• Deborah Kade

Unspunnen Day 7

Unspunnen events today are Folk Music and Choral Singing.

Steady rain came down all morning. Fog in the mountains so I can't even see Schynige Platte which is the nearest hill.

Today, many people will be arriving in Interlaken to enjoy the weekend activities.

From the nearest grove of trees, I can see little patches of fog lifting and curling upward out of the trees. Calming to watch the fog dancing around.

Many people checking out from Sunny Days this morning. Jolie is all by herself today. She has had to handle breakfast as well as prepare the rooms for new visitors. Christine is still on vacation and Sarah left for Texas very early this morning so Jolie even has to be here for check in which is from 2 to 6 PM. It will be an extremely long day for her.

I said goodbye to Arturo and his wife from Mexico City. They are vacationing in Europe for three weeks. How proud they were of their family. She had lost her mother at age 8. Once she married Arturo, his family became hers. Now, they have three sons, two daughters, many grandchildren and two very special great grandchildren. They are driving to Milan, Italy after breakfast.

The couple from Australia are off to Innsbruck on the 10:05 train. This morning, he asked me what the capital of Switzerland was. Guess he and his wife had a bet. Do you know? If you said Zürich, you would be incorrect. Actually, if you said Bern, you would also be "technically incorrect". The answer is none. The Swiss constitution does not mention a Swiss capital. Bern is the de facto capital of Switzerland and therefore called the federal city. It is known as the political capital of Switzerland. (Bern is also the capital of the canton of Bern). Zürich is the cultural and economic capital.

Zürich, Bern and Luzern were competing to be the capital. The Swiss French objected to Zürich so Bern was chosen.

The official name in English for Switzerland is "Swiss Confederation". In Latin, that is Confoederatio Helvetica, which is abbreviated CH. It is a federal republic. It consists of 26 cantons and the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities.

The government is a federal semi-direct democracy under multi-party parliamentary directorial republic.

Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alp, the Swiss Plateau and Jura, spanning an area of 15,940 square miles.

While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately eight million people is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found; among them are the two global cities and economic centers Zürich and Geneva.

The motto (traditional) is "Unus pro omnibs, omnes pro uno" "One for all, all for one."

Anthem: "Swiss Psalm"

Official Languages: German, French, Italian, Romansh

Rain varies from a little drizzle to a steady downpour and back to a drizzle or something in between. The sky lightens up and then darkens when the next set of clouds quickly passes by.

The events today are a shortened repeat of the events of the week. Nothing starts before noon. To pass the time, I will watch a little TV before venturing out in the rain. I watch the BBC channel. Enjoy watching the "Father Brown" mysteries and the "EastEnders". Strictly Come Dancing, the English version of the American Dancing with the Stars, is a favorite, too. Michael hates both shows!

About mid-afternoon, I decided to check in on the activities at the Höhematte. Not much going on. People have decided to stay home and out of the rain. Walked over to Migros, another grocery store, to buy some additional groceries. they finally had the blood orange yoghurt today.

I attended the evening of entertainment from 8 PM to midnight. The tent can hold up to 3,000 people. It wasn't quite full but there were definitely over 1,5000 people in the tent.

Folk Music in Switzerland

It is no longer possible to determine exactly where folk music starts and ends - music has become such an everyday matter of course that the boundaries of the individual areas are now largely blurred.Swiss folk music is more of a collective imagination that includes such phenomena as alphorn music, Ländler music, and yodeling. The world of Swiss folk music also includes folk singers fromTicino, choirs from Western Switzerland and songwriters from Bern.

First to perform was the Ländler Panaché. Members include, Peter Mischler, Herbert Hafner, Hardy Mischler, Beat Flükiger and Mülle Samuel. They have been playing together since 2007. They come from Aeshi.

Ländler music as part of Swiss folk music

Swiss folk music is often equated with Ländler music, a key genre within instrumental folk music. Unlike in other Alpine countries, Ländler not only includes dances in three quarter time, but also marches, Scottish, mazurkas and foxtrot. Ländler music and the concept behind it gradually emerged with the invention and establishment, since around 1880, of the accordion, especially the Schwyzerörgeli. Up until then a colorful mix of tunes from many countries and periods had developed in Switzerland. In addition to German, Austrian and Italian melodies, opera and operetta themes were included – and sometimes even the courtly dances introduced by the Napoleonic occupation. Mercenaries and brisk trade relations have always contributed to a lively cultural exchange with new and strange ways being readily adapted and used in the local style before being further developed and made to be one's own. The music was played by mixed dance bands consisting of 5 to 7 men who accompanied the dances with such instruments as the clarinet, violin, trumpet, cornet, tuba and contrabass.

