Growing up with family in Southern Germany, Norman Gwaltney was exposed to the culture of the Alps at a young age, eventually discovering the customary
music of the region and deciding he wanted to sing along. But unfortunately for him, yodeling lessons weren’t actually an option.
“There aren’t really teachers,” he says. “It’s mostly listening and just practicing what you’re hearing -- kind of seeing if you have that ability.”
Courtesy of Alpine Express
Alpine Express performs regularly at Central Indiana events, including the 2013 Sun King Oktoberfest pictured here.
Eventually honing in on the vocal skillset required, Gwaltney decided to team up with a group of Indianapolis musicians in the ’80s. He recalls, “I picked
up on the music, brought it over here and found a couple of guys willing to play it with me.” Thus, Alpine Express
was born. Now decades later, the accordionist and yodeler still plays several concerts of lively Alpine polkas, waltzes and the like in the band, with a
current lineup that also features Mike White (performing trumpet and vocals) and Brian Ahlbrand (who does drums, guitar and vocals).
Gwaltney remembers when he first was drawn to the traditional music of the Alps, saying, “I was kind of mesmerized and obsessed with it starting out,
especially the yodeling.” It was ultimately because of this that he decided to give the style of singing a try, despite its peculiarity.
click to enlarge
Courtesy of Indianapolis MeetUp Photo Club
In addition to musical performances, GermanFest includes a wiener dog race.
“Everybody played guitar and sax, so it was kind of like, ‘Eh, pick up an accordion and do some yodeling. You’re either going to isolate yourself or you’re
going to be a novelty,’” he says.
After purchasing several cassettes and albums by many different German, Austrian and Swiss yodelers, Gwaltney emulated what he heard and worked to sharpen his skills. Through these self-tutorials, he learned the importance of “being in tune,” “good breath support” and being able to move the voice back and
forth from the chest to the head. Today, Gwaltney even has a website dedicated to dispersing his acquired yodeling expertise, fully equipped with a series of online tutorials.
In a similar vein, Alpine Express works to spread its love for the historic European music through the lineup of gigs its members play each year, engaging
audiences with a fun and accessible experience no matter the occasion. Creating this atmosphere is something they definitely take into consideration when
choosing which songs to play too, often sticking to light-hearted lyrical themes, Gwaltney explains. Nevertheless, the trio still strives to stay true to
the time-honored music of the Alps, even if a great deal of unearthing is required.
“We transcribe the music that we’re going to play from other artists by ear,” Gwaltney says. “You’re not going to really be able to buy it anywhere. You
can get a little bit now on the Internet, but still not that much.”
Currently all with full-time jobs, the trio simply looks forward to coming together and sharing their love for the long-established Alpine music style with
others, explains Gwaltney.
“We’re trying to bring a unique sound to people who maybe don’t get a lot of that and to bring fun to the audience,” he says.
This Saturday at the Athenaeum, Alpine Express will be one of many acts performing at the sixth annual Indianapolis GermanFest -- an all-encompassing event
that gives the Indianapolis community an opportunity to learn more about the city’s German culture. In addition to live music, the daylong, indoor/outdoor
festival will feature German dancing, German food and beer, a yodeling contest (coordinated by Alpine Express), beer games, the Bavarian Strong Man
competition and the much-loved wiener dog race. All proceeds from the event benefit the maintenance and care of the Athenaeum.
Courtesy of Indianapolis MeetUp Photo Club
There's more to GermanFest than beer and lederhosen, but both make a prominent showing.
For more information on the 2014 GermanFest, visit the Athenaeum Foundation’s website.
Bio: Since high school, Seth Johnson has been drawn to telling compelling stories through the lens of journalism. A 2013 graduate from Ball State University’s News program, he has especially discovered a love for music journalism, particularly connecting to local music stories in an effort to enlighten others on Indianapolis’...Since high school, Seth Johnson has been drawn to telling compelling stories through the lens of journalism. A 2013 graduate from Ball State University’s News program, he has especially discovered a love for music journalism, particularly connecting to local music stories in an effort to enlighten others on Indianapolis’ many artistic offerings.more
The Internet Cat Video Festival comes to the IMA this Friday and Saturday. Get set to laugh and aw over 70 minutes of carefully curated feline-intensive clips that have cat-apulted this event to national fame.