Above: Singing beloved and familiar tunes such as the popular "Edelweiss" local members of the Swiss Mannerchor attired above in the dark traditional and handsome embroidered jackets take to the stage in Bonney Lake, WA during their annual 2009 Spring Concert. Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2009.
In the early seventies, a young lady enrolled in my high school physical education class could be counted on sure as clockwork to miss daily roll call at the beginning of the period. This was partly due to the fact she had to catch her ride to the Kirkland school from a location in Seattle where both her immigrant parents had long since put down permanent roots.
Yes, surely as it rained in the Pacific Northwest, my good friend Beatrice (Bischofberger) Abbott could be counted on to arrive after most if not all of the alphabetical tally of class members was completely over to the weekly consternation of our more or less drill sergeant female instructor.
But Beanie as she was called back then didn't merely carve out a place at our high school by merely being late to first period roll call. She stood out from the crowd in positive ways, one being she was always proud of her immigrant Swiss and Danish heritage, and she continues to honor her ancestry and exemplary role in the community at large as a longtime health care professional employed by a well-known and respected east side health care provider.
So you can bet that I was more inclined to immediately bite on a last minute invite to join my now older, married, former high school classmate (also a proud wife and mother) who recently drove down with her parents, brother and family friends to enjoy an enchanting interval of music and songs by the 2009 Mannerchor "Edelweiss" Spring Concert at the Swiss Sportsmen's Club in Bonney Lake, WA.
For Northwest residents like Bea as she now prefers to be addressed today, with Swiss heritage prominent in their immediate family tree the melodious evening may brought tears of recognition and waves of warm and welcome nostalgia.
Far right: Beatrice (Bischofberger) Abbott and her Swiss father, Seattle violin maker, Hermann O. Bischofberger.
For persons of non-Swiss heritage such as myself (both sets of Ojiichan (Grandpa) and Obaachan (Grandma) wore Japanese-style kimonos not lederhosen, etc.) the music would soon awaken all of my authentic alpine meadow memories. The highly familiar Hollywood images were in turn directly gleaned and still filed under their original Tinseltown subheads. They include but are not limited to: Academy Awards, Christopher Plummer, Julie Andrews and the soundtrack from the 1965 hit movie "The Sound of Music."
Choir director Kurt McKee directed the fine performance by the Mannerchor who later yielded the limelight to an equally gifted guest chorus from Olympia, WA by the name of the Helvetia Alpengluehn under the direction of Cliff Fairley. The talent, devotion, skill, musical ability, and craftsmanship that all members clearly invest in these performances is readily apparent and roundly appreciated by their supportive and discriminating audiences.
Below left: Exterior view of the Swiss Sportsmen's Club. Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2009.
Outsiders like myself will find it encouraging to note the recruitment and presence of younger members whose ties with the old country as less easily discerned as snowy-haired veteran members of the choir whose accents sometimes still carry (for this listener) an exotic Bavarian lilt.
I'd be happy to recommend both talented choirs to musical audiences in the greater Puget Sound community who will most certainly enjoy an introduction to these dedicated singers, as well as an opportunity to learn more about Swiss people and their culture while recognizing a much beloved and diverse musical heritage of fellow Puget Sound area neighbors whose delightful echoes can also be recognized and identified within a myriad of other familiar and popular contemporary tunes and formats.
In the face of such abiding love and affection it surely suggests to this new fan that choir members will continue to keep Swiss melodies in one key or another ringing in the hills of our own beautiful Pacific Northwest for as perhaps as long as the memory of the sturdy and steadfast alpine blooms of which they so deeply and eloquently recall.