When a conspicuously large number of people, especially young people, stroll through Innsbruck's old town in traditional costume, it's that time again: folk music turns our city into the capital of Alpine tunes for three days.
For four years, one had to virtually 'fret through' Innsbruck in order to be able to enjoy good folk music several days in a row. On the last weekend of October 2022, the time had finally come: the renowned 'Alpine Folk Music Competition' for the Herma Haselsteiner Prize took place in the Congress, on the squares of Innsbruck's city center, in the pubs and even in the surrounding alpine huts.
Every two years, the competition brings together dozens of young folk musicians from all over the Alpine region to crown the best in their field. Since the 2020 competition had to be cancelled due to a pandemic, this year it was a long-awaited autumnal treat, not only for me, to hear the young musicians sing and play. In other words, the joy of the competition had come to an end.
Folk music once inspired Mozart and Beethoven
There is one misunderstanding that I would like to dispel decisively at this point: Sweet schmaltz and maudlin pop songs are not and never were the folk music we are talking about here. By folk music I mean songs, music and dances that have been developed, composed and performed over centuries by 'rural musicians'. This 'simple music' also inspired Mozart and Beethoven: Mozart's Magic Flute or Beethoven's Pastoral are inconceivable without recourse to 'folk tunes'.
It is logical that folk music is for the most part cheerful. What did the poor people in the countryside have to do in former times but to try to forget their mostly dreary life situation in music for a short time? That's why musicians played for dancing in the inn or conjured up a festive mood in their simple farmhouse parlors with contemplative tunes.
From the multitude of outstanding young musicians, one young Swiss singer also stood out for me this year. Florina Plattner performed as part of 'Aufg'horcht - Volksmusik erobert die Stadt' in the Spitalskirche. Accompanied by a colleague on the 'Schwyzerörgeli', a Swiss special form of the diatonic accordion, she performed songs with a wonderful voice. And convinced as a Swiss - nona - by bell-bright yodel singing, which found in the baroque jewel at the Maria-Theresien-Straße a wonderful resonance space.
But folk music also has numerous religious references. And that's exactly what many of us like to hear at Christmas - when the dulcimer reminds us of roasted apples or violin music makes the cozy warmth of a parlor even cozier.
Actually an ingenious promotion of young talent
Peter Margreiter and his wife Sonja, together with their team from the Tyrolean Folk Music Association, invite young musicians to this festival every two years. The aim is to promote young talent, as only musicians up to the age of 25 and singers up to the age of 30 are eligible to participate. At the competition, it is obligatory for musicians to perform 'dance music' in addition to 'Stubenmusik'. Participating singers are also required to perform typical regional alpine folk music and folk tunes. The calculation of the responsible persons of the Tyrolean folk music association, to promote young talents with first appearances with this event, has again fully succeeded
The fact that the promotion of young talent in the field of folk music is particularly good was proven again this year by dozens of young musicians and singers. It is very remarkable what technical skills these young people have already acquired at a young age. The age also never ceases to amaze me: a seven-year-old girl was already playing a children's harp. And how!
Harps are apparently a favorite instrument for girls and women. So I listened - I admit it - enraptured also to the playing of a 13-year-old girl at the courtyard of the Claudiana. It was interesting for me to learn why she learned to play the harp: because at the age of six she had seen the two girls from 'Harfonie' on TV during their victory in 'Die große Chance'. That's when she decided to learn the harp as well. And the girl from Thiersee, who attends the music school in Kufstein, has already achieved some mastery in this.
In addition to the performance of the participating musicians, it is already a tradition that one evening of the three-day event is dedicated to dancing. This was also the case this year, when hundreds of enthusiastic dancers filled the Congress.
Tradition is the very special international sales fair 'Around folk music'. What there is to see and discover is unique. Whether ocarinas, harps, brass instruments or original Tyrolean traditional costumes: It is a harmonious, at times even resounding exhibition. That is, when the young musicians start testing the instruments
An Alpine Festival Concert
The highlight is, of course, the festive evening on Saturday, during which the Herta Haselsteiner Awards are presented. Two hours of exquisite folk music, performed by brilliantly playing young people, have been delighting listeners since its inception. It actually goes without saying that this event is recorded by ORF for radio and television.
And so I would like to combine this year's résumé with a wish: that it be examined whether this three-day event could not be turned into an entire 'festival week'. This would not only please the fans of folk music, but also the tourism in our city would certainly not be averse to an impulse in October.
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A volunteer at the "Schule der Alm" alpine farming school, cultural pilgrim, Tyrol aficionado and Innsbruck fan.