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  • Deborah Kade

Unspunnen Day 8


It was raining heavily when I got up this morning. When I looked at the closest mountain, Schynige Platte, all the peaks were covered in snow. Hoping the weather would clear up as all of the day's activities are outside. Luck was not on our side but none the less, it was a great day!!!



The focus of the day's activities is costume and yodeling.

I attended the large dance presentation in the stadium.

The Air Force buzzed the stadium before the start of the program. Fantastic flying!!!



They call it costume but I like to refer to it as the dress of the country.

Swiss traditional costume

Each costume represents Swiss tradition and customs. Those displayed at the Unspunnen festival enjoy a place in the limelight on each of the festival days. They represent the traditional dress of a region, of social standing, or of specific population groups. Switzerland has more than 700 different costumes, and each of the 26 cantons has its own. In 1935, the Unspunnen traditional costume group was founded, and in 1957, a special Unspunnen costume was designed according to models from the 18th century. The 2017 costume is simple with a youthful and fresh appearance and very comfortable to wear. However, it will not be available before the 2017 Unspunnen festival and is reserved for the Ladies of Honor.

What we recognize today as traditional Swiss clothing is based on the garments worn by peasants and common people at the beginning of the 19th century. According to the Encyclopedia of National Dress, the Swiss designed their clothing to function in a practical way and to communicate certain information about the wearer, such as age, social class and marital status.

The dress of the aristocracy of Switzerland was very similar to that of surrounding European countries, such as France, Italy and Germany. This was especially true as communication and travel improved, allowing fashion trends to cross borders more easily. The clothing of the common people, however, remained much more distinct, with variations based on the region and occupation of the wearer. There was a specific effort to define Swiss traditional culture, including folk costumes, during the Alpine Cowherds' Festivals of 1805 and 1808. This created a more unified idea of what traditional Swiss dress includes.

Embroidery and lace both feature heavily on Swiss garments, with simple designs for everyday wear and more elaborate decoration for special occasions. Clothing was generally sewn from homespun cloth, usually cotton or wool, depending on the season and the garment.

Women's clothing is usually based around a garment we know today as the "dirndl," which includes a full skirt gathered at the waist and a tight-fitting vest or sleeveless top. A white blouse is typically worn under the dress, and the outfit is finished with stockings, buckled black shoes and a headpiece or hat. An apron is often worn around the waist as well to protect the clothing while working. The garments are often contrasting colors, with red, green and black being common. In most regions, gold details indicate a married woman, while single women use silver.



Traditional Swiss clothing for children is typically a miniature version of the garments worn by adults, with the differences in color to reflect the age of the wearer.

A big costume dance festival took place on the Höhematte in. Dances titled "z Züri debi", "Bäremutz", or "Meitschi putz di" were performed by hundreds of dancers in traditional costume. Unfortunately, due to pouring rain, the dancers had rain gear over their dress. Participants from the French and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland presented dances called "Polka du Moulard" or "Mia Marusa". More than 20 dance performances from all over Switzerland were shown at the Unspunnen festival. Some 80 years ago, traditional costume enthusiasts Louise Witzig and Klara Stern discovered costume dances in Germany and wanted to introduce this cheerful activity in Switzerland as well. It had its first successes in the French-speaking part of the country: Pierre Bordier, alpinist and observer of the traditional costume association of Geneva, rehearsed the first dances with its members. In German-speaking Switzerland, it was Hanny Christen who did the pioneering work and noted more than 10,000 melodies in her music book, describing the choreography with just a few words.


The rain held out for the polonaise and then the rain came first lightly and then heavily. Rain did not dampen the spirits of the dancers, though.

If I had to guess at the number of people for the polonaise, I would say way over a thousand. At the end of the program, they all went in the tent to eat and drink. The tent was at capacity and I know it holds 3,000 people.

The polonaise was the first dance everyone marched in the stadium to. The polonaise is a dignified ceremonial dance dating from the 17th to 19th century which often opened court balls and other royal functions. In its aristocratic form, the dancers, in couples, according to their social positions, promenaded around the ballroom with gliding steps accented by bending the knees slightly on every third step. Polonaise music is in 3/4 time. A stately, march like dance in triple meter, primarily a promenade by couples.

People in costume marched into the stadium to the polonaise. First, they were in a group of four, then eight, then sixteen..... Amazing the amount of people who wanted to be part of the polonaise.







Stayed and watched the rest of the dancing. Didn't take too many pictures as I kept getting rain drops on the lens.



Another of the dances they performed was the mazurka.

The mazurka is a folk dance in triple meter, usually at a lively tempo, and with "strong accents unsystematically placed on the second or third beat" Like some traditional dances it contains a great deal of repetition: repetition of certain measures or groups of measures; of entire sections; and of an initial theme.

The mazurka began as a dance for either four or eight couples

Mazurka can also be a dance for a circle of couples, characterized by stamping feet and clicking heels and traditionally danced to the music of a village band. The music is in 3/4 or 3/8 time with a forceful accent on the second beat.

As a ballroom dance intended for four or eight couples or for single couples, the mazurka retains room for improvisation.



