Today we conclude our series on the history of the MSM. So, what has this long journey taught us? Who are we? What is a hero? We began by talking about the hero theme and how our past has shaped our identity but what does it all boil down to?

All of us, MSM or not, are at times a hero ourselves to someone somewhere. To our kids, our neighbors or a stranger on the street we each have moments of heroism. Whether through a kind word in passing or a generous heart each interaction is a chance at making an impact in the lives of those who’s path we cross. We are all at times a little bit Clark Kent and at other times a little bit Superman. We walk through our lives hiding special talents, inadvertent or not, and then at any given time and place we hop in a phone booth and come out a talented singer, dancer, poet, archer, juggler, comedian, mother, father, or mentor. You never know when the person next to you has some amazing talent to share with the world. Maybe it’s their ability to make people laugh and transcend the sadness in their day. Maybe it’s their ability to know the right thing to say at the right moment to give encouragement and hope. Maybe it’s their ability to create music that gives you a window into their soul and for a time transports you out of the everyday grind and allows you to feel things that you could not otherwise express in words. No matter what that hidden talent we all have the potential to use our talent, our ability, our POWER for good. We can elevate our community and we can give that moment of respite that we all at times desperately need.

We began this story with our heroine Marlys Greinke. She was a farm girl, a student, a wife, and a mother and when she shared her music it empowered others and made a meaningful impact. Music allowed her a platform to promote the inclusion of diverse and different backgrounds and be a catalyst for change in the established norms. She had a powerful influence on the principles that founded the MSM and how we examine the role we play in our community to this day. We heard from her son Ross earlier in the series talk about how he came back because he felt there “needed to be a Greinke” in the MSM. He was right in that we all need that spirit and that courage to love deeply our unique abilities and also know how to spread that love throughout our community through those abilities. Ross bookends a Greinke legacy in the MSM. From a young boy looking on at his mother’s efforts to found this organization to himself taking the mantle of President and continuing the efforts that she started and Lee labored over for decades, Ross has seen nearly 50 years of history pass. That bookend comes to a natural conclusion next Spring as Ross has announced that he will be leaving the MSM and enjoying a much-deserved retirement at the end of this concert season. He leaves the MSM without a Greinke in name but not without the spirit of love, inclusion, and commitment to our community that his mother started almost 50 years ago.

So, who are we?… We are you!! We are your friends, your family, your co-workers, your neighbors. We are the people you see every day in your city and suburbs, in your community, and on your block. We are a collection of people from right here in this community. We are an organic evolution formed out of a set of principles that have helped guide us in the right direction and learn how to use our abilities for good promoting diversity in our organization and inclusion in our community. After next Spring we may no longer carry the name Greinke in our ranks but we carry the spirit with which it infused our organization. It leaves a lasting legacy within the MSM that will outlive any name for as much as any name may influence an idea it takes a community to live up to it. We are known by many names but all share one home, MSM. So as we finish the latest chapter in our history perhaps the best way to end this story is with a line that has itself endured time long after the passing of its creator:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
– William Shakespeare

As we approach 50 years of sharing our gift and living up to the expectations set before us we intend to be that rose to our community by any name be it stranger, neighbor, mother, father, or friend.

We thank you so much for following our series this summer and are excited as we begin our 47th season. Stay tuned for updates throughout the year on where you can find the MSM and other exciting news.

Thank you to all those who contributed information to make this story possible and to the Greinke family for all the archival information and letting us tell a small part of their family story. Finally, thank you to all of you our loyal fans and followers who have given so much support over the years.

The fifth decade of the MSM began with Dr. Eduardo Garcia-Novelli programming his fourth full season as the MSM’s music director. As of 2019, Dr. García-Novelli has been the music director for nine seasons the longest of any director for the MSM. So how did Dr. Eduardo García-Novelli accomplish seeing the forest through the trees? Simple he had us climb them to new heights.

