Last modified: 2012-05-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: haut-rhin | soultzeren | alphorn |
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Flag of Soultzeren - Image by Ivan Sache, 29 November 2011
The municipality of Soultzeren (1,088 inhabitants in 1999; 1,837 ha) is a mountain village located 10 km north-west of Munster, on the road to the Schlucht pass.
Soultzeren was mentioned for the first time around 900, as Saltzeren,
probably referring to sources of salted water. During the Thirty
Years' War, the villagers hid most of the time in the neighboring
forests. The cult was celebrated in a place called Bichstein, lit.
"The Confession's Rock". Until 1847, the village belonged to the
Community of the Town and Valley of Munster.
The village was completely destroyed during the First World War. A monument offered in 1923 by the Alsatians-Lorrains from Argentina was erected at the entrance of the village at the place where the German attack was stopped in February 1915.
Source: Municipal webpage
Ivan Sache, 29 November 2011
The flag of Soultzeren (photo in the newspaper L'Alsace, Colmar edition, 5 October 1997) is white with the municipal arms in the middle.
According to the Armorial des Communes du Haut-Rhin (2000), the arms of
Soultzeren, "Vert two alphorns argent per saltire", were created in
1965, it appears from scratch.
These arms are a tribute to the marcaires, that is, the farmers producing the famous, strong Munster cheese. The marcaires are named from Alsatian malker, derived from German melker, "a milker". More than 1,000 years ago, the marcaires cleared the upper parts of the mountains (hautes chaumes) to set up summer pastures, where they oversummered in wooden huts (marcairies). The marcaires left the villages on St. Urban's Day (25 May) in a big festival, men and cows wearing a traditional costume, and came back usually on St. Michael's Day (29 September). After the First World War, the marcairies were rebuilt as big, modern farms. A kind of tourism started when the farms catered local botanists surveying the specific flora of the hautes chaumes. In the 1970s, most marcairies were transformed into mixed farms-inns. The women required to manage the inns eventually entered a univrese hitherto totally masculine.
Green is the color of the pastures. The alphorn is a music instrument
once widely used in the European mountains for communication,
especially (but not only) in Switzerland. Without lateral openings,
the alphorn gives the natural harmonic series of tones and nothing
else, therefore producing mostly slow, melancholic tunes. The most
famous alphorn melody is the Ranz des Vaches (Cows' Call), supposed
to be played by the shepherds to call the cows back home for milking.
The tune, popularized by Rossini's William Tell, is considered as a
kind of secrete national anthem in French-speaking Switzerland (emotional performance by the true armailli Bernard Romanens at the 1977 Vevey Wine Growers' Festival).
Until recently, the alphorn became a symbol of the traditional mountain society in Switzerland. Alphorn was mostly played in the pastures by musicians wearing the traditional armailli's (shepherd's) black and white costume. Festivals and competitions dedicated to alphorn are organized in several places, the most famous of them being the International Alphorn Festival organized every summer in Nendaz (Valais), the Alphorn Capital (group performance, 2010; Carole Rudaz, 2009 women's champion; Alexandre Jous, 2009 men's champion).
A few mavericks have attempted in the past to play alphorn on other scenes, especially in jazz bands, demonstrating that the potential of the instrument had not been totally exploited. The alphorn sphere was shaken, if not shocked, when Eliana Burki introduced the "funky alphorn" (Vacuum Funk, official trailer). Bored with piano lessons, Eliana started playing alphorn aged 6; she recognizes that it took her 20 years to become a virtuoso, while she also studied jazz at the Basle Jazz School. Then a noted traditional player but bored again, she morphed into the "alphorn punk" (she says), dropping the mountain costume for pink shirts, ripped jeans or short tight dresses and high heels, and playing alphorn with a band of hairy funk musicians. However, the alphorn sphere, not so traditionalist, recognized Eliana's original talent; she was invited to play at the Nendaz festival (extracts) and officially appointed "Ambassador of the Swiss Mountains".
Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 28 November 2011