Summer in Zermatt is filled with the sound of folk music
Seeing from close quarters an alpenhorn and a Schwyzerörgeli being played, listening to the outdoor music-making and basking in the music – this is what Zermatt’s Folkloresommer is all about. For a period of ten weeks, it is possible to enjoy performances by a diverse array of musical line-ups in a celebration of living Swiss tradition bursting with zest for life.
Alpenhorn, Schwyzerörgeli, accordion, double bass. Such are the well-known Swiss folk instruments. A wide variety of musical ensembles will be playing in Zermatt again this summer. And visitors may be taken by surprise anywhere in the village because it is the musicians themselves who choose where and when to perform – from morning to evening. No doubt representing the views of all the musicians taking part in Zermatt’s Folkloresommer, one alpenhorn player standing by the little wooden podium on Bahnhofplatz in Zermatt says: “For us it’s a privilege to be able to perform at the foot of the most famous mountain in the world.” And with a smile he adds: “It’s also wonderful to see the tourists enjoying our music so much. We’d love to know how many photo albums we feature in all over the world.” After briefly explaining to one visitor about his alpenhorn, he puts the archetypal Swiss instrument to his lips as digital cameras flash away in the background, operated by visitors including many from Switzerland, Germany and Japan.
Living Swiss folk music
“With these folk music performances we want to show our visitors just how vibrant and rich Swiss folk music is”, says Guest Animation Manager Jasmin Scherrer of Zermatt Tourism. She is responsible for coordinating the appearances of the ten groups of musicians who perform in Zermatt every summer. They hail from all over Switzerland and over the last seven years new ones have been coming all the time. “It’s the mix that makes the event what it is”, says Jasmin Scherrer, who is always delighted when she receives new enquiries from ensembles wanting to play in Zermatt.
At the end of July 2012, for example, it will be possible to catch the group “Edelweiss”. In addition to the alpenhorn and Schwyzerörgeli, their line-up of instruments will include a Büchel. This wind instrument from central Switzerland is a kind of small alpenhorn, but more difficult to play. Unlike the alpenhorn, the Büchel does not have a straight pipe but instead is formed of three coiled sections, as if folded over on itself, and is just 90 cm long. Anyone who has not seen a Büchel close up will have the opportunity to do so in Zermatt and also to talk to the musicians who play it.
Another ensemble appearing this summer is the Berna-Grischa Ländler quintet. This group adopts the traditional line-up of the canton of Graubünden with two clarinets, two Schwyzerörgeli and a double bass. And the roll-call of Swiss folk music continues merrily with the group “Alphornbläser vom Hüsliriet” from Uster, which took part in the large-scale alpenhorn concert of 2009 on the Gornergrat, when a total of 366 alpenhorn players performed against the backdrop of the Matterhorn. They will be playing 3.8-metre-long alpenhorns made of fir wood, which are pitched in E. These make a softer sound than the more common 3.4-metre F sharp horns.
The village and the mountains resound to music
The groups taking part in Zermatt’s Folkloresommer will perform in the open air: on the station, church and post office squares, on the viewpoint platform of the Gornergratbahn (3,100 m) and on Sunnegga paradise (2,288 m). The various ensembles will decide spontaneously when and where they will appear – from around 9 o‘clock in the morning until the evening. Music lovers should therefore not be surprised if they stumble across a group of musicians in the middle of an Alpine pasture.
However, Zermatt also has much more to offer. The Folklore Festival takes place in mid-August and 2012 will be the 44th festival. The festival brings 1,200 participants to Zermatt to celebrate Swiss traditional music and customs. Numerous spectators travel from far and wide to experience flag spinning, music-making, traditional costume, Talerschwingen (the Swiss art of musical coin spinning) and spoon-players.
What’s more, on 18 and 25 July, the Musikegesellschaft Matterhorn Zermatt will be performing at the folk evenings in Zermatt. And in Täsch various village societies can be seen and heard performing in the church square on folk evenings to be held on Thursdays between 19 July and 16 August. Additional events will be held by various well-established Zermatt hostelries: in winter and summer alike a different high-quality Swiss accordion group performs in the Schwyzer Stübli of Hotel Schweizerhof every week while at Hotel Continental the hosts’ own Örgeli ensemble, “Nid zem lose”, provides the entertainment – in summer as and when they can, because one of the musicians is a mountain guide and therefore on the move a lot, and in winter every Sunday at cocktail hour between 6.00 and 7.30pm. The band includes hotelier Paul Kronig, his brother Josef, Henry Willi and the hotelier’s wife on the double bass.
Those seeking a pure mountain experience with a ring of Alpine peaks and taking in a sunrise or sunset should make for the mountain guesthouse Hotel du Trift (2,337 m). This mountain hike, steep in parts, takes a good two hours and involves an ascent of 700 metres. But it’s worth the effort. Anyone wanting to learn about the locality can ask host and mountain guide Hugo Biner, who will explain about the mountains and the mountain world in the Zermatt dialect and in English, too. And then, as if in the natural course of things, he may well get out his alpenhorn and launch without warning into a serenade.