With the stability of a powerhouse music director and a core of strong, committed singers, the MSM embarked on a new mission: a concert should be an event, a visual and aural experience. Combining the spirit of diversity and following the excellence of music over societal standards would once again open the door to accomplish this auspicious goal of creating an experiential event around each concert.

The 2014-15 season featured a “Mass Mash-up”. Two Masses were presented with each movement (Kyrie, Credo, etc.) by a different composer. In the spring, the MSM presented “Celebrate the Arts”, including a dramatic reading from “The Belle of Amherst” and the UWM dancers interpreting “Dark Night of the Soul”, by Ola Gjeilo. Paintings and sculptures by local artists were displayed. In May 2015, the MSM celebrated the cultures of Milwaukee at the Helene S. Zelazo Center on the UW-Milwaukee campus. A PowerPoint presentation was displayed behind the choir for most pieces, showing old historic photographs of the various ethnic groups in Milwaukee. The Kinsella Academy Of Irish Dance performed, and Stas & Misha entertained during the intermissions.

The 2015-16 season began with the MSM singing the sublime “Lux Aeterna” by Morten Lauridsen. The March 2016 concert was “A Musical Journey of the Americas”, featuring two masses composed in the Americas. The first was Missa “Ego flos campi” by Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla. Padilla was born in Spain but moved to Mexico in 1620 to compose music in the New World. The other, “Mass from Two Worlds”, was composed by contemporary composer Ariel Quintana, an Argentinian. The May 2016 concert, titled “Speak to Us of Love”, featured a poetry reading by Senior Lecturer Raeleen McMillion of the UW-Milwaukee Theatre Department and a PowerPoint presentation of the words to “Dear Sarah”, a letter written by a Civil War soldier to his wife and children, by James Syler. The text of the piece appeared on the screen in time with the choir singing them. The text is from a letter written by a Civil War soldier to his wife and children. A week after writing the letter, the soldier died at the Battle of Bull Run. The song deeply haunting and eerily foretelling of the soldier’s fate didn’t leave a dry eye in the house.

As a return gesture for Dr. Eduardo García-Novelli conducting concerts in Slovenia, the MSM invited Alenka Podpečan from Slovenia to direct a concert in March of 2017 with the MSM and the Carthage College choir in a concert named “Between Two Worlds”. The chosen repertoire featured music by several Slovenian composers and Slovenian folk songs, as well as music by composers from some of Slovenia’s neighboring countries – Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia. Exceedingly challenging for its demand to master a number of different languages, “Between Two Worlds” was a crowning moment in cultural inclusion and an incredible experience for the Carthage College Choir and the Master Singers of Milwaukee in working with the young, vibrant, and talented Alenka Podpečan.

At the same time, the MSM was adjusting to changes behind the scenes. When Marlys passed, long time original member Lee Henning stepped up to take over as President for the MSM. A titan in the group, Lee helped keep the gears turning and propelling the organization forward. In addition to being one of the original members, Lee was one of the groups loudest advocates pushing it to grow and for the community to be aware of the amazing music it was creating. His steadfast dedication to community engagement helped continue the principles that Marlys had established and kept her spirit alive in the group. We are happy to say that to this day Lee is still a fixture tenor in the MSM and one of a small handful of original members still performing at the highest levels within the group. Lee, however, recognizing and being a strong proponent for the groups continued growth retired from the role of President to open the way for new people and ideas to help carry the group forward. A special piece was commissioned by the MSM of Gregory Berg, Associate Professor of Music at Carthage College and all-around amazing musician that the group performed in honor of Lee and his many years of commitment to the MSM as President. His lasting imprint on the MSM was mirrored in the moving melody and lyrics of the piece.

Simultaneously, Ross Greinke stepped in to fill the void as President and the group hired Dr. Sally Stanton as Executive Director of the MSM to help develop its organizational skills and create a stronger infrastructure and consistency to keep up with the growth we were experiencing. The MSM also expanded its financial program incorporating more grants and innovative ways of keeping consistent funding throughout the year.

