GAIA 2023
Music Festival
on Lake Thun, in Thun and Berne

Folk Songs
Of Love and Other Drunkenness


Tuesday 2 to
Sunday 7 May 2023

Klösterli Oberhofen
Oberhofen Castle
Hilterfingen Church
The Town Church Thun
Scherzligen Church Thun
Yehudi Menuhin Forum, Bern


> GAIA 2023 – Programme

Folk Songs

Gwendolyn Masin, founder and artistic director

19 Musicians from 12 Nations
41 Works from 
4 Centuries
7 Concerts
6 Venues

With seven concerts taking place between 2 and 7 May 2023, the GAIA Music Festival returns for its 14th edition entitled “Folk Songs”.

Folk music is part of the vivid tapestry that weaves people and cultures together. Whether voices raised in song, or instruments in resonance, folk music is reflective of communities with an immediacy that few other mediums can match. Folk music provides a channel for myriad forms of human expression – story-telling carried by melody, rhythms that mirror language, modes melted into choruses, pitches symbiotic of tonal origin, a form of communication to celebrate, invoke, or accompany aspects from the cycle of life. For many of us, pausing to listen even for a moment transports us to a different place, be it emotionally or figuratively. Without this type of oral tradition, particularly in places of low literacy, history is forgotten, places are lost, people are unremembered.

From Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven in Austria and Germany to Grieg in Norway; from de Falla in Spain and Castelnuevo-Tedesco in Italy to Enescu in Romania; from Juon and Raff in Switzerland to Janáček in Moravia and Smetana in Bohemia – folk music became emblematic for the signature styles of some of classical music’s most established composers.

Symbiotic of a form of art that can literally be carried on the wind, folk music is a shared good, and not a property. Considering, for example, rivers that flow through various regions such as the Danube and the Rhône, it comes as little surprise that countries also share folk and traditional music, albeit interpreting their meaning differently. For example, where a Croatian might claim that a melody be one sung at weddings, a Serbian interprets that same melody as a hymn, or a Bulgarian as a march. That one melody might trigger powerful emotions in a region besieged by ethnic hatred, exposes some of the misunderstandings between the people of the Balkans.

Given how folk music is interpreted from a societal point of view it is important to point out that there are two faces to it: folk music that has evolved organically along with an identity, and folk music designed to engineer an identity.

Where folk music and traditions are used to drive nationalistic rhetoric, manufactured to create a false image or a false sense of togetherness, we see a weapon of provocation. The irony is that when aggressors threaten a community where oral tradition thrives, they threaten not only that group of people but decades, sometimes centuries of culture, history and art, and inadvertently, the acceptance of their own culture by others.

The 14th edition of GAIA sets out to carefully consider the differences between cultural preservation and evolution of music, as well as misconceptions around cultural appropriation.

Studying the ways in which folk and traditional music can have many meanings to so many people traces a history of cultures which may, in turn, lead to better understanding between one another.

Let’s come together to share our similarities whilst recognising, accepting and celebrating our differences. We look forward to welcoming you Folk Songs – Of Love and Other Drunkeness!

GAIA in the Press (only in German)

Drei Meisterwerke krönten das Musikfestival
Berner Oberländer/Thuner Tagblatt, 9 May 2023

«Von Liebe und anderer Trunkenheit»
BZ Berner Zeitung, 5 May 2023

«Dass sich die klassische Musik aus allem raushält, entspricht mir nicht.»
Der kleine Bund, 1 May 2023

GAIA-Festival auf den Spuren von Folksongs
Berner Oberländer/Thuner Tagblatt, 27 April 2023

Klassik küsst Folklore
Berner Kulturagenda, 26. April 2023

Familie und Karriere in der Musik – GAIA geht vor
Hauptstadt, 21 April 2023

Violonistin aus Leidenschaft
Jungfrau Zeitung, 21 April 2023