Official website of Nendaz Tourism
The alphorn's origins have been lost in the depths of time. Some ancient documents mention that European and even Asian shepherds used a similar instrument, that is to say a sort of primitive wooden trumpet, which could play only a few notes.
In Switzerland, we find proof of its existence in manuscripts written by the naturalist from Zurich, Conrad Gessner, who describes a sort of horn "litum alpinum" eleven feet long, made up of two long pieces of wood, curved, hollowed and bound together with wicker. This instrument was used in central Switzerland, to gather the cattle. In fact, originally, it was used to call the herds together, in the evening, in the mountains. It was also used as a method of communication to spread news from one valley to the next. In some ways, it would have been the ancestor to the megaphone. In the mountains, and with the wind as its ally, its notes can carry over 10km.
The first alphorn competition took place at the shepherds' fete in Unspunnen: only two competitors took part. The first medal won at this occasion depicts the alphorn's shape at that time.
Little by little, the playing of this instrument spread and in 1826 Niklaus von Mülinen, a Bernese patrician and president of the cantonal government, asked the composer Ferdinand Fürchtegott to make some alphorns and to organise the teaching of this instrument at Grindelwald. According to the lithographs of the time, the alphorns were fairly straight and very narrow.
It is only around 1880 that the alphorn was given its present shape. In the Zeihen museum (canton of Aargau) an example of this period is exhibited.
Over the years, the alphorn has had mixed amounts of popularity. At the turn of the century, it had even almost disappeared: when the federal association of yodellers was created (8th of May 1910), only one alphorn was present.
In Switzerland, there are about 4'000 players, 200 in the Valais of which over 14 are from Nendaz.
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