The 2017-18 season began with “Seasons in Song”, including Morten Lauridsen’s “Midwinter Songs”. The rest of the program followed with music from autumn, spring, and summer, including “Summertime” by George Gershwin with Marj Fowler singing the solo. In March 2018, the MSM invited the UWM Concert Chorale and Director Dr. Zachary Durlam to share the stage for the concert “Of War and Peace”. Songs about war, peace, or pieces composed during times of war were presented. The final concert of the season, “At the Movies”, featured music from movies and films, old and new. A delightful PowerPoint presentation with images of the movie posters and scenes from each movie was created by Marlys Greinke’s grandson, Daniel Greinke.

2018-19 included concerts that took the experiential event to a new level. Each was an experience packed with immersive aspects not to be missed. The season began with a musical tribute to the year 1918 celebrating the 100 years that had passed. All of the composers either were born or died in 1918, was composed in 1918, or related to relevant events in 1918. Besides featuring composers Lili Boulanger and Claude Debussy, this concert celebrated the birth of Leonard Bernstein by performing his “Mass”, with guest tenor Cameron Smith and featuring our very own Lee Henning. The concert also included a powerful piece written in recognition of the Armistice signed in 1918 ending the first World War.

The financial stability of the group allowed another once-in-a-lifetime experience, as the Master Singers of Milwaukee were able to perform the Midwest premiere of “Misa a Buenos Aires: Misatango” by Martín Palmeri a unique pairing of the traditional Mass with the vibrant pulse and style of Tango music. Its world-traveling composer Maestro Palmeri was invited to accompany his piece on the piano. Additionally, the world-famous bandoneon player Daniel Binelli was invited to accompany the Misatango. The bandoneon, a concertina-like instrument with buttons instead of a keyboard, is intimately tied to Argentinian tango and Misatango was specifically written to include this beautiful instrument. The trinity of Argentinians, Maestro Martín Palmeri, Master of the bandoneon Daniel Binelli, and our very own Dr. Eduardo García-Novelli provided an amazing cultural immersion and brought to life “Misa a Buenos Aires: Misatango”. A nine-piece string ensemble affiliated with Carthage College including the President’s Quartet rounded out the instrumentalists with performances at All Saints’ Cathedral and the A.F. Siebert Chapel at Carthage College in a performance that was the largest attended performance in the Carthage Fine Arts Series to date. The visual portion of the concert included tango dancers and several standalone tango pieces performed by world-renowned Daniel Binelli.
The season concluded with “A Night at the Oper(ett)a”, a whimsical exploration of the operetta art form with excerpts from “Pirates of Penzance” and “Die Fledermaus”. Five ultra-talented local artists, Laura Schachner, Erin Sura, Shallece Saleen, Nathan Wesselowski, and Drew Brhel joined the MSM performing scenes from the operettas. The MSM choir members cut their teeth in acting playing supporting and lead roles in addition to their singing duties.

The 2019-20 season will continue the strategy of making each concert an event to both see and hear. In May 2020, the MSM will perform J.S. Bach’s “St. John Passion” with guest soloists and a 19-member orchestra. This concert will be sponsored in part by Ross Greinke as a remembrance of the legacy left by his parents, Ralph and Marlys Greinke. Ralph Greinke passed away in November of 2018 having left a lasting impact himself on the group’s success for all his years of support for Marlys and her passion for music. This season will be Ross’ 30th performing with the Master Singers of Milwaukee and will be his last, as he retires from the group and the board to live closer to his siblings in Tampa, Florida.

The impact that the Greinke family has had on the MSM is impossible to overstate. Friday we will revisit the hero theme we started with and write the conclusion of this story for now. We will look back on what brought us here and what is so unique about the MSM.

