William Hopson with RMA Alphorn

Rocky Mountain Alphorns
and William Hopson

William Hopson has been a French Horn player in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra since 1977. William Hopson He is comfortably established in Calgary, which is in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the Canadian province of Alberta. He is proud to be a citizen of Canada.

His earliest musical roots are Bluegrass. His first musical memory is the Bloodworth Family Band from his mother’s people, otherwise known (and still playin' strong) as the Scoggin’s Hill Band of Milledgeville, Georgia. When his interests turned to Classical music in his student years, his principal studies on French Horn were with Roland Pandolfi of the St. Louis Symphony and with Robert Fries at Oberlin College.

He acquired his first Alphorn in 1982 and has since dedicated his summers to hiking in the Rocky Mountains with his Alphorn, sounding Swiss folk melodies from valley meadow to alpine cirque. His life-long love for the art of woodworking began with childhood visits to his father's workshop and progressed through the development and furnishing of his family's Victorian "Gingerbread" home.

In 1992, Combining his talents as a woodworker and musician, he founded Rocky Mountain Alphorns to hand build a limited edition of superior Spruce and Maple Alphorns for professional Horn players and discriminating enthusiasts. He is now making Büchels as well as Alphorns. It is William Hopson's determination to build Alphorns and Büchels with the best playing qualities combined with beauty in appearance. In 2009 he made his 156th Alphorn.

New: The Alphorn Seminar in Catalonia

We are announcing a new Alphorn Seminar in Catalonia, Spain. The dates are Saturday, June 29th to Saturday, July 6th, 2019. The Seminar will be held at the Pozzo de Sol Resort. Pozzo de Sol is about halfway between Barcelona and Valencia. It is located in a beautiful setting - an olive grove above the delta of the River Ebro and a short drive from the Mediterranean Sea. Fine Catalonian Wine and delicious Catalonian cuisine will be a feature of the Seminar. The Alphorn teachers at the Seminar will be William Hopson and Gilbert Kolly. For more information please email the program organizer, Mike Mitchell.

Alphornseminar Diemtigtal

In the summer of 2019 William Hopson will be teaching and performing at the Diemtigtal Alphornseminar in Diemtigtal, Switzerland. The seminar will begin on Thursday, July 18th and end on Sunday, July 21st.

The course will offer individual instruction on the Alphorn as well as group instruction and performances. Returning as Alphorn teachers for the course will be William Hopson, Frances Jones, Dominik Ziorjen and Sami Loertscher. Plans are currently under development - please go to the website for up to date information.

This seminar will be a wonderful opportunity to learn about the Alphorn, to make friends and to experience a very beautiful part of the Berner Alps. For more information about the seminar, see the Alphornseminar Diemtigtal website or contact Daniel Pfenninger (the seminar organizer) or William Hopson. Daniel speaks perfect English and questions about seminar activities, scheduling and registration are best directed to him.

North American Alphorn Retreat

2008 was the inaugural year of the North American Alphorn Retreat at the Solitude Resort, high in the Rocky Mountains above Salt Lake City, Utah. We have not decided the dates for the 2019 North American Alphorn Retreat yet, but it is generally held in the second week of August. This course is highly recommended and all North American Alphorn blowers are encouraged to come.

The instructors at the Alphorn Retreat: William Hopson, Tony Brazelton, Brian Priebe and Jim Hopson have a wide range of experience playing the Alphorn in North America and in Switzerland.

Players of all ability levels, from beginners to experienced Alphorn blowers, are welcome. An important part of the program will be practicing and performing in various Alphorn ensembles. The music will be traditional Alphorn music and some modern Alphorn music as well. This will be a great way to learn about Alphorn performance, Alphorn history and Alphorn traditions, and to meet some of the other Alphorn blowers in North America. There are activities in the area for people of all ages and we encourage participants to bring their families along. We are sure to have a wonderful time in addition to the Alphorn experience.

For more information see the North American Alphorn Retreat website or email the program leader Tony Brazelton at tony@salzburgerecho.com.