Standardization and regulation

The concept of the Ländler band dates back to around 1880, and from 1900 it only applied in respect to the playing of the clarinet (saxophone), Schwyzerörgeli (accordion), and the plucked bass. A further standardization took place in the 1960s – with the unifying of the instrumentation and the distinction between the regional styles. Today there are seven recognized styles. The most important are the:

Graubünden style

The Graubünden style, which is not only limited to the canton of Graubünden, is noted for its use of the Ländler quintet (two clarinets, two Schwyzerörgeli and the double bass) as a feature. The two clarinets (in B, more often in A), produce the melody while the other instruments provide the harmonic and rhythmic accompaniment.

Central Swiss style

Typical of the Central Swiss Ländler style is the fast pace and the piano accompaniment with the melody not only being produced by the clarinet - often the somewhat garish clarinet in C, but by the chromatic accordion.

Appenzell style

Appenzell music today is still largely based on the music of the 19th century. Stringed instruments are very much in evidence in this type of folk music. The original Appenzell string music consists of two violins, dulcimer, cello and double bass, and should not really be described as Ländler music.

The Swiss Ländler Gamblers hail from Herzogenbuchsee which is a municipality in the Oberaarga administrative district in the canton of Bern.

Since 1971, Ländler musicians have been meeting up every four years at their Swiss Ländler music festival. They are organized as the Swiss Folk Music Association. Ländler music is harmonious and is mainly simple in form, which facilitates its ad-lib nature, much like a jam session in jazz. Held in restaurants, the meetings of the musicians are known as Stubeten or Musikantenhöcks.

Switzerland has long had a distinct cultural identity, despite its diversity of German, French, Italian, Romansh and other ethnicities. Religious and folk music dominated the country until the 17th century, with growth in production of other kinds of music occurring.

Due to a lack of detailed records, little is known about Swiss folk music prior to the 19th century. Some 16th-century lute tablatures have been reconstructed into authentic instrumental arrangements; however, the first major source of information comes from 19th-century collections of folk songs, and work done by musicologist Hanny Christen. One of the oldest varieties of folk music was the Swiss song Kühreihen, an agricultural Alpine song in the Lydian mode. Traditional instruments included alphorn, hammered dulcimer, fife, hurdy-gurdy, castanets, rebec, bagpipe, cittern and shawm.

The hurdy-gurdy is a stringed instrument that produces sound by a hand crank-turned, rosined wheel rubbing against the strings. The wheel functions much like a violin bow, and single notes played on the instrument sound similar to those of a violin. Melodies are played on a keyboard that presses tangents—small wedges, typically made of wood—against one or more of the strings to change their pitch. Like most other acoustic stringed instruments, it has a sound board and hollow cavity to make the vibration of the strings audible. Most hurdy-gurdies have multiple drone strings, which give a constant pitch accompaniment to the melody, resulting in a sound similar to that of bagpipes. For this reason, the hurdy-gurdy is often used interchangeably or along with bagpipes, particularly in Occitan, Catalan, Cajun French and contemporary Asturian, Cantabric, Galician, and Hungarian folk music. Many folk music festivals in Europe feature music groups with hurdy-gurdy players.

The rebec is a bowed stringed instrument of the Medieval era and the early Renaissance era. In its most common form, it has a narrow boat-shaped body and 1-5 strings. Played on the arm or under the chin, the technique and tuning may have influenced the development of the violin and the extended technique of bowed banjo.

The number of strings on the rebec varies from 1 to 5, although three is the most common number. The strings are often tuned in fifths, although this tuning is not universal. The instrument was originally in the treble range, like the violin, but later larger versions were developed, so that by the 16th century composers were able to write pieces for consorts of rebecs, just as they did for consorts of viols.

