It’s Yodeling Time! This weekend is the biggest Jodlerfest of the year (and competition is fierce)

Every three years Switzerland hosts a national competition for yodeling, alphorn, and flag throwing. It brings together the best performers from across the country. In the two years between the national competitions there are regional competitions including one for Central Switzerland. I have attended the last two; in 2015 in Sarnen and 2016 in Entlebuch and have found the festivals to be remarkably authentic and representative of a part of Swiss culture that still thrives, even in the modern world with unlimited distractions.

These festivals are not designed for tourists, but for those steeped in the musical traditions dating back centuries and central to the Swiss soul. If you are looking for an enjoyable day-trip to soak in some good food, fine company, and the sweet sounds of the Alpen musical culture then head to Schötz from 22-24 June for the 62nd Central Switzerland Jodlerfest. To give you a leg up on planning and logistics we’ve put together all the information you need to get the most out of your visit.

A Bit about Schweizer Jodlern

The origins of Jodlern in Switzerland are as old as the country itself. It was a way for herders, gatherers, forest workers, and even coal miners’ to communicate with each other. In the Alps, they communicated with a yodel call (called “Jauchzern” or “joyful cry”) or they used to yodel to herd the cows. Our region is still a stronghold for yodeling culture in Switzerland. There are two main types of yodeling; a song with text which usually has three versions followed by a yodel or the ‘naturele’ yodel (called “Jutz”) which is a melody without words. This latter style of yodel is especially popular in Central Switzerland and the Bernese Alps. There are over 500 jodlenkluben in the Central Switzerland including the Jodlenklub Pilatus in Luzern.

The Competition

This year’s festival in Schötz will bring together over 3,000 yodelers, alphorn players, and flag throwers to perform and compete to eventually qualify for the national competition. There are 61 jurors judging the competitors; almost half for the yodeling and the other half split amongst Alphorn and Flag Throwing. The festival also expects to welcome 60,000 to 70,000 visitors over the three days.

At each performance a panel of jurors determine the grade for the performance. A “1” is a perfect score, a “2” is good, a “3” is satisfactory, and lastly a “4” is unsatisfactory. Only performers who score a “1” or “2” qualify for the national competition. The yodler compete in the following categories:

  • Single female yodeler (EJF = Einzeljodlerin
  • Single male yodeler (EJM = Einzeljodler)
  • Yodeler duet (JD = Jodeler Duet)
  • Yodeler trio (JT = Jodler Terzett)
  • Yodeler quartet (JQ = Jodler Quartett)
  • Yodeler group (JG = Jodlergruppe)

There are also categories for the young yodelers:

  • Yodeler junior small formation (JNK)
  • Yodeler junior group (JNG)

The Extras

The festival isn’t just about the yodeling. It’s also a chance to have some great food in a fantastic environment. You may even find members of a yodeling club sitting at the next table providing you a private concert while you eat. There will be 25 food stands & restaurants with capacity for over 6,000 people. There will also be ample opportunity to shop for souvenirs or the famous Edelweiss shirts at the 25 market stands throughout the Jodel Dorf. And most importantly, there will be 2 large wagons serving local beers to the thirsty. If you attend the last day of the festival you will be greeted with a closing parade through the village.

The Logistics

When and Where?

The festival will be held from 22-24 June (Friday-to-Sunday) in the village of Schötz, about 40 minutes from central Luzern. The central Jodler Dorf and all of the venues are within a short walk from each other. Download the Jodlerfest Map to get your bearings.

How to get there?

While Schötz does not have a train station the village can be accessed by frequent festival shuttle busses from the train station of Nebikon. Trains to Nebikon leave Luzern Bahnhof at :05 and :30 after the hour and the journey is 29 minutes. The shuttle busses depart directly from Nebikon Bahnhof for their 6-minute journey to Schötz. If you decide to drive there is parking just outside of Schötz followed by a 5-minute walk to the village.

When you arrive…

When you arrive in Schötz by shuttle bus you will be dropped off right by the ticket office. A single day ticket for an adult costs CHF12 and children are free. You will receive a commemorative festival pin which is your entry ticket into all of the venues. You will need to display it prominently on your clothing in order to get into any of the performing venues. You will also want to pick up a festival booklet which will provide details about the venues and all the performances throughout the festival’s three days.

Watching Performances

To attend a specific performance, you’ll need to navigate to the right venue and stand in line to be let in. The doors to each performing area are closed during performances with no one allowed in or out (this is serious business!). When you are let in find a seat and settle in. I would suggest trying to find seats that aren’t blocked by the Jurors Stand. You can leave the venue between performances or stay as long as you like. Some performances will create longer lines and not everyone will be able to get into the venue so plan accordingly!

Key Yodeling Terms

“Zyt för Frönde” – ‘taking time for friends’…the tag line of this year’s festival
“Jutz” – a yodeling melody without words
“Jauchzern” – “joyful cry”
“Fahrnenschwingen” – flag throwing
“Schwyzerörgeli”- a Swiss accordian

A special thanks…

To Diane Häuptli of the Jodlerklub Pilatus and Ruth Iseli of the 62. Zentralschweizerische JodlerFest Schötz for their invaluable help with background for this article.

And to the co-organizers of the festival: the Jodlerklub Bärgglöggli Schötz and the Freunde Alter Traktoren Schötz (Friends of Old Tractors Club).


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