Ludwig Rainer (1821-1893) was an illegitimate son of Maria Rainer from Fügen. While his mother was on a vocal tour, little Ludwig was given care to a woman in Zell. But he seems to have inherited the love for music and business sense from the Rainer family. In 1838, he founded the Rainer Quartet and laid the foundations for the second generation of Rainer singers. At the age of only 18 years he left the Zillertal valley for America with Helene Rainer, Simon Holaus and Margareta Sprenger (Ludwig Rainer's later wife). The trip is recorded to have lasted 28 Days and ten storms until finally arriving in New York. This was followed by a multi-year "tour" as the highly acclaimed "Rainer Family", which led them to New Orleans, St. Louis, Pittsburg and Philadelphia.
The “Rainer Family” in the USA
According to recent research, the “Rainer Family” was literally “casted” by Ludwig Rainer on behalf of an American businessman, whose origin is not known. The singers from Zillertal celebrated enormous success and became a model for the development of the minstrel show, a kind of musical cabaret, and the four-voice a cappella Barbershop song. The Rainers also contributed significantly to the popularisation of yodelling in American entertainment music. Today, they are regarded amongst the inventors of the folkloric pop song genre by combining musical and commercial interests. In May 1843, they returned home from America.
Ten years in Russia
Encouraged by the success in the USA, Ludwig Rainer founded the “Rainer Company” in 1851 with up to 15 singers, who performed in almost all the ruling houses of Europe. Their travels led to England, Scotland and Ireland, to Italy, France, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. In 1858, they arrived in Russia and stayed there for ten years: the five home stays in between were only used to promote new members. In 1865, Ludwig Rainer even celebrated a wedding in St. Petersburg – with a girl from Zillertal. “Silent Night” was always part of the repertoire of the Rainer singers.
New home at Achensee lake
When Ludwig Rainer returned to Tirol as a wealthy and widely travelled man in 1868, he was 47 years old. With a large portion of his acquired assets, he built the Seehof Hotel in Achenkirch at Achensee lake, which was opened in 1870. The elegant and noble house – equipped with every comfort – attracted guests from all over the world and was also Ludwig Rainer’s new home. Not least due to the promotional activities of the national singers, tourism in the Tirolean valleys experienced a huge upswing.
On 15 May 1893, Ludwig Rainer died unexpectedly on the way home from Munich in Bad Kreuth near Tegernsee at the age of almost 72. Over the course of the following decades, the hotel changed owners several times and was torn down after the turn of the century due to a big fire.
On the trail of “Silent Night” in the Achensee region:
- In the search for clues at Achensee, the local museum Sixenhof helps with interesting insights into the history of the fabulous Rainer singers and their relationship with the Silent Night song. The two trained museum pedagogues Franz Lückemeyer and Franz Waldhart are available for questions and guided tours. At Sixenhof, Ludwig Rainer’s dressing-chest, which he used on his world trips, is exhibited. From November 2018, a new exhibition will be dedicated to the famous international singer Ludwig Rainer and the international dissemination of the song “Silent Night”.
- The Seehofkapelle chapel, built by the national singer Ludwig Rainer, is still standing near the ship mooring at the former Achenseehof in Achenkirch. The interior of the chapel, which is privately owned, is designed in Neo-gothic style.
- Achensee is embedded between the Karwendel and the Rofan mountains. The largest lake in the province of Tirol has bathing temperatures in the summer and during the winter, offers the possibility of Christmas at sea with the Achensee-cruise and an idyllic scenery for extensive winter walks. Such an uncomplicated wintery village tour at sea starts in front of the parish church at the Achenkirch village. At the cemetery, you will find Ludwig Rainer’s grave (1821-1893). The path leads up to the widely visible Baroque Annakircherl church, where you turn left, then follow the yellow sign “Zum See”. The route runs along the upper road through the Fichter settlement, follows the Karwendelweg path and ends up at the parking lot of the Christlum cableways. From there, head to the “Kronthaler” hotel on the right and then downhill again at Appartement Waldhaus to Schrambacherhof. The north bank can be reached via meadow trails. Return via the panoramic path.
- Ludwig Rainer found his last resting place at the cemetery in Achenkirch. His gravestone reads: “Free from pain, exhausted, much traveled and much sung.”