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.

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.

Alpenklaenge Sheet Music

In 1942, zither players in Wisconsin came together to form the Milwaukee Zither Club "Alpenklaenge." For over half a century, the "Alpenkalenge" entertained appreciative audiences with popular favorites by Freundorfer, Wormsbacher, Reiter and many others. The following sheet music selections, kindly provided by Rudolf Mueller, are posted here to be shared and enjoyed by the zither community.

The Milwaukee Zither Club "Alpenklaenge", circa 1948

Thirty-Fifth Sterling Zither Seminar

Zither players from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey convened once again for the 35th Sterling Zither Seminar. Jane Curtis, whose report follows, served as host for the event and led the zither enthusiasts through a well-structured seminar program, which spanned two days. The seminar was held at the Greenspring retirement community in Springfield, VA.

Sound and Acoustics of the Zither

The art and science of instrument making involves many factors, each of which, when taken as a whole, will ultimately define an instrument's sound and playability. In this article, Franz Berwein explores the physics of sound as it applies to the zither. Originally published in German, this translation has been kindly provided by Jane Curtis.

The Zither in Washington, DC

Located in historic Hockemeyer Hall, the German-American Heritage Museum of the USA has recently opened their doors to the public. As a “Danke schön” to the many benefactors that made this museum possible, a gala event was recently held at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. Dr. William Kolb, author of the following article, provided the evening's entertainment with a collection of music played on his Wünsche zither.

The Early Zither Makers of Mittenwald

In the mid-1800s, a number of luthiers emerged that set new, higher standards for the zither. With this continued refinement, the zither began to play a more important role as new players, teachers and clubs began to emerge. In this article, Dr. Joan Marie Bloderer provides a biographical sketch of three early zither makers from Mittenwald, whose efforts led to significant improvements and worldwide recognition of this instrument.

San Antonio Zither Club

This photo of the San Antonio Zither Club (1892) comes to us courtesy of the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University. It is likely that the concert zither and its predecessors, such as the scheitholt, have been in the US since Germans landed on these shores. It wasn't until the 1870s, however, that zither clubs started to form, the first being the Detroit Zither Club (1877). Over the next several decades, zither clubs could be found in a significant number of major American cities.

DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, Ag2008.0005. ©

The Tyrolean Minstrel

An illustrated periodical, published in the middle of the 19th century in Boston, suggests that Tyrolean minstrels would occasionally travel to America, introducing onlookers to the melodies of their homeland. In the following article, published in Ballou's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion, April 4, 1857, a glimpse of their musical activities is provided.

Zitherist Adolf Maurer

A native of Germany, Adolf Maurer was a significant representative of the zither here in the United States. After moving to the US, around 1880, he first served as a director for a zither orchestra in Washington, DC. Later on, he relocated to Chicago where he continued his work as a zither instructor and promoter. The following article, published in the November, 1902 issue of The Cadenza, recalls his life and work.


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