Thank you as always to our fans and followers for being the best in Milwaukee and don’t forget to take advantage of season tickets now at a special discount price! As we gather to begin crafting the amazing experiential events you have come to expect we look forward to hearing from all of you on here recounting your fondest memories of the MSM.

The year was 2010. Iron Man 2 was the blockbuster superhero movie making over $128 million at the box office. Meanwhile, the MSM was on the search for its own superhero. Enter the Argentinian Iron Man Dr. Eduardo Garcia-Novelli.

Dr. Eduardo García-Novelli, a native of Argentina, is Professor of Music, Director of Choral Activities, and Chair of the Music Department at Carthage College where he conducts the Carthage Choir. He holds undergraduate degrees in music education from the Conservatorio Manuel de Falla, and in choral conducting from the Conservatorio Juan José Castro, both in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In his homeland, Dr. García-Novelli led for eight years the award-winning, 300-member high school choral program at Belgrano Day School in Buenos Aires, which included music theatre productions, and national, South-American, and European tours. Concurrently, he served as Assistant Director of the prestigious National Young People’s Choir.

Dr. Eduardo Garcia-Novelli moved to the United States to pursue graduate studies in music and graduated with distinction with a Master of Music from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and completed his Doctorate of Musical Arts degree at the University of Houston, in Houston, Texas. Dr. García-Novelli served as Assistant Director of the Houston Symphony Chorus for five seasons, Director of Choral Activities at Lee College in Baytown, Texas for one year, and served six years as Director of Choral Activities at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas before arriving at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI.

Everywhere he has traveled Dr. Eduardo Garcia-Novelli has racked up a staggering list of distinctions, invites to feature at numerous music festivals and started a number of successful programs and initiatives to his credit benefiting both the institutes he was working for and the community at large. All of that would only touch on the prologue in the story of his illustrious career!

He has traveled the world and has a track record of excellence that follows in his wake. It’s easy to see why we would consider him the Argentinian Iron Man for his tremendous work ethic, ability to constantly be everywhere all the time and enough metal in awards and accolades to build his own suit. Most recently the Carthage Choir has earned top honors at the Spittal International Choir Competition, winning first place in the folk song category and the classical/modern choral works category to rank first place overall. They are the first group in the festival’s history to top both categories. The competition, in existence since 1964, accepts just one choir per country.

Since joining the MSM Dr. Eduardo Garcia-Novelli has continued to provide stability and collaboration by inviting local high school choirs to perform with the Master Singers at Christmas-time. He has a unique talent for pulling the best out of the group and finding new and challenging repertoire. A veritable encyclopedia of music knowledge, Dr. Garcia-Novelli keeps us on the cutting edge of performance and introduces the group to a diverse and rich repertoire from around the world attracting world-famous talent to join us for performances and musicians from around the world to come share their influence.

Whether it be his demand for musical excellence or demand that we bring in cake to share on our birthday the man who many affectionately call GN has allowed us to elevate our art and ourselves with an intensity for the music and a sense of humor about ourselves.

Stay tuned as we enter the latest decade of the MSM and hear more about how a group of Milwaukeeans and one native Argentinian took the MSM to the next level.
Thank you to those who have shared in our series and continue to follow us online. We are excited about the new season and hope to hear more from you. You can reach us at or through our website at

Milwaukee Wisconsin and Rochester New York are separated by 520 miles and a few Great Lakes. It’s a leisurely 11-hour drive from downtown to downtown and will only cost you a small portion of your retirement in tolls to traverse the distance by car. Rochester is known as the “Flour City” or “Flower City” for its rich history as a thriving mill industry town and its profitable seed trade. Milwaukee, on the other hand, is known as the “Cream City” or “Brew City” for its dominating landscape of cream-colored brick buildings and its tremendous talent for brewing, and well, consuming beer. So, what did a flour pounding port and a beer-swilling metropolis have in common and what does it have to do with the MSM?

