Traditional Saengerfests—the massive gatherings of hundreds, even thousands of singers —disappeared from the Cincinnati cultural scene somewhere between the two World Wars. Never mind that the city’s Music Hall was built to house such gatherings. They were regarded as too German.

But a couple of years ago, Jerry Gels, one of the founders of American Legacy Tours, was looking for ways to bring more attention to the company’s Spirit of Christmas Tour. When Cincinnati hosted the World Choir Games in the summer of 2012, Gels had his solution: combine the tour of Over-the-Rhine churches with singing. Lots and lots of singing.

But would it succeed? After all, during the holiday season, there are choirs everywhere you turn.

Gels’ first two-day Cincinnati Saengerfest drew more than 6,000 people.

“It was much, much bigger than we expected,” says Tom Crawford, president of the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus. “We do all of our subscription concerts in Over-the-Rhine as well, so participating in this seemed like a natural. We just didn’t know how huge it would be.”

So it should come as no surprise that the Cincinnati Saengerfest, as it has been called, will be back this year, on Dec. 6 and 7. Fourteen local choirs will participate, from the May Festival Youth Choir to the Kolping Sängerchor, from the Awaken the City Gospel Band to Cincinnati Boychoir. And, of course, the Cincinnati Men’s Choir will return.

“After last year, there’s no way we would miss it,” says Crawford.

Most of the choirs perform twice on their designated evening. Performances take place in five different locations near Over-the-Rhine’s Washington Park: St. Francis Seraph Roman Catholic church, First Lutheran church, Nast Trinity church, Memorial Hall and—this may end up being the favorite—the Christian Moerlein Brewery.

That last one is particularly noteworthy to KellyAnn Nelson, who organizes the choirs for the event.

“I’m also the artistic director of the Young Professionals Choral Collective of Cincinnati,” says Nelson. “And we are the choir-in-residence at the Christian Moerlein Brewery. Since it was so close—and so architecturally significant—there was no way that we couldn’t include it as a venue.”

Aside from giving people a chance to revel in Cincinnati’s vocal music history, the event also sheds light on several of OTR’s most at-risk houses of worship.

“One of the best things about this is that it is bringing attention to some congregations that had radically shrunken over the years,” says Nelson. “We want to make sure that we don’t lose these churches that are so integral to the fabric of the neighborhood.”

Last year’s choruses were invited because of the energetically diverse mix of music they sang. On paper, at least, this year’s participants look to have an even richer mix.

One new participant, though, seems a natural—Sängerchor, the resident choir of the Kolping Society of Cincinnati.

“Our choir is a member of the Nord-Amerikanische Sängerbund, which was founded in 1849,” says Jim Slouffman, who co-founded the Kolping Society’s current choir with his wife Carolann in 1989. “Our goal is to preserve the tradition of those Saengerfests and German choirs that took root here in the Midwest—especially in Cincinnati—in the middle of the 19th century.”

Many of the choir’s 75 active members are German immigrants who came to the U.S. in the years after World War II, says Slouffman.

“They couldn’t find work at home, so they came here, sponsored by relatives who had come here decades earlier. It was a good time here, so they were able to find work at places like Kahn’s or Cincinnati Milacron.”

The group sings a mix of music, from German folkslieder—folk songs—to more classical work by Shubert and Schumann to a handful of patriotic American songs.

“We always sing ‘God Bless America.’ This is to show the gratitude that we have that we could come to this place,” says Slouffman, whose family came to the state in 1852.

That’s a marked difference from the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus, whose program will be made up of selections from its “Tinseltown” concert, featuring all manner of holiday music—as seen through the eyes of Hollywood.

“That’s exactly the kind of musical diversity I was talking about,” says Nelson. “I know it sounds trite, but the Cincinnati Saengerfest will have music for every sort of musical taste. And if you come back next year or the year after, I imagine you’ll have even more choirs and more musical diversity.”