Swiss Alphorn School

William Hopson teaches every summer at The Swiss Alphorn School in Schönried, Switzerland. Schönried is high in the Swiss Alps near the resort city of Gstaad. This summer William Hopson will teaching at the Week-long Course "Alphorn Days" from Saturday, July 6th to Saturday, July 13th, 2019. The Swiss Alphorn School The week-long course has approximately sixteen participants and two well qualified teachers.

The Swiss Alphorn School also offers a summer weekend course at the excellent Guesthouse Hornfluh (in a postcard setting high atop a ridge in the Alps) and a Fall Swiss Alphorn School course in September/October.

The courses include private lessons, ensemble coaching and a chance to perform at the end of the session. There is always plenty of camaraderie and cultural exchange, and of course the fine food and drink that comes with the famous Swiss hospitality. Most of the participants are German speaking, but the majority of them are comfortable in English as well. All of the teachers speak English.

The Swiss Alphorn School has a wonderful reputation in Switzerland and is known throughout the world. For more details about the Swiss Alphorn School and how to enroll in the school, please email Fritz Frautschi at info@alphornatelier.ch.

The Pastoral Life Compact DiscWilliam Hopson has recorded several compact discs of Alphorn music. For his latest compact disc, "The Pastoral Life", he collaborates with Organist Jamie Syer, performing on the lyric Organ in Grace Presbyterian Church as well as the grand Organ located in Knox United Church. Hopson and Syer are joined by Flutist Lauren Eselson for the featured trio, "Alpine Folksong Suite" by Jean Daetwyler. Also included are several traditional melodies recorded in the wonderful natural acoustics of Lyric Lake in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. With music by composers Jean Daetwyler, Hans-Jürg Sommer, Charles Conord, William Hopson, A. L. Gassmann and R. Eichhorn, this compact disc offers the most eclectic program of music that is available on any Alphorn recording; from the conservative tradition of the ancient folk melodies to a cool blues quartet.

His other compact discs include "All is Well in the Valley", a collection of Alphorn and Organ music recorded in Knox United Church with Organist Jamie Syer. This disc also includes Solo Alphorn music recorded in Delirium Valley in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. "Echoes" is a recording of traditional Swiss Alphorn melodies featuring the spectacular echoes of Gargoyle Valley in Banff National Park.

William Hopson playing an RMA Büchel

As well, William Hopson has published a collection of the best solo Alphorn music that he has composed over the last five years. The collection is called "Arioso - Eight Expressive Melodies for Solo Alphorn". For further information about this music, and music for Alphorn by other composers, see the Alphorn Music page of this website.

An important article has been published by the Swiss Society of Ethnomusicology. The title of the article is "On Swissness in Alphorn Performance". The author of the article is Charlotte Vignau.

Out of respect for the copyright priviledges of the author we cannot publish this fine article here in its entirety. Ms. Vignau is an ethnomusicologist and a keen observer of the Alphorn. She has much to say about Swiss authenticity in Alphorn performance today. There is much here about the original Swiss style of Alphorn playing from the alpine regions, the shepherd and cowherds that are the basis of that tradition, and the importance of expressive freedom, naturalism and landscape in the ideal of Alphorn blowing. This article is highly recommended. To read the entire article click on On Swissness in Alphorn Performance and scroll down to page 57.

The third part of this article, "Imagine Being a Shepherd - on Authenticity", discusses the direction of the alpine style of Alphorn playing. The important Swiss Alphorn blowers Hans-Jürg Sommer, Emil Frei and Gilbert Kolly describe William Hopson's approach to the Alphorn and his position in the Swiss Alphorn community with regard to the question of "Swissness". To read this part of the article click on (same link as above) Imagine Being a Shepherd - On Authenticity and scroll down to page 65.

In July of 2005, William Hopson traveled to Switzerland with his friends in the Jodlerklub Heimattreu to participate in the Eidgenossisches Festspiel (the National Festival) in Aarau. This was a huge festival which is held every three or four years. Thousands of Jodlers, Alphorn blowers and flag throwers participated. William Hopson performed at the festival as an Alphorn soloist and with his Rocky Mountain Alphorn trio. The comments from the Alphorn jury were all very enthusiastic, including:

[Jury report written by Walter Aebi and translated by Ingrid Desilets. For the original German version click on Aarau Festbericht.]

