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Swiss singing High notes, fashion and heat at yodel festival

Sunshine, vocal harmonies and 150,000 fans: the 30th Swiss Yodelling Festival was wildly successful. Here is an atmospheric look back at the weekend event in Brig.

It was a cultural explosion: almost as many yodellers, alphorn players and flag throwers as townspeople. Some 11,000 yodellers, alphorn players and flag throwers descended upon Brig, a town of 13,000, to show off their skills. Another 150,000 fans turned up for the three-day event in canton Valais. 

Water sprinklers

Brig played host to the triennial festival for only the second time – exactly 30 years after the previous occasion. To celebrate this anniversary, the town spared no expense. There were hundreds of performances in a "Yodel Village" with as many as 1,500 volunteers and 24 big tents where guests could eat and drink.

Drinking was particularly important: temperatures were constantly above 30 degrees Celsius, which was too much for some guests. Organisers did their best, handing out free sun hats, sun cream and water. Water sprinklers were also set up. 

The organisers were delighted at how everything turned out, with good weather, a pleasant atmosphere and no unfortunate incidents.

Culture Minister Alain Berset (left)


Power of yodelling 

The highlight was the parade on Sunday, watched by 20,000 spectators. Culture Minister Alain Berset stressed the power of yodelling to bring people together.

“People who yodel together will always find common ground – even if they don’t speak,” he said. 

Berset also compared yodelling to the Swiss political system. He said people always manage to find lasting solutions “even if these might not be as harmonious as yodelling”.

And while he was it, he found metaphors for the festival’s other traditions. For example, political solutions, he said, need a deep breath, like playing the alphorn; they also draw on strength and stamina, as with flag throwing. 

Yodelling guests

Non-Swiss yodellers also took part, with some travelling from as far away as Japan and South Africa. Then there was the Wildrose yodel club, from Canada, where it was founded 20 years ago by Swiss expats.

Together with local yodellers from Riederalp, the Canadian singers memorably serenaded the audience on the 2,927-metre high Eggishorn, with a view over the Aletsch glacier, Switzerland's largest.

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