Is it a one-man band, an orchestra, a sextet or a travelling circus? It is difficult to say. Hildegard Lernt Fliegen (Hildegard learns to fly) is a very special and, perhaps, one of the most creative music projects Switzerland has to offer. It is jazz, but also noise art, a musical cabaret, rock, rap and morbid polka with a little Kurt Weill and Frank Zappa aftertaste.
These fellows can be comical, noisy and whimsical, but never boring. Their music is brimming with wit and imagination.
The group was formed in 2005 by Andreas Schaerer, then brought ashore in 2007, when they released their first album. The reviews were glowing, sales were brisk, and the album had to be re-released after being sold out in a couple of months. The sextet won the most important newcomer prize in Switzerland, the so-called ZKB Jazzpreis in 2008. In 2011, they received a grant from Pro Helvetia for the priority promotion of jazz music, which is the most important jazz award in Switzerland. In 2014 they entered the finale of the BMW-Wrold Jazz Award.
The group’s leader humorously calls Hildegard Lernt Fliegen a flying object, which gets above the firmament, sometimes very high, taking the audience together. The group has travelled from Russia to China and all over Europe. Their tour in Russia in 2010 was captured on a film and recorded on CD.
Hildegard has been through various experiences: performed for both a few people and thousands of aficionados, played in open spaces, smoggy jazz clubs and prestigious festivals. The long list of stages where the sextet has performed includes London Jazz Festival, Jazzdor Festival Strasbourg, Willisau Jazzfestival, April Jazz Helsinki, Shanghai Jazzfestival, Cully Jazz, Jazznojazz Zürich, Muenster Jazzfestival and other major jazz venues.
- „Hildegard Lernt Fliegen“ UNIT Records 2007
- „…Vom Fernen Kern Der Sache“ UNIT Records 2009
- „Cinéma Hildegard“ CD+DVD, UNIT/Werkstatt Records 2012
- „The Fundamental Rhythm Of Unpolished Brains“, ENJA/Yellowbird Records 2014
Lead baritone saxophone player of Swiss band Hildegard Learns to Fly Benedikt Reising writes about their upcoming London Jazz Festival concert.
For seven years now we’ve been travelling in our trusty vehicle called Hildegard Learns To Fly (Hildegard Lernt Fliegen in the original German). We’ve cruised the seven seas and climbed the seven mountains, and reached into the hearts and the ears of our listeners.
At the beginning of our travels we would fight it out with other Swiss musicians on Swiss village squares for a trophy sponsored by a very well-known Swiss manufacturer of instant coffee.
We played at clubs that were big enough for the band, but too small for any audiences of more than about seven people. We needed space, we felt the need to get to the other side of the Alps and breathe the air.
So we swapped the instant coffee for the chicken soup that we found at German motorway service stations. Austria – and in particular Vienna – became a second home to us. The French welcomed us with open arms – and freshly baked baguette.
So we made our music and our way. These days our spare rehearsal room is in Moscow. Paris is our preferred breakfast stop, and just as I write, we are waiting for our flight to Shanghai, to play at the Shanghai Jazz Festival.
We’ve travelled widely, we’ve played sackfuls of notes, consumed gallons of local liqueurs from around the world… but never in the life of this band has our journey taken us to England, let alone London.
What – I ask you – are all the great stages of the world worth, what do the countless Hildegard fans mean to us, if we can’t say that we’ve trudged through London drizzle with soggy shoes and a rusty saxophone?
How insipid will be the taste of the finest andouillette, we’re thinking, once we have indulged ourselves backstage in free tea and scones?
Now that our journey is at last bringing us to London, we will finally be able to sit back and consider our career a success, but not for long, though. Up we’ll be jumping up again, to land on stage – and in your ears.