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Simone Felber

Dancing and singing for life – with and against death

Dancing and singing for life – with and against death
Simone Felber
Photo: Christian Felber
Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz
Simone Felber, a singer, is working on numerous projects to make Swiss folk music suitable for the modern era. And with the “Get Going!” grant she has been awarded, she now also wants to revive the dance of the dead.

She started making folk music at a late stage – actually only during her studies at the Lucerne School of Music. There Simone Felber met Schwyzerörgeli (a type of diatonic button accordion invented in the Canton of Schwyz) player, Adrian Würsch, and the double base player, Pirmin Huber, with whom she now forms the trio “Simone Felbers iheimisch”. Previously, she was mainly active in classical music; her participation in the choir molto cantabile, which is dedicated to contemporary music, influenced her greatly. As a city-dwelling nature lover, the Lucerne native discovered something in folk music that met her very personal needs: “We always strive for perfection in music. However, whereas classical music is about the perfect performance of sound, jazz and folk music offer you the opportunity to find your very own sound.”

This personal sound manifests itself not only in the trio “Simone Felbers iheimisch” but also in numerous other projects, such as in the women’s quartet “famm” or as the director of the choir “Echo vom Eierstock”. The trained mezzo-soprano is therefore not only concerned with finding a completely contemporary expression in non-verbal singing and yodelling, but, as a 30-year-old, also with expressing a stance which appeals to her generation. Modern Switzerland is multicultural, urban and faces societal, social and political problems, while at the same time nature is rising up and challenging the places of popular origin where climate change is concerned. Felber wants her music to reflect all of the above, whereas she frequently suspects folk music of being too far removed from everyday life. “Folk music sometimes reminds me of a glossy brochure,” she says before adding: “I, on the other hand, prefer recycled paper.”

She has joined forces with the jazz pianist, Lukas Gernet, for her latest project entitled “hedi drescht”. This involves jointly looking into the question of “What is home?” and setting their pictures to music with a stylistic kaleidoscope of classical, yodelling and jazz. On stage, the collection of songs “äinigermasse dehäi” becomes an interdisciplinary audiovisual performance in collaboration with the theatre collective Fetter Vetter & Oma Hommage, the video artist, Jules Claude Gisler, and the theatre-maker, Stephan Q. Eberhard.

For her “Get Going!” project, Felber is now going one step further by addressing the topic of death, which she has recently faced first hand due to the loss of some loved ones. She is particularly fascinated by the act of the dance of the dead. But who dances this dance? In folk music, the “Tänzli” exists: do the living dance there without sparing a thought for death or in order to celebrate life before death? Or is it death that dances, as on the baroque motifs that can be admired on the Spreuer Bridge in Felber’s hometown of Lucerne? Or even someone who is doomed to die and dances on their journey to another world? Felber has been exploring these questions for a long time. “In many cultures, life and death is a circular process, while we consider our existence to be a linear event,” she explains. “I want the crippling feeling which comes over us in the face of death to be transformed into an emotion that can lead us out again.”

She does not yet know in detail what this will look like in the end. “However, I rather imagine an audiovisual installation that allows people to be confronted with the topic very personally in an intimate setting.” The “Get Going!” grant – she emphasises – gives her the freedom and certainty that she can now make this project a reality without stress or having to make too many compromises.

“Get Going!” has existed as a FONDATION SUISA funding offer since 2018. With this new form of a grant, creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start. At monthly intervals, we present the eight recipients of the 2022 “Get Going!” grant individually.

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