Yes, the MSM did survive Y2K. Three years later we started a new chapter with the 30th year of the group’s existence. After a season of choral director auditions, the MSM extended an invitation to Maestro Eric Townell to be the music director of the Master Singers of Milwaukee. Townell would lead the group for seven seasons, to that point the longest tenure of a music director since Marlys Greinke led the group. This multi-season stability allowed Townell the freedom to plan ahead and bring more challenging repertoire to the ensemble. Concerts not only included familiar pieces by Bach, Brahms, and Mendelssohn, but modern pieces by Stephen Paulus, Eric Whitacre, Jean Belmont, Jackson Berkey, and Carl Orff. The MSM continued its embrace of diverse repertoire programming a concert in 2005 featuring folk songs in over 10 different languages none of which included the common languages generally performed of German or Latin.

Maestro Townell also helped to increase the collaborative efforts of the group. In May of 2005, the MSM and the Chamber Choir Cantinovum of Finland were invited to New York by the Finnish Consulate General for a concert celebrating Finland’s national epic poem, The Kalevala. In October of 2007, the Master Singers invited the Army Soldier’s Chorus and the Great Lakes Navy Band for a concert at the Pabst Theater entitled Enter the Heroes, A Celebration of Freedom. In June of 2009, the MSM joined the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus for the final concert conducted by Andreas Delfs. Gustaf Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, the “Symphony of a Thousand” was performed to a packed house, using every square inch of the stage at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts to hold the impressive gathering of musicians.

Maestro Eric Townell accomplished tremendous growth with the MSM all while commuting back and forth from Rochester, NY. Townell was our nomadic champion pushing the group to new heights and helping hone our skills and anchor our position as a premier vocal ensemble. The rebellious spirit of chasing excellence in music over what was easy or popular resulted in. for a brief time, Milwaukee and Rochester sharing the immense talents of Eric Townell. From daffodils to drafts, pastries to Pabst, the “Flower/Flour City” and the “Cream/Brew City” got a small taste of the same artistic influence and a unique cultural immersion experience. Alas, the sustainability of splitting his time between the Master Singers of Milwaukee and the Rochester Oratorio Society became taxing and Maestro Eric Townell and the MSM parted ways in 2010. Townell had made a lasting impact on the group and now it was time for the MSM to take the lessons they learned and grow. They focused in on finding a director that could help them reach out to the local community and who had ties to Southeastern Wisconsin. Little did the MSM know they were about to land the newest hero in our story.

Marlys was our hometown hero. She was our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man bit by the music bug and out to change the landscape of arts in Milwaukee. If Marlys was our Spiderman, then our new director Dr. Eduardo Garcia-Novelli could certainly be considered our Argentinian Iron Man.

Continue to follow our story here as we enter a whole new era with the MSM. Please like and share our story and comment with your memories of the MSM over the years. A special thank you to all of those who reached out sharing so many positive thoughts and memories following our post regarding the passing of Marlys. It is a true pleasure for us to tell her story and to engage with so many amazing followers and fans of the MSM.

The 90s did exist. Despite popular belief, there were years between 1989 and 2000 that transpired and as much as some of us might wish to forget them for the hairstyles we sported, the posters we plastered on our walls or the endless void of time spent on AOL the 90s marked a pivotal chapter in our history. The decade began in calamity with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Operation Desert Storm, and the emergence of the modern “Boy Band”. The digital age was revving its engine and live performance art was starting to feel the impact. 1990 boasted billboard top hits like New Kids on the Block’s “Step by Step” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”. Music was changing in wonderful and terrifying new ways and with programs like Napster on the horizon access to music was about to change forever.

The MSM began the 90s with the loss of Marlys Greinke and a need for the members to band together like never before to move the group forward. Marlys had left the group with a firm foundation and her lasting spirit helped guide the group as they ventured forward without her. Without Marlys as the artistic director and without a full-time conductor, the Master Singers of Milwaukee’s board decided to have a season of choral director auditions inviting four separate conductors to each prepare one of the four concerts for the season. The 1994-95 season had Dr. John Windh, Dr. Sharon Hansen, Dr. William Hienz, and Dr. Patrick Gorman each conduct one concert.