Here is everything you ever wanted to know about yodeling and then some. This was quite a large group that sang and yodeled.


Yodeling (also yodelling or jodeling) is a form of singing which involves repeated and rapid changes of pitch between the low-pitch chest register (or "chest voice") and the high-pitch head register or falsetto. The English word yodel is derived from the German (and originally Austro-Bavarian) of word jodeln, meaning "to utter the syllable jo" (pronounced "yo" in English). This vocal technique is used in many cultures worldwide.

Alpine yodeling was a longtime rural tradition in Europe, and became popular in the 1830s as an entertainment in theaters and music

In Europe, yodeling is a major feature of folk music (Volksmusik) from Switzerland, Austria, and southern Germany and can be heard in many contemporary folk songs, which are also featured on regular TV broadcasts.

Most experts agree that yodeling was used in the Central Alps by herders calling their stock or to communicate between Alpine villages. The multi-pitched "yelling" later became part of the region's traditional lore and musical expression. The earliest record of a yodel is in 1545, where it is described as "the call of a cowherd from Appenzell ".

Human voices have at least two distinct vocal registers, called the "head" and "chest" voices. Most people can sing tones within a certain range of lower pitches in their chest voice and tones within a certain range of higher pitch in their head voice. Falsetto is an "unsupported" register forcing vocal cords in a higher pitch without any head or chest voice air support. The range of overlap between registers, called the passaggio, can be challenging for untrained singers. Experienced singers can control their voices in this range, easily switching between registers. Yodeling is a version of this technique in which a singer might change register several times in only a few seconds and at a high volume. Repeated alternation between registers at a singer's passaggio pitch range produces a very distinctive sound. For example, in the famous "Yodel – Ay – EEE – Oooo", the "EEE" is sung in the head voice while all other syllables are in the chest voice.

The basic yodel requires sudden alterations of vocal register from a low-pitched chest voice to high falsetto tones sung on vowel sounds: AH, OH, OO for chest notes and AY or EE for the falsetto. Consonants are used as levers to launch the dramatic leap from low to high, giving it its unique ear-penetrating and distance-spanning power.

The best places for Alpine-style yodelling are those with an echo. Ideal natural locations include not only mountain ranges but lakes, rocky gorges or shorelines, and high or open areas with one or more distant rock faces.

Yodeling had its origins in the call from mountain to mountain, the communication from Alp to Alp. Recognizable from the very first few notes, this Alpine music has the love for nature and home as its central themes.

Yodeling is a form of singing that involves singing with repeated changes in pitch from the chest register to the head register without using words that mean anything. As described this way, yodeling is spread worldwide. It is especially in mountainous and inaccessible regions that natural yodeling communication forms have developed in order to communicate from one hill to the other or to bring in the cows. Although yodeling was probably being used back in the Stone Age, the choir singing of the yodeling songs only developed in the 19th century.

Yodeling songs of the natural yodelers

When a solo yodeler starts to sing a slow sequence of notes, the other yodelers hum along with the appropriate tone, and provide a spontaneous melody – resulting in natural yodel singing. In this primitive way, in the various mountain regions of Switzerland, one-to five-part yodeling songs are sung without words. In the Muota Valley, the "Jüüzli" is sung with two or three voices, while the Appenzell "Zäuerli" and "Ruggusserli" are polyphonic natural yodels that are often spontaneously improvised. During festivals and special occasions polyphonic natural yodels are often accompanied by talerschwingen or bell shaking (small Alpine bells). What makes the natural tones of the natural yodel so special is the eleventh tone, the natural tone, or alphorn Fa. This unique tone in C major is neither heard as "F" nor as "F sharp" but is somewhere in between. For many people, this "Fa" can be hard to get used to because since the 18th century, when "well-tempered" tuning was introduced, this sound has disappeared from the usual tone series.

Yodel choirs and yodel songs

In Switzerland and the other Alpine countries, yodeling developed into song in the 19th century. The yodel song, now with a two, three and four-part harmony, and usually accompanied by a "Schwyzerörgeli"(accordion) is the genre most favored by yodelers in associations. In 1910, these merged into the Swiss Yodeling Association. Each year they perform in front of the jurors in regional and cantonal yodeling festivals and every three years in a national yodeling festival. The songs are about the mountains, nature and home, and also include issues such as freedom and independence. Since 1971, spiritual yodeling songs have also been sung at festivals. Today there are about 2,000 compositions of Swiss yodeling songs, mainly in German, but also in French. Yodeling is now no longer really practiced in the Italian and Romansh-speaking areas of the country, and if so, predominantly German-language songs are sung.

Thought I would get out of the rain and hear the alphorn program at the casino. It was scheduled to be held inside but it was decided they had more room outside.



A special tune written or the Unspunnen 2017.



The drizzle held off until the last two songs.


I also watched the championship matches for the ladies and the men's steinstossen. I have become quite a fan of both the steinstossen and the schwingen.

The steinstossen is not quite as popular. The venue is small and intimate and people recognize you after you have been to two events. I should know!



The ladies champion.



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