On April 13, 1892, German Immigrants settling in the US founded the Greater Beneficial Union of Pittsburgh, PA (GBU), an insurance society helping each other with the first hardships in the United States – as there was no health insurance or Social Security.
Our GBU story began on February 23rd, 1923, when a few men got together to form a choir. John Zabel was the first president, and after a year, they counted over 100 members. In March of 1926 a group of women started a ladies choir. As a result of the depression, both groups sustained substantial losses in membership and therefore chose to merge.
GBU president Hans Schreck and president Thomas Seiler of the Saxonia Mixed Chorus decided to practice singing together. This was in 1936, when Franz Reschke was hired as director of the new GBU-Saxonia Mixed Chorus. George Beverst assumed his position as conductor in 1965.
In 1983 the group’s first trip to Germany was undertaken on the 300th anniversary of Germans in America. That was also the year of our 60th anniversary, to which we had invited the renowned tenor from Germany, Mr. Rudolf Schock, to our anniversary concert. Following a choral festival in Hamburg, we visited the city of Krefeld, from which the first 13 families had come to settle near Philadelphia in 1683.
The next concert tour to Germany took place in 1993, at which time we earned many honors and awards. The Rheingold men’s choir joined us in 1994, which is reflected in our present name. Our third trip took us to six German cities in 1996, one of those being located in the former East Germany.
The highlight of our 75th anniversary celebration in 1998 was the Fall Concert, which featured songs, a skit or poem from each Province. Our trip in May of 2000 included visits to places along the Rhine River, the most memorable event being the opportunity to sing in the Cathedral of Cologne.
This year we’ll celebrate our 80th anniversary with another trip to Germany in September 2003, visiting 5 choirs in the Kassel, Frankfurt and Harz mountain area.
We have befriended many German choirs, most of which have visited us here on their America tours. We are currently members of German Singing Societies in Germany, Michigan and North America. We are proud of our Old World Christmas Market, which attract about 2000 visitors who browse, shop, pose for pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Santa, enjoy “Gemütlichkeit” over coffee and German pastries, and provide an audience for our German Christmas Songs. Every February we feature the very popular “Karneval” festival, in which many enjoy participation, with or without costumes. We have been told ours is the largest such celebration in Michigan.
The official anniversary banquet, concert and dance will be celebrated
November 22nd, 2003. Participation in the GBU Saxonia-Rheingold provides its
members the opportunity to share a unique bond of fellowship and pride in our
German culture and heritage. May it continue to be so for many years to come.