Marlys established a spirit of diversity early on within the very fabric of the MSM. She made decisions based on the excellence of music versus what was popular or mainstream. It was a pillar of what the MSM represented and what transcended their incredible music talent to reach a broader and more diverse audience. They featured greater diversity in their programming than many of their contemporaries and often featuring women in prominent roles within the organization. If there was ever any doubt over whether the rest of the MSM shared her passion and integrity it was quickly put to rest when in carrying on that ideology they decided to bring back Dr. Sharon Hansen for the subsequent concert season. It was a profound statement which paid off handsomely with many members agreeing it was one of the best-programmed seasons in the group’s history.

The changing culture around live performance arts began to create unique problems for many live performance-based organizations. Many organizations began to fall to the cutting room floor unable to adapt to the changing culture or find ways to remain relevant or create a draw for their performances. Access to recordings of music was becoming easier and cheaper while exposure to the arts was becoming broader. You could now find a recording of the Red Army Choir performing an epic piece with incredible precision from the other side of the world and download it for free in a matter of minutes. Local groups were now competing with groups not just within their own drivetime but all over the world. Live performance as a pure entertainment was on the decline and now you had to find diverse ways of creating an experience around a performance to get substantial attendance.

True to form the MSM saw these unique problems as unique opportunities. They continued to explore the audition season format to diversify the product their audience would receive and hone in on those qualities that would really help them step-up to the next level. The following season showcased concerts programmed by Richard Bjella, Gregory Carpenter, Alexander Platt, and Scott Stewart. The following two seasons each had five concerts instead of four, with Stewart and Platt splitting conducting duties.

In 1999, Cary John Franklin led the Master Singers for the first two concerts of the season, including a delightful Christmas concert of “Magnificats and Carols.” Stephen Paulus and Cary John Franklin arranged many of the carols for that program making it a unique concert experience for those in attendance. Alexander Platt conducted the other half of the season with Viennese programs and Haydn Masses. The end of the third decade of the group’s existence brought yet another season with four conductors. The concerts were led by Martha Dodds Stoner, Eric Townell, Dr. Jeffrey Douma (now director of the Yale Glee Club), and David Mohr (now director of The Lutheran A Cappella Choir).

The 90s had passed and music had changed. NKOTB and Vanilla Ice were replaced by Ricky Martin and Brittany Spears. The Spice Girls empire had its rise and fall and the looming doom of Y2K was upon us. The MSM had survived the loss of its most influential founder without losing their integrity and by growing closer and stronger in the process.

Stay tuned for our next installment of the history of the MSM and comment below with your memories and experience with the MSM over the years. It is through fans like you that we feel the greatest sense of accomplishment.

The 80s were let’s just say different. From the fashion of the day to the shift in culture and entertainment It was a time of bold statements and even bolder clothes. It’s not surprising that at times we can peer glimpses of history as it finds ways to subtly give us a wink and a nod to eras past. No, the headlines above don’t refer to the current tensions with Iran, storming Area 51, the construction of the wall or what states are legalizing marijuana. In the 80s these headlines referred to the Iran-Contra scandal, President Reagan’s address to the UN where he talked about how we would respond to an alien threat, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Just Say No initiative. For the Master Singers of Milwaukee looking back at the first decade of its existence under the same name provides us a sense of nostalgia and irony as we glimpse parallels of our own. From the connection to Bach’s St. John Passion to our current season schedule first established in the 80s we are reminded how our history still influences our growth and challenges us to be better versions of ourselves. Our clothes might not be as neon or spandex and our hair might not be as voluminous but the same passion for exploring rich diversity and drive to push the limits of musical talent still beat strong at the heart of our organization.

