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BOERNE VILLAGE BAND

Boerne Village Band in Fredericksburg
Boerne Village Band in Fredericksburg, 1885. Today, the band is acclaimed as the “Oldest Continuously Organized German Band in the World outside Germany Itself.” Courtesy Robert H. Thonhoff.

BOERNE VILLAGE BAND. The Boerne Village Band was organized in 1860 by Karl Dienger in Boerne, the county seat of Kendall County. Having previously organized the Boerne Gesang Verein (singing club), Dienger organized the band to complement the singing festivals in Boerne with band music. He coordinated both musical groups from 1860 to 1885. Ottmar von Behr, who moved with his family to Sisterdale in the 1840s, was a strong influence in the band. Two of his children, Jennie and Ottmar, played with the group, and Jennie's husband, Fritz Fisher, taught his nephews, Ottmar Jr, Arthur, and Oscar to play musical instruments. In time, both Oscar and Ottmar Behr became directors of the band. Later, Oscar's daughter Roma married Alvin Herbst, and their son, Kenneth, a veterinarian, became the band director. In turn, Dr. Herbst's sons, Kenneth Jr. and Clint, also became members. In all, the descendants of the Behr family have included five generations of musicians and three generations of directors of the Boerne Village Band.

The band managed to stay organized and practiced in barns during the difficult Civil War period. After the war it continued to practice and play at various events in and around Boerne. During the world wars the group was less active but remained organized. After World War II Ottmar Behr, despite losing his son Calvin who was killed in action near Oeting in France, reassembled the group with Erhard Ebner, Henry Schrader, Eugene Ebell, Alvin Grosser, Fritz Grosser, Harry Grosser, and others participating.

In 1988 the Federal Republic of Germany recognized the Boerne Village Band for its contribution to the German heritage in Texas and America by donating to it much traditional German music and a magnificent tenor horn. For the band's 130th anniversary in 1990, Peter Fihn, a noted German composer, dedicated and presented his march "Grüsse an Texas" ("Greetings to Texas") to the band. In 1991 the Texas legislature adopted a resolution to recognize the Boerne Village Band for "keeping alive German music as a part of our heritage." The city of Boerne and the Boerne Area Historical Preservation Society have also recognized the band for its contribution to the German heritage of Boerne.

Additionally, in 1988 the Federal Republic of Germany presented Dr. Kenneth C. Herbst Sr., director of the band since 1972, with its Friendship Award. Otto Schicht, a special friend in Bavaria, helped obtain authentic uniforms for the band, which were first worn during its 1986 Texas Sesquicentennial performances. On May 2, 1992, Dr. and Mrs. Herbst and other invited guests attended a luncheon given by the president of Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker, during his state visit to Houston, where he commended the German musical tradition in Boerne. In 1996 Germany's most distinguished award for folk music, the Pro-Musica Plakette, given only to German Bands with more than 100 years of continuous existence, was presented to the Boerne Village Band by German president Roman Herzog.

Over the years, the German government has graciously donated several hundred pieces of sheet music to the band. German composers Hans Freivogel, Peter Fihn, and Alfred Fischer have dedicated march and waltz music to the band. For fifteen years, 1985–2000, band members Rudolf and Lia Scheffrahn maintained the musicians' folders, which in the year 2001 held more than 300 selections of authentic German music. Beginning in 1995 the Boerne Village Band has taken an annual trip to Monterrey, Mexico, to perform for the Deutscher Club and the Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery. In 1999 and 2000 the band played for the Germanfest at Robert's Cove, Louisiana. In 1994, 1997, and 2000, the Boerne Village Band toured Germany and Austria, where it presented a series of concerts. A highlight of the year 2000 tour was performing a concert in honor of the 1000th anniversary of Bad Camberg, a small town near Runkel, Germany, where the band performed another concert at the Runkel Castle.

Acclaimed as the "Oldest Continuously Organized German Band in the World outside Germany Itself," the Boerne Village Band celebrated its 150th anniversary on October 10, 2010, with a special commemoration and concert at the Kendall County Fairgrounds. With sixteen members and several associates, the band continued to practice regularly and perform at the New Braunfels Wurstfest, the Kendall County Fair, the Boerne Berges Fest, Boerne Abendkonzerte (summer evening concerts) and many other area events.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Boerne Star, October 5, 2010. Boerne Village Band History (City of Boerne, Texas, 2000). Garland Perry, Historic Images of Boerne, Texas (Boerne: Perry Enterprises, 1982).

Robert H. Thonhoff

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Robert H. Thonhoff, "BOERNE VILLAGE BAND," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgbjv), accessed October 24, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on May 19, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.