Special Church Music

This content was published on August 30, 2006 minutes

Herdsmen were the first people who visited the newborn child Jesus. Pictures of the shepherds' adoration often contain wind instruments as for example bagpipes and horns. In this context the very herdsmen's instrument, the alphorn, has been blowing since ever at Christmas in the church of Rheinfelden, Canton Aargau, and on the market in Villingen (Germany).

During the alpine summer the alphorn regularly was played in the evening as a musical prayer. Today's alphorn players often use the slow tunes for meditating. And many people listening to an alphorn melody interpret it as a sacred music.

The alphorn used to be blown in open-air religious services, but in 1973 the Swiss alphorn blower Anton Wicky started to arrange hymns for two alphorns or for alphorn and church organ and began to play the former herdsman's instrument in churches. As the alphorn suits the organ and sounds well in high rooms, church music was more and more scored for alphorn and organ. In 1998 Jost Marty composed the first yodel mass with alphorn.

Recently old pastoral masses of the 18th century by the composers Ignaz Jakob Holzbauer, Franz Xaver Brixi, Johann Chrysostomos Drexel and Franz Xaver Schnizer were discovered an interpreted. They prove the early use of the alphorn in the musical mass.

Yodelmasses in Swiss German dialect has been becoming a traditional contribution to church music since the 1970ies. More successful was the first spiritual yodel song from 1971, which was followed by compositions by Jost Marty, Dölf Mettler, Heinz Willisegger. Ruedi Renggli wrote yodel song with a dialect version of the prayer "Our Lord".

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?