Alphorn magic

Three long-horned cows sitting in a grassy field.

Did anyone else hear that item on BBC Radio 4’s Home Truths programme on Saturday morning, about the alphorn? It was one of the most magical moments on radio that I’ve ever heard.

Not only was the alphorn music quite hypnotic and calming, but the excitement and amazement in David Stafford‘s voice was wonderful.

Here’s what the Home Truths’ website says about it:

A woman blowing into an alphorn, surrounded by cows in a field.In 1982 Frances Jones was minding her own business holidaying in Switzerland when she found herself drawn inexorably to a Zurich music store by the scent of freshly carved pine and row upon row of Alphorns; coloured and carved, some no more than tiny toy horns, others laid long in their full 14 foot glory.

‘May I try one?’ she asked the proprietor. ‘Of course’. He replied. She just put her lips together and blew. It was a moment never to be forgotten.

David Stafford met Frances, in a field near Henley-Upon-Thames to hear about her love for the great instrument and to test its legendary power over cattle.

Seemingly Mozart’s father used to write music for alphorns. You learn something new every day.

You can listen to this item again; requires RealPlayer.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 46 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Currently on sabbatical. I am a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir.

5 thoughts on “Alphorn magic”

  1. Hi Gareth – I’m so pleased you enjoyed my cow experience. It was a pretty awsome day! I discovered the effect quite inadvertently as it’s rather loud practising the alphorn indoors: it’s OK in my home when I know the neighbours are out, but I needed to practice for a performance when I was staying in a flat in Exmouth so went to a deserted bit of coast path that went along the edge of an empty field, and within a minute of starting to play I noticed a herd of Fresians coming towards me from out of sight – surreal! I have to say I felt quite touched, even honoured, that they came so ernestly and listened so intently. It’s very strange when animals respond to one like that! I tried it with some highland cattle in the Hebrides (unmissable photo opportunity, really) in the summer, and they came immediately too, so when Radio 4 got on to me I suggested we met in a field and let them watch what happened! My son who runs my website took some photos which he’s put there and also some wonderful video of the cows coming, but unfortunately they are very large files and he’s having trouble making them any smaller. Do you happen to know anything about editing .MOV files? Anyway, I’m glad the programme gave you so much pleasure. If ever I’m performing in Scotland I’ll let you know! Or, if you want to fix something for me, I’m very willing to come up! You can probably tell from my list of engagements, I live in Berkshire.
    Bye
    Frances

  2. Fantastic! And that’s one reason why the Internet is so wonderful too. Not only can you Listen Again to the Radio 4 item, but the stars of the show can comment on your blog!

    Thanks for such a lovely comment post, Frances.

    I’ll get settled into my new life in Fife and then see if there are any cows in the vicinity that need soothing. They may do after the whole bird flu upset in Cellardyke.

    Gareth x

  3. Hi! I also greatly enjoyed the broadcast and have remembered it! I am now fixing a performance of Daphne by Richard Strauss and it has an offstage alphorn part (very small one) in the score. I would dearly love to get a proper alphorn player to do this with the orcestra: any chance of someone putting me in touch with Frances to discuss this?

    Cheers
    Eleanor

  4. Hey I’d love to do the Daphne part! I have a copy of the part already. Please contact me through http://www.amazingalphorn.com. By the way I’m also a professional French horn player, so no problem understanding the genre!
    The only other orchestral alphorn part that I know of is a vaudeville stage piece by Wagner called ‘La Descente de la Courtille’ – how about that next time?
    Frances
    ps Hi Gareth!

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