Running Day At School…

… otherwise known as Sports Day when i was little.

So a few days ago it was Running Day at Tobias’ school.

Apparently, the local Gym/Sports Club (Turnverein) used to host these runs yearly. Then it stopped and this year with support from the local government and the school, they have started it up again.

As suggested by the German name, the only sports was running. All the kids from the school as well as Kindergarten and playgroup in the village were invited to run.

The race lanes. The first race with the playground kids - so adorable!
The race lanes. The first race with the playground kids – so adorable!

After some technical delays, we were up and running (yes, pun intended and yes, very corny). Tobias ran against his schoolmates from the same school year. i was too busy trying to catch a good photo to take note which place he came in. But some of the girls from his class told me he was 4th or 5th, which is good, considering he has not run in a race before.

That serious concentrated  look!
That serious concentrated look!

Interestingly, in between some of the races and before the final prize-giving ceremony, we were treated to some gymnastic dance. i was surprised to find out that there were even national competitions. The group at the end had won a national competition last year (i think – i couldn’t quite hear the announcer clearly.).

Gymnastic Dance Exhibition...
Gymnastic Dance Exhibition…
Enjoying cheering his friends on...
Enjoying cheering his friends on…
At the final prize-giving ceremony...
At the final prize-giving ceremony…

Drinks and sausage were also served (we had to buy them) and that kept hungry tummies happy. All in all, it was quite an enjoyable evening.


Of Strings and Wood…

A little over 2 weeks ago, we had the unique opportunity to visit the only violin making school in Switzerland; the Swiss School of Violin Making in Brienz, Geigenbauschule Brienz. Thanks to our wonderful violin teacher who arranged the trip.

It is located in one of the most beautiful lakeside towns in Switzerland, in the region of Interlaken, the calm and ever quaint Brienz. i can’t think of a better place to have such a school. It’s neighbour is the Swiss School of Wood Sculpting/Carving, established in the late 1800s. So this place has a history of wood crafting.

Isn't the view amazing? Lake Brienz in the foreground, the mountains at the back.
Isn’t the view amazing? Lake Brienz in the foreground, the mountains at the back.

We got the grand tour from top down. They buy and store the wood used for violin-making in the attic. There were piles and piles of different wood; for violins’ bodies and necks, cellos’ bodies and necks, Maple, Spruce, Ebony (used to make the necks and are naturally black), Boxwood, Willow and Rosewood. He explained in detail about the grain and the age of the wood (they have wood from 1960s even!), but in German, so i missed a lot of the details, not to mention i had an 8-year-old constantly wanting to talk to me.

It is wonderful to think simple wood slats can become such beautiful musical instruments.
It is wonderful to think that simple wood slats can become such beautiful musical instruments.

Then we went down to the workshop. The school only takes in a maximum of 10 students, roughly 2 or 3 for each school year. It takes 4 years to study to become a violin-maker. You have to know sounds, acoustics, understand wood, learn to play the instrument (if you don’t already), treating the wood, lacquer and more. They make their own lacquer at this school!

Students hard at work. It takes them about 6 months to make a violin/viola and a year to make a cello.
Students hard at work. It takes them about 6 months to make a violin/viola and a year to make a cello.

We were there for a little over 2 hours and it was one of the more interesting tours i have taken in a while. We enjoyed it very much.

Left to Right: forming the shape (1 of 2 methods), parts made, lacquer drying...
Left to Right: forming the shape (1 of 2 methods), parts made, lacquer drying…

Now i want to just talk a little bit about the second concert we were privileged to take part in. It is part of 3 concerts of the 3 schools in our school circle. So on 15 June 2013, Wednesday, we played as part of a strings group at the Oberdorf concert.

Getting ready for rehearsal.
Getting ready for rehearsal.

We had fun but it was quite a nervous time, at least for me. i made 2 mistakes during the 5-minute performance. Thank God we were in a group and no one really heard my mistakes, at least i hope not. It was also great that we were the first group to perform because we could then enjoy the rest of the concert without anxiety (again, i think it was just me.).

We have no pictures of ourselves performing as Walter was away and there was no one to take pictures of us. i did, however get pictures of us, doing silly faces waiting for the concert to start.

Aren't we silly?
Aren’t we silly? It was dark and i used the phone-camera, that’s why it’s so blurry.

And here you can see 3 of Tobias’ favourite groups.

Top to Bottom: Saxaphones, Electric Guitar and Drums.
Top to Bottom: Saxophones, Electric Guitar and Drums.

The Drums group was really interesting to watch. They played an original composition by their teacher. You can see four drum sets and a xylophone. The girl on the xylophone played the whole time, keeping the melody going. The 14 drum students rotated between the 4 drum sets and played some amazing beats! i wished i had thought to record a video of them, but i was enjoying the music too much 😛

We have another 2 concerts to go… ooooh…


PS: You can read about our very first recital before Christmas last year.

1st Violin Lesson…

Tobias has been back at school for 1.5weeks now. He is now in Zweite Klasse (2nd Grade or Primary 2) and he is still loving school as much as before. He still has 2 long days at school and 3 mornings. He still goes to Judo.

BUT… he no longer goes for swimming classes – he got the last badge in July! So he is officially water-safe. 😀 Very proud of him!

NEW… He had his very first violin lesson, just yesterday. It was only  25 minutes, half of which was spent learning the basics such as how to hold the violin and bow, what the strings are called etc… His teacher, Herr Steiner, also had to tune his violin, which he reassured me would not need re-tuning for a while after this.

Look at how serious his face is 😉

After the introductory stuff, he went on to learn to pluck the strings with his finger. i believe it is called playing open strings. It was fun to watch. The teacher sang the name of an animal, first letter of the name corresponded to a string (G,D,E,A), such as Giraffe, in a specific rhythm and Tobias was to follow on the correct string, in the correct rhythm. After a couple of rounds of plucking, he was allowed to try doing the same thing with the bow, making sure he only plays that one string.

Herr Steiner told me he is doing great for a first lesson. Tobias’ homework is to practice plucking and bowing with those animal names and also to come up with 3 more animals for each string. What a laugh it was, when we came home and had to crack our heads thinking of animal names in German that begin with G, D, E and A. This is not something they teach at adult German classes or use in daily life and Tobias’ vocabulary isn’t quite big enough yet. So we went on the internet, looked through dictionaries and his little kiddy books and finally came up with 3 animals for each string; G was the hardest to find.

Tobias loved his lesson and looks forward to practising. Mummy looks forward to him playing nice little pieces on the violin in months to come 😉

See here for how Tobias decided on learning the violin and see here for how happy he was to collect his violin.