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54th Annual Swissfest Nov. 6
After an over two-year break due to the pandemic, the Monroe Swiss Singers will return to the Grand Hall stage at the Turner Hall of Monroe on Sunday, Nov. 6 for the group’s 54th Annual Swissfest.

MONROE — After an over two-year break due to the pandemic, the Monroe Swiss Singers will return to the Grand Hall stage at the Turner Hall of Monroe on Sunday, Nov. 6 for the group’s 54th annual Swissfest.

Turner Hall of Monroe’s Grand Hall has been largely void of Swiss folk music and traditions for almost three years, but all that will change Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. when the Monroe Swiss Singers will host its 54th Annual Swissfest. Sharing the stage and program along with the Monroe Swiss Singers are two other Green County staples, the Männerchor New Glarus and the Jodlerklub New Glarus. Alphorns, accordions, Swiss-coin rolling, Swiss flag-throwing and yodeling, all perennial favorites, will again be part of the show. 

When the Monroe Swiss Singers held its first Swissfest in November of 1963, the 19 charter members at that time probably never dreamed the event would still be going strong almost 60 years later. Although some of the faces in both the mixed choir and the audience have changed over the years, the Monroe Swiss Singers’ annual trademark event remains synonymous with quality Swiss folk music and entertainment, all for the sake of carrying on the traditions and culture brought to Monroe and south-central Wisconsin by its Swiss forbears. The pandemic proved to be a very challenging time for everyone, particularly singing groups. It wasn’t until mid-June of this year that the Monroe Swiss Singers once again resumed rehearsals, but with masking and other health safety protocols in place.

Special acts this year will include New Glarus yodeler, Nancy Streiff, accompanied on accordion by David Austin, and the Chörli Edelweiss, a small vocal ensemble that was formed to perform at New Glarus’ 175th anniversary in 2021. The program will also pay tribute to four members of the Monroe Swiss Singers who have passed on since the last Swissfest:  Martha Bernet, Ernie Halbheer, Gisela Halbheer, and Jackie Hennager-Schmitz. All but Hennager-Schmitz were charter members, with Bernet and Ernie Halbheer being natives of Switzerland, and Gisela Halbheer, from Germany.

Monroe has had a long history of Swiss choral groups, primarily men’s yodel quartets and choirs, dating from the late 1800s. The immediate predecessor of the Monroe Swiss Singers was the Swiss Club Men’s Chorus, which was established in 1958. Due to dwindling membership, female voices were added in February of 1963 and the group came to be known as the Gemischter Chor Monroe. 

In 1968, the name was officially changed to the Monroe Swiss Singers. Of the original 19 charter members, all except one were native Swiss. Deborah Krauss Smith, whose paternal grandmother, Emma Schär Krauss, was a Swiss native from canton Aargau, has directed the group since 1985. She is also a direct descendent of Jacob and Elsbeth Stauffacher, two of the original New Glarus colonists of 1845.  

Previous directors included Edwin Schuetze (1963-66), Christian Gafner (1966-71), Betty Koehler (1971-76) and Marie Power (1976-85). The group has won many first-place awards in competition singing, performs at area events, and has accepted invitations to perform at places such as Daley Plaza in Chicago; Folklore Village in Dodgeville, Wisconsin; the Berne Heritage Festival in Berne, Indiana; the Holy Cross Sisters 100th Anniversary in Merrill, Wisconsin; and numerous times at Oakwood Village — University Woods in Madison. A member of the North American Swiss Singing Alliance, and the choir participates in NASSA’s triennial Swiss singing festival and competition, the next of which will be held in Pittsburgh, Penn. in 2024.

General seating tickets are $12 and available only at the door this year. Tickets for children in grades K-12 are $1 and preschoolers are admitted free. Grand Hall doors will open at 1:30 p.m. Masking is not required, but is welcome. Due to staffing shortages, the lower level Ratskeller Restaurant will not be open that day.

The Turner Hall of Monroe, of which the Monroe Swiss Singers is a member subsection, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Established in 1868, it is believed to be the only Turner (gymnast) Hall of Swiss origin still operating in the United States. Following the original structure’s destruction by fire in 1936, the current building was designed by German architect, Max Hanisch, and re-opened in 1938. More information is available at