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The Swiss love to sing. Not while they work, like the Italian painters or Portuguese vine growers, and not necessarily in public, but in the intimacy of a meeting hall. Song is a way for these discreet people to express their feelings. Rare is the village in all of Switzerland that doesn’t have its own choir: Männerchor or Jodlerclub (men’s choir or yodeling club) in German-speaking Switzerland, mixed choirs in French-speaking Switzerland, can-zone in Ticino.
Choir members meet once a week, generally in the back room of a restaurant or in the parish hall, and they tirelessly rehearse the songs they will perform at a regional, cantonal or federal festival, where they are often dressed in traditional costumes. Their repertoire varies according to region and the tastes of the director, often including folk songs, specially adapted modern tunes, and sometimes works written by classical musicians.
Several Swiss composers regularly add to the repertoire of these choral groups, since they play such a vital socio-cultural role throughout the country. The most famous of these composers is the abbot Joseph Bovet, who wrote several folk songs that made their way past the Swiss borders. He is behind the adaptation of the famous Ranz des vaches, (the March of the Cows in the Fribourg French dialect), which is akin to a national anthem for the francophone Swiss who know all the lyrics by heart. In simple words, the song tells of a herd of cattle making its way down from the mountain pastures to the village…
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