The St. Charles Sister City Program

The sounds of Germany

The St. Charles’ German Sister City Chapter is championing the arrival of its sister city, Ludwigsburg, Germany, and its zither club, with three concerts

By Brett Auten

A unique and historic sound will chime through the area as August comes to a close.

The St. Charles’ German Sister City Chapter is championing the arrival of its sister city, Ludwigsburg, Germany, and its zither club, with three concerts.

The first will be on Aug. 26 at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Washington that includes a free dinner at 5 p.m., prior to the concert kicking off at 7 p.m. On Aug. 27, the group will be at the Harmonie Verein (also known as the American Legion Post 262 and Grand Army of the Republic Hall) in Augusta. Food trucks arrive at 5:30 p.m. with the concert at 6 p.m. The finale comes on Aug. 29 at the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles at 6:30 p.m.

The zither is a jangly-sounding, stringed instrument consisting of many strings stretched across a thin, flat body. Zithers are played by strumming or plucking the strings, either with the fingers or a pick. The zither is also known for its sound in the Academy Award-winning movie, “The Third Man.” It remains in use by a relatively small number of contemporary musicians but the Ludwigsburg group brings film music into life, taking listeners back to the 1960s along with an apropos, “Summer, Sun and Sausages.”

The St. Charles Chapter is welcoming and housing 19 members of the Ludwigsburg Zither club, that is celebrating its 100 anniversary. Currently, the zither club has 35 active players, with a total club membership of 100. This tour to America brings sixteen zithers, one guitar, a dulcimer, and the conductor. The concerts are free, open to all while a free-will donation would be appreciated.

The St. Charles Sister City Program was incorporated in 1994. Ludwigsburg, Germany is comparable in size to St. Charles and located near a larger city, Stuttgart, which is a Sister City to St. Louis, and also across the Neckar River from Marbach, a Sister City with Washington, Missouri.

Joe Daues has been the heart and soul of the chapter, serving 17 years as president before passing the reigns over to Mary Johnson. The Sister City relationship between St. Charles and Ludwigsburg are one of the longest sustaining in the country.

The St. Charles Sister City Program has shepherded an estimated 2,000 students (from St. Charles High, St. Charles West, Orchard Farm, and St. Charles Lutheran) between the two cities since the mid-1990s. It has about 100 in-active and 40-50 active members, according to Daues. The group has managed to be all self-funded, paying for the visits through donations and fundraising. What the St. Charles Chapter could really use is a younger version of Daues. The chapter has yet to see many of those who have benefited from it, return to the favor.

“We have opened the eyes of a lot of students to the world,” Daues said. “We could use them to come back to help. It’s looking dark. We could use young ideas, young blood, in order to do things differently. We would love to do something like a firefighter exchange or a nurse exchange.”

For more information about the concert series or the St. Charles Sister City Program, contact Daues at or call 636-734-5383.

CUTLINE: Photo courtesy the  Ludwigsburg Zither Club The St. Charles’ German Sister City Chapter is helping host three concerts by the  Ludwigsburg, Germany Zither Club. St. Charles and Ludwigsburg have had a Sister City relationship since 1994.