Remember the November concert I talked about? School children played different instruments – harps, recorders, violins, brass, even guitars and drums? They were good, but I wasn’t prepared for last Saturday’s Christmas concert in the same church.
First the Christmas tree was lit. And I mean lit. The twelve-foot tall tree was covered with white candles. An adult acolyte had a ladder and went around the tree with fire, lighting the caadles. This reminded me of my first Christmas in Switzerland. Our upstairs neighbors told us about putting candles on the tree and we were SHOCKED!
They laughed. “The tree doesn’t catch on fire ever,” they said. We didn’t take the chance. Now I’m sorry. It was lovely – the lights were soft, yet bright.
This was adults and their expertise was clearly evident. Since I love live music, I didn’t have my hopes up – but was I wrong! The two groups performing were the brass band and the yodeling choir from Zofingen.
Best things about the concert – I knew only a few songs and they came at the end. No same old, same old carols and jingles. The band and organ and a flute soloist played classics from the Middle Ages, classical from the 18th and 19th century.
And some modern ones – “I will always love you,” made famous by the late Whitney Houston brought tears to my eyes, in spite of the fact that I could hardly recognize it.
But it was the yodeling that truly enlightened me. The group was dressed more formally than other groups I’ve seen and their songs were much more sophisticated than I’m used to.
Maybe it was because it was nighttime and cold and in the big, 400-year-old brick, stone, wood and concrete church, but the voices were deeper and the singing was slower. The men had big booming rhythms, very much like a mountain.
The women and a few tenors showed why yodeling was done first in the mountains. The yodelers sounded lonesome, but the answering echos made them seem less lonely. This was not done for tourists. No speedy yodeling, no cheerful, bouncing maidens – just farmers coming home or going up to the top of the mountain to tend their sheep or cattle.
A young man (I later found out he was the pastor!) told a Christmas story in complete dialect. I got a lot, because he spoke very slowly, but I still don’t have enough to come to a complete understanding.
When he was through the members of the audience looked at each other and nodded at the wisdom the story contained.
A most satisfactory evening… until I got outside.
Briefly, freezing rain hit very cold cobblestones turning the Old Post Plaza into a tilting, sliding menace. I’d move a bit, then stop again to look for a non-icy spot. Suddenly, a woman grabbed my left arm and began to help me. She was steadier, but still sliding.
As we wobbled down the plaza, a man grabbed my right arm. Now we were a three-some and more stable, since we didn’t all slide at the same time. The man sought and found leftover snow which wasn’t icy and gave him solid footing.
The woman asked, “Which way are you going?” I answered, “The train station!” I was out of milk and planned to get some at the nearby convenience store. I told my new friends I was walking home to Innere Altachen, but the woman said, “You should take a taxi.” I murmured about the high cost and she replied, sharply, “Cheaper than a night in the hospital!”
We shook hands good-by and they watched me get into the taxi. Couldn’t argue with that. The 10-foot walk to the door of the apartment took 5 minutes to navigate.
The next day, the ice was gone and I walked to the grocery store to load up on food. Good thing. That night, I realized I was coming down with a dreadful cold – first one in 20 years. I stayed in all day Sunday, eating oranges, taking double doses of Vit C, and all the echinacea I had (only two tabs).
I’m much better now, so heading out to town for more shopping and postal business – I’m starting to mail excess clothing back to myself.