For a full report from William Hopson's visit to Switzerland in the summer of 2005, see Reviews and Commentary.

In November of 2000 the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra enjoyed a successful tour of Central Europe. William Hopson performed, as an encore to these performances, a six minute excerpt from the "Concerto for Alphorn and Orchestra" by Swiss composer Jean Daetwyler, in the cities of Innsbuck (the Kongresshalle), Montreux (Auditorium Stravinsky), Biel / Bienne, (the Kongresshaus), St. Gallen (the Tonhalle), Zurich (the Tonhalle), Basel (the Casino) and Geneva (Victoria Hall).

[Following are excerpts from reviews of William Hopson's encore performances. For a full report, see William Hopson's encore performances with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.]

"A swiss alphorn in the Maestro concerts? Whoever thought this impossible learned differently Wednesday evening in the Innsbruck Congresshall. The CPO bewitched the audience with the thrilling encore after an exhausting program." {The Kronen Zeitung, Innsbruck, Nov. 12, 2000, by Moni Bruggeller}

"For an encore the orchestra also played an excerpt from the Alphorn Concerto by the composer from the Vallais, Jean Daetwyler, with one of the hornists from the orchestra playing his magnificent [original German: prächtigen] Alphorn, which he himself constructed." {Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich, Nov. 16, by Alfred Zammerlin)

"[In Montreux] the orchestra was rewarded with three encores, one of which featured CPO hornist Bill Hopson playing excerpts from a well-known Swiss alphorn concerto on the three-metre-long wooden instrument that he had made. Hopson's solo appearance has become a certified crowd pleaser.

One older member of the audience was seen removing his hearing aid and cupping both hands behind his ears as he leaned forward to better hear Hopson's performance." {The Calgary Herald, Bob Clark reporting from Montreux, Nov. 12, 2000}

Climbing the Pragel Pass above the Klontal See in Switzerland In the summer of 1999 William Hopson returned to Europe to attend the National Festival in Frauenfeld, Switzerland, where he performed on his Alphorn and enjoyed all of the wonderful festival activities. He is, at this time, the only native North American that has been invited to participated in the Swiss National Festival. He was attending the festival with his Swiss friends in the Jodel Klub Heimattreu of Calgary. There were 403 Alphorn blowers in Frauenfeld for the festival, and jodelers beyond count. It was a very intense and interesting experience. The Swiss are very passionate about their culture.

[Following are the final words from the Alphorn Jury Report on his performance at the Swiss National Alphorn Competition. For the full jury report see Swiss National Competition in Reviews and Commentary.]

"A strongly individual musical expression, full of drama, sensitivity and deep feeling. A melody with all that you can ask for, from the highest to the deepest tones, and all perfectly interpreted."

In all, William Hopson was in Europe for five weeks, with concerts in Zurich, Gstaad, Mürren and Frauenfeld (in Switzerland), Versailles, Paris (in France), Munich (Germany) and Croatia. For a full report on his European tour see Reviews and Commentary.

The Adriatic SeaAs a part of this European tour, William Hopson performed three concerts in Croatia as a guest of the Music Academy Ino Mirkovitch in Lovran, Croatia. While in Croatia he stayed in Villa Frappart, on the sun drenched shores of the Adriatic Sea. Villa Frappart is certainly one of the most beautiful private homes in the world. This is the area around Opatija, which offers a mild climate, a coastline of alternating rocky pools and sandy beaches, miles of well kept tourist promenades, and a friendly and helpful populace. It is highly recommended as a place to visit for healthful relaxation, for swimming in the inviting salt water sea, and for the exploration of castles and ancient ruins.

Lubenice, Isle of Cres, CroatiaThe most picturesque setting for his performances in Croatia was certainly at the Lubenice Festival on the Island of Cres in Croatia. Lubenice is an ancient stone village clinging to the sheer edge of a cliff overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It is well to note that to get to their dressing rooms, the performers had to walk through a flock of sheep. The Alphorn is a shepherd's instrument, so this encounter with the sheep only added to a perfect experience. The mutton served at the wonderful feast after the concert was probably formerly a member of this flock.

