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Wednesday, 2 March  2005  Yodellers

Visit the Melbourne festival to meet some unusual singers.

FRITZ VOEGELI: Yodelling in the Swiss mountains was mainly used as a form of communication.

And it depends - the way - how they sing it. It might be joy, or it might be grief.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: It's thought the Swiss mastered the art of making themselves heard hundreds of years ago - cupping their hands, striking the larynx and launching a sweet, wordless melody across mountain and valley.

And what began as a kind of, "Hello, is there anybody there?", soon turned into a song and, over time, it evolved further into a celebration of voice.

ROBYN ARCHER, MELBOURNE FESTIVAL DIRECTOR: So, when I announced that there would be a yodelling mass, everyone just screamed laughing, but I had to keep assuring people and say, "You have no idea how beautiful this sound is."

GEOFF HUTCHISON: For the members of the Jodlerklub am Albis, it's been quite a journey, from the church of their home village to St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne, where tonight they'll perform a yodel mass.

There's not a professional singer among them.

They're village folk, and some have never travelled beyond the Alps, but that hands-in-pocket casualness belies an extraordinary commitment to their art and culture.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: But the Jodlerklub isn't just here to perform.

Its members are here to teach, to enhance the reputation of yodelling, damaged by lonesome cowboys and Hollywood.

Today, they're hoping to turn this room full of warblers and garglers into the real thing.

SHIRLEY BILLING: Well, it makes you laugh, because it sounds so incredible and you go, "How on earth am I going to make that sound?"

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Have you made that sound yet?

SHIRLEY BILLING: I've made some sort of sound.

I come from a dairy farm and I think the cows would be heading towards the milking shed by now.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Do you find that you mime the first two minutes and then let yourself go a little bit?

MADGE FLETCHER: Totally miming the first couple of minutes.

It's like, "Where am I, where is my voice?"

And your mouth feels really odd.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: But two hours on, rather incredibly it seems, those odd mouths are making sweet music, echoes from far off mountains in Melbourne.

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English Bites - Yodellers
story notes

Yodelling in the Swiss mountains was mainly used as a way of making contact with other people in mountainous areas.
The word yodelling is also the continuous tense of the verb yodel.

Example: He's yodelling in the mountains.
People who yodel are called yodellers.

The adjective for things realated to Switzerland is Swiss.

Example: The mountains in Switzerland are called the Swiss Alps.
People from Switzerland are also called Swiss.

Example: The Swiss are famous for their banks and watches.

form of communication
A form of communication means a way of making contact with other people.

The past participle of the irregular verb think.
more information: think

People from Switzerland are called Swiss.

Example: The Swiss are good tennis players.
The adjective for things realated to Switzerland is also Swiss.

Example: I'm putting my money in a Swiss bank account.

became very good at

The past tense of the irregular verb hear.
more information: hear

cupping their hands
making their hands into a cup around their mouth

striking the larynx
The larynx is the voice box, in your throat. They would strike, or hit, their voice box while they called out.


The past tense of the irregular verb begin.
more information: begin

turned into
To turn into is a phrasal verb that means to become or to change into something else.

Example: The tadpole turned into a frog.
more information: turn into

To evolve means to develop gradually, to change slowly into something else.

enhance the reputation
To enhance is to improve and reputation is what people think.

Learn how to sing for your supper.

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