Marlys, in what by modern standards could only be called a “Baller Move”, would make a statement with the first director hired to lead the newly minted Master Singers of Milwaukee. In January 1984, Alice Parker, American composer and conductor was asked to conduct the Master Singers of Milwaukee in a program containing some of her own works, including Kentucky Psalms and In Praise of Singing. Not only would their first director be a woman, but they would be prominently featuring her incredible works. Championed by its founder Marlys, directed by a prominent modern female composer and featuring Alice Parker’s works as top billing in their program the MSM wasn’t out to change the establishment but they demonstrated that every member embraced the MUSIC first. They would program, and hire based on the quality and content of the music and one’s abilities and not based on notoriety or influence. Their first performance would also include Brahms Liebeslieder to pay homage to their roots in performing works by great German composers and the role it played in their formation.

The MSM continued to grow creating new traditions and opportunities to engage their community. In December 1984, members of the Master Singers participated in an Advent / Christmas celebration. The performance was in German at Sherman Park Lutheran Church. The MSM would then return to Sherman Park for the “German Christmas” service year after year. By 1987 the modern model for our performance season was formed. A season’s worth of concerts were planned and performed instead of the one-at-a-time method employed earlier. The 1987 season found the MSM performing a program of 20th-century music conducted by Eldon Balko, a program of the music of Maurice Duruflé, including the Requiem conducted by Charles Sullivan, and a performance of Handel’s Messiah with the Concord Chamber Orchestra. Like the “German Christmas” service, performances of Messiah with the Concord Chamber Orchestra would become another annual tradition for years to come.

In our next installment, we will dive into the 90s and hear first-hand testimonials from past and present members. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and share your fond memories of the MSM over the years.

A special thank you to all those who have reached out sharing your stories and memories. It’s been a true joy hearing how the MSM impacted your life.

On April 3, 1973, from a Manhattan street corner, Motorola’s Martin Cooper placed the world’s first mobile phone call. Ten years later on September 21, 1983, Motorola made history when the FCC approved the 8000X, the world’s first commercial portable cell phone. 1983 would also see the first American woman in space when Sally Ride embarked on the maiden voyage of the Challenger shuttle. In that very same decade, there was another woman who embarked on her own voyage. In the same span of time, it took cell phone technology to make it into the hands of the public she had formed a formidable group of some of the areas most talented vocalists. Without cellphones or social media, Marlys relied on a handshake and her reputation and with a little persistence and a magnetic personality, she convinced a handful of her contemporaries, some competing with her for the same local performance opportunities, to form together for a common purpose.

Music Director and founder Marlys Greinke had a vision for how to start the Schütz Choir and began reaching out to talented vocalists in the area to build support. Marlys decided they would not have a formal concert season; instead, once or twice a year, the group would work with a guest conductor to put together a program of baroque music, rehearse, and then perform it. She liked the concept of bringing in different directors so that through that diversity the singers would constantly be learning and growing. They would take the best from each experience to evolve and perfect their sound.

Guest conductors included Lou Jacobi, John Parfrey, Charles Sullivan, Eldon Balko, and Margaret Hawkins. Their early concerts featured works by Schütz, J.S. Bach, Buxtehude, and Brahms. Though doing exclusively Baroque music the diversity in their approach both in programming across the spectrum of German Baroque composers and being influenced by the artistry of different conductors became a primary characteristic of the young group. With an exceedingly talented core of vocalists being open to exploring different methodologies and open to evolving ideas, it set them apart as a premier powerhouse of musical excellence. Marlys handpicked an all-star team of talent and musicality. In ten short years, a vision grew into a surging movement in the vocal arts community. With all their talent and a spirit of exploration, it was not long before they outgrew the confines of Baroque music. They had a thirst for the challenge of trying different and unique music and testing the limits of their abilities.