In time, the viol came to replace the rebec, and the instrument was little used beyond the renaissance period. The instrument was used by dance masters until the 18th century, however, often being used for the same purpose as the kit, a small pocket-sized violin. The rebec also remained in use in folk music, especially in eastern Europe and Spain

The shawm is a conical bore, double-reed woodwind instrument made in Europe from the 12th century to the present day. It achieved its peak of popularity during the medieval and Renaissance periods, after which it was gradually eclipsed by the oboe family of descendant instruments in classical music. It is likely to have come to Western Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean around the time of the Crusades.

The body of the shawm is usually turned from a single piece of wood, and terminates in a flared bell somewhat like that of a trumpet. Beginning in the 16th century, shawms were made in several sizes, from sopranino to great bass, and four and five-part music could be played by a consort consisting entirely of shawms. All later shawms (excepting the smallest) have at least one key allowing a downward extension of the compass; the keywork is typically covered by a perforated wooden cover called the fontanelle.[citation needed] The bassoon-like double reed, made from the same Arundo donax cane used for oboes and bassoons, is inserted directly into a socket at the top of the instrument, or in the larger types, on the end of a metal tube called the bocal. The pirouette, a small wooden attachment with a cavity in the center resembling a thimble, surrounds the lower part of the reed—this provides support for the lips and embouchure.

Since only a short portion of the reed protrudes past the pirouette, the player has only limited contact with the reed, and therefore limited control of dynamics. The shawm’s conical bore and flaring bell, combined with the style of playing dictated by the use of a pirouette, gives the instrument a piercing, trumpet-like sound, well-suited for out-of-doors performance.

A cittern or cithren is a stringed instrument dating from the Renaissance. Modern scholars debate its exact history, but it is generally accepted that it is descended from the Medieval citole, or cytole. It looks much like the modern-day flat-back mandolin and the modern Irish bouzouki. Its flat-back design was simpler and cheaper to construct than the lute. It was also easier to play, smaller, less delicate and more portable. Played by all classes, the cittern was a premier instrument of casual music-making much as is the guitar today.

The cittern is one of the few metal-strung instruments known from the Renaissance period. It generally has four courses (single, pairs or threes) of strings, one or more course being usually tuned in octaves, though instruments with more or fewer courses were made. The cittern may have a range of only an octave between its lowest and highest strings and employs a re-entrant tuning – a tuning in which the string that is physically uppermost is not the lowest, as is also the case with the five-string banjo and most ukuleles for example. The tuning and narrow range allow the player a number of simple chord shapes useful for both simple song accompaniment and dances, however much more complex music was written for it.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Swiss folk music was largely performed by ensembles made of itinerant musicians and solo acts using an instrument, with only a few duos. In the 1830s, however, the Swiss military was reorganized, leading to the formation of brass bands that used modern instruments. These instruments, mostly brass or wind, were built much better than those played by itinerants, and musicians brought them back to their villages. Local players joined these ensembles, which played dance music for festivals and other celebrations. Dance styles included schottisch, mazurka, waltz and polka.

In 1829, the accordion was invented in Vienna, and it had spread to Switzerland by 1836. The accordion was popular because it was relatively easy to play and cheap to acquire, and took only one musician to play the melody and accompaniment. By the 1850s, the accordion was an integral part of Swiss folk music, and semi-professional ensembles were appearing to play at large social dances. Alongside the brass bands came string instruments like the violin and double bass; string bands soon began to displace the older brass bands. The accordion, however, did not make an appearance in these dance bands until about 1903, and it eventually replaced the two violins which had become standard.

Following World War I, Switzerland became more heavily urbanized, and music moved to cities like Zurich. Rural folk music became the most popular style for middle-class audiences, and musicians like Joseph Stocker ("Stocker Sepp") became renowned across the country. Stocker knew his audience liked the exotic appeal of rural music, and so he bought traditional costumes from Unterwalden for his band. This was the beginning of ländler music.

In the urban areas of Switzerland, folk music began to mix with new styles, like jazz and the foxtrot, while the saxophone replaced the clarinet. Beginning in the 1930s, the Swiss government began to encourage a national identity distinct from Germany and other neighbors. Ländler music became associated with this identity, and grew even more popular.

