Welcome to Zither US

Here you will find information pertaining to the concert zither, an instrument with Alpine origins commonly associated with the German-speaking lands of Europe. The concert zither has an incredibly rich history here in the US. By providing a venue to share its history and music, it's hoped that interest will be renewed and new players will be encouraged to take up this wonderful instrument.

To grow as a resource, Zither US is seeking your contributions. Did you have an ancestor who played the concert zither? Do you play, or have you attended a recent performance? If so, consider sharing your experiences and knowledge with the community. For more information on how to become a contributor, contact us.

For the enjoyment of the zither community, hundreds of vintage zither arrangements and compositions have been digitized and published. Visit the page of the Vintage Zither Music Project to browse the current collection.

and they came with their music...

Born in Gotha, Thuringia, Germany, Paul von Nordeck immigrated to the US, travelled extensively, and eventually settled in Salt Lake City, Utah. In this article, Boyd Humpherys remembers his grandfather, Paul von Nordeck, a talented musician who enjoyed entertaining friends and family with selected songs played on his favorite instrument, the concert zither.

The Philadelphia Zither Club, Its History

In the 1870s, zither players in the United States began to assemble with the goal of promoting and fostering the art of zither playing. In this article, Maurice Jacobi details the early challenges of establishing a zither club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Originally published in the Jan. 1, 1885 issue of Franz Waldecker's The Zitherplayer, this article has been kindly provided by Janet Stessl.

Zither in Film

Although most commonly associated with 'The Third Man,' the zither has made appearances in other films. In this photograph, actress Annabella receives zither lessons from Charles P. Burton for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 'Bridal Suite.'

Charles P. Burton instructs Annabella on the zither, 1939

Adam Kaiser: A Biography

In this article we explore the life of Adam Kaiser, a zitherist from the Sudetenland. Severely wounded during the Allied invasion of Europe, he was taken as a prisoner of war and sent to Scotland. After the war he was relocated to North Owersby, England, where he married a local girl and provided zither lessons to ten-year old Alan Hankins.

About the care of your Zither

Keeping your zither in top shape will increase your enjoyment when practicing and performing and will ensure that your instrument is preserved for years of use. At the 1993 FIGA Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois, Leonard Zapf Sr. presented words of advice to the zitherists in attendance, gained from years of experience as a zitherist and instrument repairman at Zapf's Music Store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Zithers of the Pennsylvania Germans

The scheitholt, whose form is the predecessor to the modern alpine zither, was constructed and played in the US by early German immigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1923, Dr. Henry Mercer presented his research of numerous zithers, then museum pieces, to members of the Bucks Country Historical Society.

Zithering in Buffalo

Thank you to Anna Mayerhofer for sharing this photo of her grandfather, Josef Mayerhofer Sr., and father, Josef. In this 1925 photo, father and son are enjoying some quality time together with zither music at their home in Buffalo, New York. Anna writes, “Both my grandfather and father enjoyed playing together with my grandmother, Anna. My grandfather played with the Buffalo Zither Club, too.”

Josef Mayerhofer Sr. and son Josef, Buffalo, NY, 1925

Zitherist Tony Godetz

Beer, pretzels and zither music by Tony Godetz fuel the celebration in this 1933 photo, taken at Chicago's Bismarck Hotel. Born in Austria in 1876, Tony Godetz came to America in 1904 and lived in Chicago where he worked as a music teacher, performer and instrument maker. His large model zithers were made by Franz Schwarzer in Washington, Missouri, and sold as the "Concert Grand" model. The Bismarck Hotel was closed in 1996 and, after extensive renovations, was reopened as Hotel Allegro.

Zitherist Tony Godetz at Chicago's Bismarck Hotel, 1933

Den En Zither Ensemble

I always enjoy hearing of zither events outside of the US, so thank you to Franz Metzger for sharing this photo of the Den En Zither Ensemble. The zither ensemble recently participated in a program in Tokyo. Franz also shared the following details regarding their recent performance:

"On September 8th, the Den En Zither Ensemble performed at the Fujimikaikan city facility in Den En Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. The ensemble participated in a concert given by some of the groups, professional and amateur, who practice at this facility. The program included Japanese folk instruments, vocal performances, Ocarina groups, our zither ensemble and a cello orchestra. Our group played "Jasmin - Polka" by Jos. Haustein, Op 110 (Zither I, II and Altzither) and "Elbstrandbilder Walzer" by Curt Freidrich (Zither I, II and Altzither). We annually play at this group concert using normal tables but this year we imported two zither tables from Germany and one of our members (far right in photo) made three tables. The new tables looked great and so was the sound."

The Den En Zither Ensemble, from left to right: Katsuya Shirai (Altzither), Teiko Sato (Zither I),
Franz Metzger (Zither I), Sachiko Sato (Zither II) and Toshihiro Kozaki (Zither II)

Zitherist James Exel

This circa 1885 photo comes to us courtesy of Keith Bellhorn and Ron Rabenold. At the zither is James Exel, Keith Bellhorn's great-grandfather.

James Exel was born in Austria in 1854. In the early 1880s he was employed as a butler in London, England and worked at Thrale Hall in Mitcham Road, Streatham. While working in London, James met Harry Packer, son of the American industrialist Asa Packer. He was hired by the family and in 1883 he immigrated to the US, sailing aboard the steam-ship City of Rome, and settled in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, now known as Jim Thorpe. In Mauch Chunk, he played his zither at Packer family parties, community gatherings and the Mauch Chunk Opera House.

Do you have a zither-related photo that you would like to share? If so, contact us.


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