Brahms’ ladies choir

Brahms formed a Ladies Choir of about fifty singers:

“Fix oder Nix” was the motto he coined for them – “Bang up or nothing”; and he promised to write all the music they could sing if they would meet regularly, and always on time.  He even drew up a set of humorous rules.  “Avertimento” it was called:

Pro Primo , it is to be be remarked that the members of the Ladies’ Choir must be there.

By which is to be understood that they must oblige themselves to be there.

Pro Secundo, it is to be observed that the members of the Ladies Choir must be there….

I remain in deepest devotion and veneration of the Ladies’ Choir, their most assiduous ready-writer and steady time-beater,

Johannes Kreisler Jun.
(alias Brahms)

Brahms made his chorus work hard; but the meetings were usually spiced with nonsense as well  Sometimes they all went on country picnics.  One warm summer evening a special party was planned in a large garden in Eppendorf, just outside of Hamburg.  The place was illuminated with Japanese lanterns, hanging from the trees; there was special music and, as climax, a display of fireworks.

Johannes, always conscious of his short stature, found an apple tree in the garden which he decided would make an ideal podium.. .. Brahms clambered up to a low-growing branch and, gathering below him his “dear girls” (as he called them), broke off a twig for a baton and signaled for the concert to begin.

Source: Goss, Madeleine & Schauffler, Robert (1943) Brahms The Master. New York: Henry Holt and Company, p.p.168-9.