Winter in Voralrberg
3 Feb ’17 – One month has flown by! Seemingly we’ve been standing still the whole time, but in reality, it’s been a fast,engaging and exciting adventure so far with travels, sightseeing, Ursula’s birthday party, concerts, bands, feasts, shopping, shopping and shopping and demons (that would be the Krampus). As we transition into December, we enter Christmas in Vorarlberg and attended the Advent activities with a Concert Night in Feldkirch.
The Weihnachtsmaerkte (or Christmas Markets) have kicked into gear this past weekend and the holiday cheers is beginning to flow from all the small town squares, permeating the happy smiles of all walking by, the highly excited children and the Werbung (commercials) on TV and radio!
In the valleys we’ve had several coatings of snow while the heights above are all covered with the happy, cheerful, white stuff! The old traditional, postcard-like, make believe pictures of rustic, bucolic Austrian Christmas villages and valleys aren’t make believe – they’re the real thing. The beauty of the countrysides is amazing as the allure of the romantic villages adorned by Christmas ornaments and lights is overwhelming. We’re visiting as many as we quickly can.
The other night we were invited to attend an “Advent” concert night in Feldkirch. It’s a traditional annual Christmas event held in many towns featuring local choirs and musicians. The one in Feldkirch was held at the local conservatory (a 7 minute walk from our apartment). The conservatory building is a beautifully old majestic yellow building overlooking the Ill River.
The conservatory, or Konservatorium in German, does not have a real counterpart in the States. In Austria conservatories are state (Austria) recognized academies, or universities for music and performing arts vocational training. With such an esteemed association, we knew the concert was one not to miss.
In typical Germanic fashion, everything went off on time with professionalism and class that one would expect. The crowd was polite (and old), the ushers were actually military officers (perhaps not full time guys?), the distinguished MC spoke in the clearest and most distinct ‘High German’ that I’ve heard (not the virtually indistinguishable local dialect). I almost understood most of what she said.
An Eclectic Variation
The staging arrangements were pleasantly surprising with all of the performers seated on the raised stage. To the back was the 40 person choir. Immediately to their front and left was a duo with a violin and harp. To their left, front a trio of ‘kids’ with ‘Fagotts’, its the unfortunate German named instrument that we refer to as an Bassoon. On the other side of the stage was a sextet with Zithers, guitar, kontrabass, harp and hackbrett (kind of like a mix between a zither and harp?). Up in one of the private mezzanine seat alcoves was a trio of horns. In the center of the stage was a small table with candles and a microphone.
The beauty of this arrangement was that the performers could fluidly switch from one to the other with a quick change of the lighting – there were no timely stage changes, just a dimming and highlighting of the lights.
The three highlights of the concert for me were the musical groups up front on stage. Most amazing was the violin and harp duo, particularly the violinist. Although my musical taste is very eclectic, with some choice classical songs on my ‘favorites list’, I’ve never been a violin aficionado. Last night, the young violinist may have changed my mind. Clearly the conservatory had found a gifted and talented young lady to represent their stringed instruments. I won’t described how well she played….that’s a little outside my area of expertise. Needless to say, it was memorable for one who’s not even a big fan of the style – but, I may be, by the time I leave.
The other group that I found enjoyable was the sextet with the more traditional Austrian instruments. It was a pleasure to hear skilled zither players accompanied by the other stringed instruments. I’ve been fascinated by the zither as I think the sounds iconically represent the noises and sounds of Austria. It’s a complicated instrument to play and requires and inordinate commitment to play it well. These ladies clearly had committed themselves to that effort.
The final, and perhaps most intriguing of the three groups was the fagott, or bassoon, trio. I’d never seen this instrument….or if I had, it was hidden amongst the other strange shaped objects within an orchestra (clearly I am no musician nor do I posses an ounce of musical talent). But, this instrument clearly has a wide range of depth and melodies, restrained only by the talents of their musicians. And although these were mere children (18?) in age, they were not so in talent. Playing off of each other with supporting and competing tunes and melodies and rhythms their music was sublime. I spoke with an elderly Swiss lady sitting next to me and she commented that she had never, ever seen three bassoons played together, it was as fascinating for her as it was for me.
After Concert Drinks
The gentlemen of the couple that invited us, sang in the choir. After the concert, like all concert goers everywhere, fashionably dressed, we walked to the nearest restaurant for a very late night diner and drinks. All in all, it was very delightful evening – just another day in a Year in Vorarlberg.
- Interested in the ‘Concert Night in Feldkirch ‘ Blog?, Link here to our Year in Vorarlberg Series
- See our ‘Best of Photos’ from this a adventure and from the Rhein’s Lands
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