Friday, January 22, 2016

Haben Wir Zusammengewesen!

. . . But wait, there’s more!

I’m still talking about our New Year’s Eve traditions. Here’s another one: We have a family theme song! I’ll bet you think I’m kidding—but I’m not!

Actually, it’s a “parting song,” and we sing it not just on New Year’s Eve, but at the end of potentially any family gathering. Indeed, we sang it out at Riverview Cemetery in 2000, after Grandma Schroeder’s interment ceremony—undoubtedly confusing to any who were unfamiliar with our customs!

But especially, we sing it at the end of the New Year’s Eve party. After the food, the drink, the conversation, the singing, the bell-ringing, and one-too-many mützens, this song is the cap to the evening.

When the first departing guests start brushing the powdered sugar from their clothes and putting on their coats, it is time to form a circle, join hands, and sing the family parting song. It was taught by my great-grandpa Albert Thomas to his daughters, who always sang it with great glee and vigor:

Haben wir zusammengewesen
Haben wir uns gefreuet
Ist der Vater kommen
Hat ein Stock einnommen
Hat uns wieder mal durch gebleuet
Ist der Vater kommen
Hat ein Stock einnommen
Hat uns wieder mal durch gebleuet.

We all got together
We had a good time
Then father came
Took up a stick
And thrashed us many times
Then father came
Took up a stick
And thrashed us many times.

I would love to know more about this song—where it came from, when it was composed, and who composed it, if that’s known. Does anyone else in the entire world even know of this song? (Click on it to see it bigger!)

I suspect it’s a children’s or “novelty” folksong, kind of like “John Jacob Jinkelheimer Schmidt.” But maybe it’s a Vaudeville or beer hall song. Maybe my great-grandfather picked it up in his boyhood in Germany, or maybe he learned it when he visited his family there in the 1920s. We don’t know.

If you are reading this, and you know this song or a version of it, please, please contact me! I want to learn more about it!

At any rate, he taught it to my grandma and her sisters, and they started the tradition of singing it at the end of our family gatherings. I can't tell you how tickled they were to sing it!

The style is remarkable: It is generally sung quietly, as if by children who are sharing a deliciously fun and mischievous secret . . . but the iterations of Hat! (pronounced like “hot!”) are sung explosively, vociferously, mimicking the blows of father’s stick and heightening the song’s novelty and excitement. Yeah, we really do shout it! (Again, it’s a lot like the explosively loud “La-la-la-la-la-la-las” in “John Jacob Jinkelheimer Schmidt.”)

It’s possible that the “stick” in the lyrics could be a reference to the switches Knecht Ruprecht shows to children before Christmas, to threaten them into good behavior.

But it makes me think of the story Grandma told of how she and her lifelong best friend, Marie Korsemeyer, at about age five, were naughty and picked a bunch of green apples, ate them—then promptly felt sick!

Traditionally, our family repeats the song once or twice. After the first rendition, Grandma or one of her sisters would generally sigh, shake her head, and explain, “We have to do it over. Someone wasn’t singing that time.” We do this in part to perform some mild, Schroeder-style hazing on any new members of the group (such as girlfriends and boyfriends), who are usually entirely bewildered by the song and its German lyrics. (I feign exasperation, and make a point of staring directly at the newcomers!)

Then, after another run-through, with people at least attempting to mouth the words, the comment is: “We sang it too loudly; that’s not the way Papa taught us; we have to sing it again. Softer!” (We still always make that complaint: “We sang it too loudly—we’ve gotta sing it again, only a lot softer, okay?”)

. . . In truth, we repeat it because we have so much fun laughing and singing it, and because we want to be together just a few more moments—before we must hug goodbye and go out into the bracing early air of January the first.

A technical note on my music transcription above: I couldn’t decide if the “Ist der” of the first “Ist der Vater kommen” should be a pickup to the repeated section, or beat one of it. If the latter, then the accented Hats would fall on the first beat of the measure, which I suppose is more straightforward. Hey, I don’t know. I guess it’s how you hear it. It could go either way.

Finally, as with everything else on my blog, please don’t copy this without giving credit to me and my blog. For one thing, I really do want people to be able to contact me if they know anything about this song!


About Margie said...


I discovered your blog while I was searching for Springerle tidbits. I loved your post about looking for forms and rolling pins. I have my great grandmother's Springerle rolling pin, but this has not stopped me from developing an addiction for increasing the collection. I just found a rolling pin today that not only impresses the design, but also cuts the cookie out--pretty nifty, isn't it? Your mention of Hermann caught my eye. My grandparents lived seven miles east of Hermann on Highway 100, and after they died, my parents took over the house and lived there another 20 years. I spent much time in that area!

But I digress . . . I wanted to mention that you might want to try using baking ammonia in the Springerle rather than baking powder--baking ammonia makes a big difference in the texture.

Also, for Haben Wir Zusammengewesen, you might want to contact the Volks Lieder Archiv and ask if they have any history on the song.

I am looking forward to reading more of your blog--I love what I have already found here!

All the best,

Cynthia Carrell said...

Once again, we've learned some interesting tidbit about your rich heritage.
If only we all had such family traditions! I mean, my family had some traditions, but none as long-lasting and "old world" as yours! Since our "parting of the ways" we no longer get together. My kids don't even know all their aunts, uncles, and cousins! BE THANKFUL for the family you have been blessed with!