Following World War II, however, ländler music quickly grew less popular with the influx of imported styles. The field also grew less diverse, with more standardized band formats and only four or five dance types in the repertoire. By the 1960s, trios consisting of two accordions and a double bass were the most common format, and many Swiss people felt it was a civic duty to preserve this tradition and guard it against change. They have largely succeeded in preventing change, but the field has grown stagnant and much less popular. There are still popular performers, such as Res Schmid, Willi Valotti, Markus Flueckiger, Dani Haeusler, and Carlo Brunner, but the total fan base has shrunk enormously.

During the late 1990s, and especially in the 2000s from around 2008 to the present, the family band Oesch’s die Dritten, a yodeling family from the Bernese Oberland, have been enjoying success. Their format is a Schwyzeroergeli (small accordion) played by Hans Oesch, a guitar, an electric bass, and a large accordion. They are fronted by Melanie Oesch.

Folk music from Appenzell

The rural Appenzell region is a major center of folk music. While other parts of Switzerland adopted the accordion (Langnauerli and Schwyzerörgeli) in the 19th century, Appenzell kept the violin and hammered dulcimer. String Music from Appenzell is popular throughout Switzerland. In its original arrangement (two violins, dulcimer, cello, contrabass) is of great importance, while the accordion and piano are also included in some formations.

Though the roots of traditional Swiss folklore music are a little older its typical styles were defined in the 19th century and some of the typical instruments used today were not known in Switzerland before 1800.

Ancient Traditions of Alpine Herdsmen

Among the older traditions developed by the alpine herdsmen the following three must be mentioned here:

  • The alphorn is an archaic instrument, about 2.7 m [9 ft] long. It is made from a single log of wood, cut into two blocks from top to bottom, carved out and then put together again and wrapped up. There are no holes, flap-valve or anything similar to this instrument, so only natural tones can be produced when blowing the alphorn.

  • Yodeling is a singing style characterized by frequent and rapid shifts from normal voice to falsetto and back again, using a few meaningless syllables like yo-lollo-dee-uuh. Classical yodel songs consist of (meaningful) verses sung in normal voice and a refrain sung in yodeling mode.

  • The Alpsegen [alpine benediction] is the evening prayer of the alpine shepherd, a classical catholic litany more than a thousand years old. The shepherd asks God, the Virgin Mary and a couple of saints for help against all kinds of danger for men and flock - like thunderstorms and sickness. This prayer is sung according to a simple monotonous melody of Gregorian church music. The voice of the herdsman is amplified by means of a wooden funnel serving as a simple purely mechanical megaphone. This instrument was in fact a simple multi-tool made from materials the alpine herdsmen had at hand: it was also used to sieve out pollutions in the milk in earlier centuries. For this latter pupose, some fine green fir-twigs were inserted into the narrow end of the funnel.

The term Ländler music (or short Ländler) is being used in Switzerland both as a generic term for traditional rural music and as a specific term for rural dance music in animated three-four time. Other rhythms often played in traditional rural Swiss dance music are Schottisch and Polka.

Typical instruments played by ländler bands include accordion, clarinet and contrabass. In the German speaking regions, a smaller variant of the accordion, the so-called schwyzerörgeli is very popular. In the prealpine eastern region of Appenzell, string instruments (violin, cello and, as a local speciality; dulcimer play a key role). In southern (Italian speaking) Switzerland, the use of the mandolin shows traditional ties to Italian.

A choral group also sang as part of the evening's entertainment. I'm not sure, but I think there was supposed to be another ländler band.

Introduction of the choral director by Miss Helvetia, Barbara Klossner, the emcee for the evening.

The tent became silent as soon as the group started singing. Barbara was featured in one of the songs. What a beautiful voice!!!!! I thought I pushed the record button but unfortunately I didn't.

There was dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing and more dancing. It reminded me of the stories my mother would tell me about when she was young and she went dancing with family and friends..

There was a dinner service and drinks available for purchase.


People working refreshments and cleanup all wore red shirts with an edelweiss flower.There were people whom walked around to see if you would like to purchase something to eat or drink. Their only job was to take the food and drink orders and collect the money. A tablet was attached to their arm. They punched in what you wanted. Other people were servers. When I ordered my drink, it was at my table in less than a minute. The job of others was only to bring out the food orders. There was a person constantly walking around the tent collecting trash and washing tables. Everyone had a specific job! What organization!!!


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