chorus serenades its former soprano, age 101, in Carol Stream
In the rush of this time of year, some of us may try to spread holiday cheer with a generic Christmas card or, if we're really thoughtful, baked goods.
But the women of the Elmhurst Ladies Chorus share the spirit of the season with the kind of consideration and inclusion that would make even the Mr. Potter types joyful.
The Ladies Chorus recently held a Christmas concert to serenade the ensemble's former soprano, Karin Jaeger, and her fellow residents at the Belmont Village Senior Living community in Carol Stream.
Jaeger -- who turned 101 in May -- reveled in the singalong and some of the signature melodies performed by the chorus. Wearing traditional costumes and accompanied by accordion player Irma Weber of Arlington Heights, the chorus sang German and American classics for the audience at Belmont.
"While most of the women are born in Germany and love the musical treasures Germany is so famous for, they enjoy a variety of song selections, from musicals to spirituals -- and even have taken to rewrite some of their most beloved melodies and Christmas songs into English, to be enjoyed by all," Events Chairwoman Marlis Schmidt said in advance of the concert.
The chorus staged two public Christmas concerts: one for the Elmhurst Historical Society "Evening with St. Nikolaus" at Yorkfield Presbyterian Church in Elmhurst, and a German Christmas Church Service at St. John United Church-Christ in Naperville. The group also performed with the Elmhurst Men's Chorus at the Oak Trace senior living community in Downers Grove.
"Singing for retirement homes was a new idea this year," Schmidt said in an email. "We have been practicing so hard all fall, we thought we might as well make some seniors happy."
The chorus celebrated Jaeger's 101st birthday and returned to Belmont earlier this month for the Christmas concert. Members often visit and take her out to lunch any chance they get, Schmidt said.
Born on May 7, 1927, in Bergen, Norway, Jaeger came to Chicago in 1934 and got married to her first husband, Eric Wulf, in 1939. After he died, she met Robert Jaeger, the man who would become her second husband, through the Elmhurst Damenchor (Ladies Chorus). Bob Jaeger was a first tenor with the Elmhurst Maennerchor (Men's Chorus) and played first violin for the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra.
Jaeger joined the Ladies Chorus in 1978 and sang with the group well into her late 80s, believing that singing kept her young. Indeed, Jaeger didn't move into Belmont until three years ago and renewed her driver's license at the age of 97.
She also was a member of the Elmhurst Symphony Auxiliary and a volunteer at Elmhurst Hospital, the Elmhurst Historical Society and Marklund, a nonprofit group that serves people with developmental disabilities.
Founded in 1936, the Ladies Chorus is seeking new singers as it plans to merge with the Elmhurst Maennerchor, established in 1907. Every three years, the chorus participates in the North American Song Festival.
"While we have been singing together and apart for decades, we have decided to make our 'relationship' official and throw the two together," Schmidt said of the merger.
For details about the group's performances and history, visit Elmhurstdamenchor.com.