Founded in 1885 by 10 German tradesmen dedicated to the goals of the labor reform movement that swept the nation in the late 19th century, the Indianapolis Saenger Chor initially called itself the Indianapolis Socialisticher Saengerbund (Indianapolis Socialist Singers Association). Members gathered in private homes and rented rooms at the German-English School on East Maryland Street and then at the Valhalla Hall on East Washington Street to sing songs of solidarity and justice for the working classes.
In 1923, public concern surrounding the Red Scare led the singing society to abandon its political-sounding name to be called simply the Indianapolis Saengerbund. In 1928, the society’s women’s chorus was formed. The women’s chorus performed separately and together with the men’s chorus. The women’s chorus merged with the men’s chorus in 1942, and the group then became known as the Indianapolis Saenger Chor.
The Saenger Chor purchased a clubhouse, at 521 East 13th Street, from the Sahara Grotto in 1942. Members remodeled the house, which dated back nearly to the Civil War. The facility included a rathskeller, meeting rooms, and an auditorium.
In 2002, the group sold its 13th Street location. It took up residence at 1824 West 15th Street in 2007. Although traditional German dinners and holiday celebrations constitute part of the Saenger Chor’s yearly calendar, people of German descent no longer make up a majority of its membership.
The Saenger Chor holds two annual concerts and participates in community events to bring attention to choral music performance and instruction. In addition, the Saenger Chor fully funds two music scholarships at the, Butler University.