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IN THE NEWS - Summer - 2011
The Blue Ridge Digest

IN THE NEWS - 10/7/10
Octoberfests are on tap in the region

IN THE NEWS - 10/09
Catch Oktoberfest while it lasts

IN THE NEWS - 9/24/09
The Power of Polka

IN THE NEWS - 10/28/08
Mountain Lake's Oktoberfest celebrates German Traditions

IN THE NEWS - 10/07
Oktoberfest at Mountain Lake


   
 

THE SAUERKRAUT BAND

The traditional German “ohm pah” music can be heard throughout Virginia’s New River Valley and Southwest Virginia with the Sauerkraut Band. Since 1989, the band has used a unique blend of the traditional trachten (clothing) and authentic performance interpretations to recreate the lively experience normally found in the beer halls and beer tents throughout Southern Germany. They bring the term “Gemütlichkeit” to life with their high-energy performances and audience interaction. Everyone is German in the eyes of the Sauerkraut Band!

The group plays all types of traditional German beer tent music with the authentic scores and traditional performance styles. Band leader Ed Schwartz states, "After playing music throughout Southern Germany for several years, I felt comfortable with the German traditions. I put my first German band together in 1980 as a lark, and have played German parties and Oktoberfests every year since. Since coming to Virginia, I have always managed to attract the best musicians in the area and have great fun playing the classic German Beer Tent music!"

Schwartz also feels that the live performance of this type of ethnic music can bring about a closer tie to that particular ethnic group. "We sometimes tend to forget that we, as Americans, came primarily from other places. The traditions and customs of a great many societies comprise our culture as we know it today. Ethnic festivals help preserve the origins of many of these societies. We are doing our part by bringing a taste of the German culture to our area."

Indeed the original flair of this lively music can be found in the Sauerkraut Band. The band encourages group participation, much as one would experience in Germany. Schwartz says, "The group participation is an important part of the performance. Getting an entire group of strangers to sway to the music together or join in on one of the toasts is an essential part of the fun. In a sense, the music promotes organized rowdiness with plenty of room for individual creativity and expression." He also emphasizes that these are truly designed to be family affairs. “Yes, drinking beer is part of the adult experience, but the focus of the event is having fun, and kids are drawn to the fun atmosphere with singing, dancing and silliness.”

The music played by the Sauerkraut Band features many of the old German favorites that include the Polka, Waltz and March styles. Several of the other traditional folk dances such as Reinlander, Schottisch, Landler, Schuplattler, and Zweifache are also frequently heard.

The Sauerkraut Band will perform from authentic German arrangements of these traditional songs. The Sauerkraut Band consists of residents from several parts of the New River Valley, representing some of the best musical talent in the area. The band includes Ed Turner (Christiansburg) and Russell Shock (Blacksburg), on flugelhorn, John Gregg (Blacksburg), Tim Douthat (Newport), Daniel McPherson (Christiansburg), on trumpet, Lisa Utz (Radford), and Christine Cole (Christiansburg) on clarinet, Dean Chiapetto (Floyd) on euphonium, Tom Williams (Willis) on drums, Jude Raffeinner (Galax) on tuba, Susan Sanders (Blacksburg) on accordion, Ruth Neumann (Floyd) on accordion and vocals, and Gilbert Fezer (Simmonsville) on vocals. The final member and leader of the band is Ed Schwartz who plays euphonium and trombone.

The Sauerkraut Band was the house band for the Oktoberfest festival at the Mountain Lake Resort in Pembroke, Virginia from 1989 to 2012. The festival ran six to seven weeks each fall entertaining thousands of guests each year. This festival was listed in the October 7, 2004 issue of USA TODAY as one of the “10 great places to harvest some fun” in the month of October. The band has also performed for the “Local Colors” multicultural festival and Fallfest in Roanoke and has performed for numerous conferences and festivals at The Homestead and Greenbrier Resorts. The band is committed to community service with concerts in local nursing homes while performing beyond the New River Valley at festivals and parties in locations such as Richmond, Culpepper, Wytheville, Winchester, Harrisonburg, and Roaring Gap, North Carolina. The band celebrated its 25th season performing at the Sinkland Farms Oktoberfest in 2013.

 
 
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