Holahi, Holaho! A Day of Volksmusik

Most of you know that we love music, and that I play the viola, piano and I sing. We were delighted when our friends Steve and Mia invited us to a folk music festival on Mother’s day. We had such a wonderful day, and for me, the perfect way to celebrate my second Mother’s day. The festival was held at an open-air, living history museum, the Glenleiten Open Air Museum (in German, it is called the Freilicht Glentleiten Museum).

Many of you, dear readers, are familiar with the excellent open-air, living history museum called Conner Prairie, which is in central Indiana, not far from our house. I have always loved going there. The Freilicht Glentleiten Museum is conceptually similar.

The museum has roughly sixty old Bavarian homes, small chapels, workshops, barns and more that have been moved to Glentleiten and have been restored on the property. Many of the homes have original furnishings and some even feature unique wall murals on the inside rooms. Visitors really get a feel for what life was like in rural, small-town Bavaria before running water and electricity came along. One family house we visited had been inhabited by descendents of the family up until the 1970’s; even then, there was no running water or electricity.


The museum not only features the homes and other buildings, but also seeks to recreate what life would have been like through first-hand experiences. For example, we saw a woman spinning wool and we came across a small sheep pasture. The folk music festival was just one event of many that go on in this living history museum to teach visitors about how life used to be.


There are plans to recreate a honeybee apiary (that’s a home for the honeybees) within an orchard that has heirloom fruit trees. I’m eager to see the apiary when it is finished.

As you noticed in the picture of Rosebud above, I dressed her in her adorable Dirndl. I thought that since it was Mother’s day and a Sunday, it was the perfect opportunity to dress her in the Dirndl. By the end of the day, I myself wished I were dressed in a Dirndl! I felt a little out of place wearing modern clothing.

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I would say that more than half the visitors were wearing traditional Bavarian clothing (Dirndls and the well-known Lederhosen for men and boys). Naturally, all the musicians were dressed in traditional costume as well. Many of the musician groups had coordinated their clothing and were clearly wearing their “Sunday best”, but this was true of many visitors, too. I don’t know about you, but I think the boys in their Lederhosen look so cute. They’re also wearing the traditional hat. I am sure it has a proper name, but I have forgotten what it is called.


In these pictures, we were near a little food stand, and you can see just how many of the visitors were dressed in traditional clothing:



I asked Mia if people were dressed up for Mother’s day or because it was Sunday. She said that some people dress this way on the weekends, but that a lot of them wear the traditional clothing all the time. And, indeed, I do see some people traditionally dressed all the time. You might think that it would be the older generations keeping to this tradition, but this is not so. I frequently see young families wearing their costumes. I think it’s really neat that they still wear these beautiful garments, as the patterns are gorgeous.

When I was visiting my host families in Köln in April, I mentioned this to one of my host mothers. She told me that in their village, a family had moved from Bavaria and that the mother in particular dressed in her Dirndl every day. My host mother said she just couldn’t understand why and thought it was strange. That is one example that illustrates just how different the region of Bavaria is from other parts of Germany.

I haven’t yet talked much about the music festival. It was amazing! All throughout the museum, different groups were stationed at various buildings. They performed all kinds of traditional alpine music. If you are wondering whether I heard any yodeling, I didn’t. 😉 That said, many of the traditional songs we heard did have the typical chord progression you think about in yodeling. As for instrumentation, we primarily saw guitars, violins, a contrabass, and zithers. If you have ever seen the Orson Welles movie The Third Man, the musical score features a zither, to give you an idea of what the zither sounds like.

In one of the barns, there were some sing-alongs. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the children’s sing-along was ending, but I did manage to get a songbook for Rosebud and me. Most of the songs are written in Bayerisch, the dialect spoken here, so it will take me some time to “translate” the song lyrics into German so that I can understand them. Holahi, Holaho, which I have in my title for this entry, is a refrain you’ll hear in many Volkslieder.



The groups of musicians were clearly enjoying themselves and some even played requests from the listeners who gathered round. The best performance I heard was inside the house in the above picture. A guitar player and zither player performed the classic Johann Strauss waltz Wiener Blut. Rosebud and I were enchanted! I did record a video of most of the performance, so if I have a chance to edit the video soon, I’ll share it. It was one of those musical moments that made my skin prickly, it was that good and that musical. I wistfully wished I had my viola with me and in fact, I’m toying around with the idea of seeing if I could join up with a Volksmusik group. Music is such an important part of my life, and I have really missed being involved in it.


Silliness abounds - Mia, Rosebud, David

Silliness abounds - Mia, Rosebud, David

At the end of the day, we stopped for a refreshing Radler. This is sort of like a shandy, only better. It’s a mix of lemon-lime Limonade (the German word for soda-pop) and Helles, or light beer.



Over the course of the day, there were several of you who I thought about, because I knew you would enjoy this musical festival. It’s always on Mother’s day, in case you want to mark it in your calendar and come visit us. 😉


I can’t wait to go back with Rosebud, and I am especially eager to take our visitors there.

For more about Bavarian folk music, this website in German has current information about gatherings, etc.

You can read about the history of Lederhosen here in English and in German.


3 responses to “Holahi, Holaho! A Day of Volksmusik

  1. Oh yes, Bavaria IS totally different from the rest of Germany. I can’t say for sure for all regions, but I’ve never been to an area in Germany where people wear traditional costumes. I don’t even know if there exist any traditional costumes in most German regions at all… ;o)

  2. Mmmm radlers look quite tasty!
    I love Rosebud in a dirndl. You should dress her in these always=). If I had a daughter I would.
    Gorgeous photos again…xo

  3. For your Rochester area friends, the Glentleiten Museum sounds like the Genesee Country Museum.
    One of my favorite memories of my time in Germany was singing in the Hochshule Chor. German choral music has much more interesting men’s parts than most of the American and English music I’ve sung. Even when singing hymns I already knew, the harmonies were more sophisticated and more fun than the ones I had learned before.

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