Marlys decided that if they were going to shed the constraints of being a strictly Baroque ensemble, the group needed a new name. The singers of the Schütz Choir had become masters of their craft, many performing as featured soloists with other groups and compiling staggering resumes. It only seemed fitting they take on a name that captured the essences of what they strived for with each performance and so the group was renamed The Master Singers of Milwaukee. The first concert under their new name was performed in 1983.

In just one short decade the group had already established itself as a perennial powerhouse. Now, with the restraint of performing only German Baroque music lifted, Marlys Greinke was free to program concerts with music from all eras. This would take the already skyrocketing group into a whole new stratosphere of opportunities.
Friday the reign of the Master Singers of Milwaukee begins as we tell the story of how an unshackled group with limitless talent pushed the envelope and, in the process, defined a new sound in Milwaukee.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss out on opportunities to hear the Master Singers of Milwaukee as we begin our 47th season. We invite you to share memories, pictures, and insights from your experiences with the MSM.

A special thank you to those who have been following our story and reaching out with your own found memories. We are truly grateful to have such incredible fans and followers.

The United States women’s national soccer team made an undeniable statement this year winning their 4th straight world cup and setting a staggering 20 new records in the process including scoring more points in one game against Thailand than the United States men’s soccer team had scored in ALL of their games from the 2010 and 2014 world cup’s combined! The chant of “Equal Pay” catapulted a sports victory into a sharp debate over inequalities and obstacles that women still face in 2019.

Now imagine the year 1973. Watergate, the 1973 oil crisis, the 1970s energy crisis and the end of the Vietnam War were among the major events dominating culture in the US. Women had just been permitted to run in the Boston Marathon the year before and it would still be another 5 years before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 which blocked employers from being able to fire women from their job for being pregnant. Roe v. Wade was the landmark case in 1973 and for the first time ever, women in the US Open would receive the same prize money as their male counterparts. Well apparently, no one told Marlys that the idea of a woman in charge and starting her own organization in a male-dominated field just wasn’t possible because that is exactly what she did.

Marlys continued to sing with the Chicago Baroque Ensemble under the baton of Victor Hildner in Chicago, but once kids came into the picture the commute to Chicago became too much. Marlys joined the Lutheran A Capella choir in Milwaukee directed by Eldon Balko who upon hearing her voice encouraged her to become a soloist. Marlys began singing all over as a mezzo-soprano but always had a longing to sing the Baroque repertoire she had been performing in Chicago. Ralph seeing Marlys’ passion for music and the amazing impact her voice made on others took charge of holding down the homefront and encouraged Marlys to go back and pursue a master’s degree in vocal performance.

With each accomplishment and the steadfast support she received from Ralph, Marlys became a well respected and revered musician and ambassador of vocal music in Milwaukee. Taking her experience with the Chicago group, the talented local singers she met through the Lutheran A Capella choir, and an unwavering desire to elevate music in the greater Milwaukee area Marlys became the Music Director and founder of the Schütz Choir named after Heinrich Schütz a German composer and organist regarded as the most important German composer before Johan Sebastian Bach. This would lay the bedrock for what would eventually become the Master Singers of Milwaukee.

Marlys had a presence about her that transcended gender and those who met her could not help but feel deep respect and admiration for her. With an amazingly supportive husband urging her to chase her dreams she broke with societal stereotypes and her peers loved her for it. Rather than settle for what was available to her or compromise her passion she went out and created what she envisioned and took a passionate and talented following with her. She didn’t break 20 world records but she created something brand new and unique from nothing but a dream and a drive to see it through.

Next we will continue our story with the beginnings of the Schütz Choir and how it culminated in becoming the Master Singers of Milwaukee. We invite you to share your comments and memories over the years of what the MSM has meant to you. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss any installments of the History of the MSM as we build-up to the start of our 47th season.
A special thank you to all of those who have reached out sharing personal memories and photos. We have the best fans in the city as you prove time and time again.