The Pilot Choral Society KNURRHAHN was founded in February of 1929 in the middle of a very hard winter where ice caused the ship traffic on the Baltic Sea and on the Kiel Canal to come to a standstill. The Pilot Station in Kiel-Holtenau, renovated into the present Fördeblick restaurant, was where it all began for the Knurrhahn during this long winter. Because of its location not 100 meters from the Holtenau Lighthouse, the pilots spent their time at the station waiting for their next job. They couldn’t just play cards, smoke pipes, and drink Grog, so they started to sing. First it was folk songs, but soon they added other, sometimes older songs about life on the sea, the different jobs on board a sailing ship, and the experiences in the harbors around the world. The Choral Society collected these songs into a growing repertoire and edited them for content to protect the delicate ears of the non-seafaring audience.
And so it came to be that a choir singing songs of the sea was actually made up of Captains who sang from experience. The Pilot Choral Society is still active today and continues to meet in the Fördeblick restaurant. Its goal is to keep these old songs alive and to pass them on so that this part of the old sailing tradition and culture doesn’t get lost.
The Knurrhahn’s extensive repertoire consists of many international songs sung in their original languages, including English, Spanish, Russian, Norwegian, French, and of course Plattdeutsch. Shanties (traditional seafaring songs) are the mainstay of the choir, but they also sing ballads and other songs of the sea. The choir performs at both internal and external nautical events in Schleswig-Holstein, including a yearly concert during Kieler Woche on the City Hall’s stage, as well as across Germany and internationally.
Beginning a few years ago, the Knurrhahn also performs evening concerts for the public, which has been widely praised. In churches in Kiel-Holtenau, Kiel-Wik, Gettorf, Schönkirchen, Barmstedt, and in Kiel’s own St. Nicolai am Alten Markt, soloists and instrumentalists work with the choir to provide a powerful and authentic performance. Dr.Michael Pezenburg has directed the choir since 2005, taking over from OStR. a. D. Karl Konertz who had directed the choir for more than 33 years before he passed away. In addition to the many concerts, the choir has produced nine recordings, most recently a CD with live recordings of songs sung over several years. Since 2019 there is even a movie telling the choir’s story and giving the viewers valuable insights into the brisk club life. A true Kiel story!
The Pilot Choral Society KNURRHAHN is one of the outstanding social components of the Nord-Ostsee-Kanal II / Kiel / Lübeck / Flensburg Pilot Association. It’s not just about the singing—contact is made between colleagues, their partners, and families. The choir has weekly practices as well as many special events throughout the year, including a Founders Party, a Summer Party, a special Matjes dinner, and a Vension dinner. The yearly Rice-and-Curry dinner event accommodates over 300 guests and is a sought-after invitation in county- and even country-wide Nautical, Economic, and Political circles.
On our site you will find PDFs of varying themes as well as links to other associated choirs and highlights of the recent events. We hope you enjoy your time with us!
Frank Gülzow, Oberknurrhahn