[Following is an excerpt from a review of that concert. For the full text of this review see "The Concert of William Hopson in Lubenice" in Reviews and Commentary.]

The Pleasure of a New Discovery

"William Hopson describes himself as a quiet revolutionary. He is one of the few composers and performers that are exploring the full technical and interpretative possibilities of the alp horn. With this progressive attitude he is coming into some conflict with those of conservative opinion in Switzerland who hold that only uncomplicated tones and simple melodies should be played on alp horn. Hopson uses the full three-octave harmonic range of his instrument (defined as the natural harmonic scale), and with his playing he demonstrates how the musical possibilities of the alp horn are both varied and interesting.

It is very pleasant to listen to the alp horn. Hopson always keeps his melancholic colour, even when he plays in the loudest dynamic. His technique features vibrato, trills, echo effects, wide intervallic leaps and large dynamic contrasts, but through it all he maintains the tender tone characteristic of the alp horn. All of this, in Hopson's hands, makes the alp horn a truly soloistic instrument.

Lubenice was an ideal place for this concert. The alp horn is an ancient shepherd's instrument. Lubenice is an ancient shepherd's village. In this concert the people learned much about a new artist and an instrument from a distant land. In this beautiful and ancient setting, this audience experienced something fascinating and original." {from the magazine NOVI LIST , Croatia, by Professor and Musicologist Jadranka Violi, translated by Silvana, July 18, 1999.}

[Following are excerpts from spectacular reviews of William Hopson's performance at the 1997 Cantonal Festival in Berne, Switzerland.]

"One player stood out...he plays perfect Alphorn. A large gathering of Alphorn players listened closely to the melodies that Hopson could elicit from his instrument. He amazed his audience with his playing."{Berner Zeitung, for a complete review see "A Dream Comes True" in Reviews and Commentary}

"Deeply moving performance of absolutely the highest quality. An extraordinary high level that cannot be compared to Swiss capabilities." {Berner Kantonal Festival Alphorn Jury Commentary}

William Hopson at a Concerto Performance [Following are excerpts from a review of William Hopson's performance of Swiss composer Jean Daetwyler's "Concerto for Alphorn and Orchestra" with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in their "Symphony Under the Sky" festival.]

Hopson showed facets to the instrument many had no idea it had.....Hopson displayed remarkable skill - and not a little amount of sheer lung power - in coaxing tones both mellow and brash, and a three-octave range of pitches from the "two-men-long" horn. Far from cumbersome, the alphorn was shown by Hopson to be capable of quite a degree of agility. {The Edmonton Journal, for the full review see "Alphorn Expert another Highlight" in Reviews and Commentary}

....."'Hopson's performance of Jean Daetwyler's Concerto for Alphorn and Orchestra was wonderfully expressive. His alphorn possesses a rich varitey of tonal colors and his dynamic variation -- from the most blaring fortissimos to the most delicate of pianissimos -- clearly demonstrated the wide range and performance potential of the instrument."{SEE Magazine, for the full review see "Symphonic Skyscapes" in Reviews and Commentary}.

From September 27 to October 7, 1998 William Hopson visited Kazakhstan in Central Asia as a part of a cultural exchange sponsored by Hurricane Hydrocarbons Ltd. and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. He was accompanied by CPO violinist Jeff Plotnick. They performed many times in Almaty, Kezlorda and Astana (the capital of Kazakhstan). The highlight was a gala performance for the President of Kazakhstan in the Congress Hall in Astana. For a full report see Report from Kazakhstan in Reviews and Commentary.

Alpine Silhouette William Hopson has enjoyed great success in performance as an Alphorn soloist with many symphony orchestras. A full promotional package can be provided to any orchestra considering such a symphonic program. The package will include a compact disc recording of William Hopson performing "Concerto for Alphorn and Orchestra" by Jean Daetwyler and "Alphorn Ballade" by Dennis Armitage. Recorded "live in concert" with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, this disc reveals in clear and unambiguous terms the strength of this orchestral program. For a full description of William Hopson's symphonic program, see What's Happening. For reviews of William Hopson's performances see Reviews and Commentary. For booking information please contact William Hopson.

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