The History of the Obernkirchen Children's Choir

Autumn 1953: Contract signing in Obernkirchen for the first concert tour to England ..... with far-reaching consequences!

Into professionalism 1951 – 1954

By Wolfgang Wicklein

The jobs in Obernkirchen continued, and the work with the choir was and remained a wonderful and marvellous part-time occupation. In the following period, however, there were more and more appearances all around Schaumburg. The concert activity was extended to Cologne and even the Netherlands from Haarlem to Waddinxveen. During the following three years, Edith Möller and Erna Pielsticker organized some trips of several weeks’ duration to Königswinter and twice to Norderney. What child, what family could have afforded such a voyage at that time?

July 3, 1951 Norderney: Concert in the Casino

Supporting this very active, finally yet amateur choir, became more and more difficult. At the end of 1952, Edith Möller and Erna Pielsticker had to admit that work with the choir could not be financed anymore. They also had to bury their secret wish to found their own orphanage. There should be a last venture: another trip to the friends in Ipswich that should happen in the summer of 1953, but then….

1953 Keukenhof, Holland: Out and about with the host parents

The success of the first tour to England was repeated. There were quite a number of concerts in Southeast-England on request of the English “Youth Officers”. The choir continued its voyage to LLangollen International Musical Eisteddfod. Excellently prepared, Edith Möller won! The kids and youths of the OCC not only won the first prize but also all hearts of each and every participant and visitor. ( Even today the enthusiasm for the OCC is felt distinctly, as the author of this article was allowed to experience at an invitation to the music festival in 2013!) The poet Dylan Thomas led through the contests in 1953 and called the choir girls “Angels in Pigtails”: The girls from Obernkirchen sang like pigtailed angels”

Success and rapture were immense. Spontaneous concert inquiries from Rugby, Birmingham, Coventry and other cities followed, so that the travel had to be extended.

Generally this competition is looked upon as the turning-point in the history of the OCC. The more so as by lucky chance on one of the many festivals an international hit was born: the BBC recorded Friedrich Wilhelm Möller’s song, which within three days was known and loved worldwide: the German song “Fröhlicher Wanderer”! (See Friedrich Wilhelm Möller)

1953: Maike presents the 1st prize of the LLangollen International Musical Eisteddfod

One must ascertain, however, that neither LLangollen nor the international hit were the turning-point in the history of the choir, but the year 1954 should become it. But LLangollen brought about that the choir had not been given up!

1953 Coventry: Singing in front of the Holy Trinity Church.
This motive was used for the first fan – postcard of the Obernkirchen Children's Choir.

Despite the success, the problems of financing the choir still seemed insurmountable.

Courageously Edith Möller and Erna Pielsticker decided to trust in Edith’s musical and educational brilliance and to do a daring step: an either – or!

Erna Pielsticker went to London in the autumn of 1953, where she formally visited the doubtlessly most important concert agency and succeeded in getting a contract for an England concert- tour of two weeks’ duration in the spring of 1954.

The Obernkirchen Children`s Choir’s first tour as professionals:

A concert each evening, including the Royal Festival Hall in London, each concert sold out, in the mornings studio recordings for records, radio stations and TV, no free time, travelling in a tottering bus, and so on. Put to the acid test! ( A real rough time!)

The Schaumburger Märchensänger – unutterable in English – took England by storm for the third time. But this time they went all over England and sang on a professional level.

Thanks to her inspiring guidance, the choir- children coped with these enormous efforts and that extreme work easily. Guarantee for the success was Edith Möller’s incomparable talent to motivate the whole choir so to speak playfully to best performances. Her enthusiasm, her radiance and capability of inspiration were added. The children would have loved to go on and on, nothing was too much!

And what about singing? They couldn’t get enough of it anyway.

Edith Möller and Erna Pielsticker wore themselves out on this tour, and without their like – minded partnership nothing would have worked out. The aim – the turning–point in the choir’s history – was reached. The Schaumburger Märchensänger (the fairy tales singers) were professionals.

April 11, 1954 London: Concert at the Royal Festival Hall
Sept. 17, 1954 New York: The press and television receive the Obernkirchen Children's Choir at the airport, but first the braids are straightened.

The English concert agency was overwhelmed by the choir’s success, and accepted the offer of the most famous and biggest artist agency of that time, (Columbia Artist Management in New York) to make possible a more extensive prospect of the future. Already in the fall of the same year the Obernkirchen Children’s Choir should go to America for six weeks. The success was breathtaking!

1954: "Fantastic, we are in New York!"

Columbia provided for a pianist, James Benner, university professor at the Acamedy of music in Morgantown, West Virgina, whose assignment was to accompany the most important concerts on the grand piano. Rapidly he fell in love with the choir and was fascinated by Edith Möller`s musicality. He was to be the constant accompanist on all world–wide tours.

In Washington D.C., the tour started with a concert in the Constitution Hall. The next day the Schaumburger Märchensänger met their Lower Saxonian sovereign, the president of the cabinet council Hinrich Wilhelm Kopf at a magnificent party in the garden of the German embassy.

1954 Washington DC: Edith Möller and Premier Hinrich Wilhelm Kopf
(Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, Germany) in the background
Ambassador Heinz Krekeler.

As far as known, in New York City only one daring concert had been planned in the then most important hall, the Town Hall. The previous year a very popular German orchestra is said to have been booed. World War II with all its atrocities still hadn`t been forgotten. The Obernkirchen Children’s Choir’ concert was a full triumph, within three following days four more concerts were held without any advertising. Only local radio stations announced these appearances. All shows were sold out, and crowds of people queued up.

Sept. 1954 New York City:
After the first concert in the Town Hall crowds of people 
in front of the Obernkirchen Children’s Choirs’s bus.

Over the next three days, four more not announced but sold out concerts will follow. Incredible! 

Nearly 20 states with all together 35 sold- out concerts, TV-shows and innumerable broadcasts followed. The Columbia Artist management was enraptured. The first America- tour took six weeks.

1954: Curiosity wins - the first American reviews have to be read on the spot.

Columbia wasn’t able to meet all inquiries, so that already during the first tour a second one was planned for 1955. On the day of departure, the tour was completely sold out. Still on the New York City airport the contract was renewed to three more months.

Nov. 9, 1954: Erna Pielsticker (left) and Edith Möller are happy and content
on the long flight home.