We all have memories we connect with music. The pop tunes that played heavy rotation on the car radio can transport you back to a moment in time.

I have one very vivid memory. I was a teenager traveling with some friends on the coast of Italy. We were in a dumpy motorboat, puttering along with a boombox. Another boatload approached, yelling at us in Italian. We yelled back in German. In a feat of patriotism, the other boat began singing the Italian national anthem. It’s a proud song, full of “victory.” It’s operatic to say the least.

We all looked at each other, “Do you know the words to the Austrian one?” We all shook our heads. And then, someone started:

Dei’ hohe Zeit ist lang vorüber // Your golden age has long passed by
Und auch die Höll’ hast hinter dir // And you’ve lived through hell as well

Two more of us joined in.

Vom Ruhm und Glanz ist wenig über // Of Fame and glory, not much is left
Sog’ mir wer ziagt noch den Hut vor dir? // Tell me, who still tips their hat at you?
Außer mir // Except for me

It was Austrian pop icon Rainhard Fendrich’s song, “I am From Austria.” The official Austrian national anthem didn’t hold a candle to the oomph and emotion we gave those words, me included. I didn’t quite understand all of it, but I’d somehow absorbed the song over a few sing-alongs.

It was the moment I knew I had truly arrived. The Italians were still pumping through singing about Scipio’s helmet and we powered on to the most intense part of the chorus:

Da kann ma’machen was ma’ will // You can do whatever you want
Da bin i her, da g’hör’ i hin // That’s where I’m from, that’s where I belong
Da schmilzt das Eis von meiner Seel’// It’s where the ice melts from my soul
Wie von am Gletscher im April // Like from a glacier in April

And finally, gesticulating madly into the warm Mediterranean wind,

Sag’ i am End’ der Welt voll Stolz // So I tell the world full of pride
Und wenn ihr a wollt’s a ganz alla // And if you want, also all alone
I am from Austria // I am from Austria

The Italians burst into laughter, “Owstria” they exclaimed, holding their sides. So, I’m not from Austria. But in that moment, we were all from Austria, our song was from Austria, hell, it seemed we’d convinced the Italians that they are from Austria. That is the power of music.

We have a great lineup for you in this winter issue. It starts with a breakdown of Austria’s secret sauce that makes this tiny country produce great successes like Mozart, Falco and Parov Stelar. There’s an opinion piece by Gardiner von Trapp, reflecting on his family’s history and how it inspired the famous musical movie, The Sound of Music.

And we found out how the Vienna choir boys are bringing more diversity to the 500-year old tradition.

Our profiles cover the Konzerthaus director, a musician, DJ and critic and we take a deep dive into Austria’s instrument industry. We look into how the work of a young Viennese neurologist could change the relationship between medicine and music. The tech scene has its fingers in the musical pie, from electric pianos to digital sheet music, local innovators are on the cutting edge. Oh, and there’s a cheesemaker in Switzerland who’s found how to change the taste of Swiss cheese with music.

When it comes to understanding any culture, it’s good to start with its music. We look into how Viennese dialect has colored the success stories of pop-music icons.

After you’ve survived the Christmas break, and your chance to see Die Fledermaus on Silvester (New Year’s Eve), it’s time to don your dancing shoes and get ready for ball season. For a primer, check out our “How to Go to a Ball” or take advice from the emperor of etiquette and the baron of ball season, Thomas Schäfer-Elmayer or read about the 65-year tradition of the Viennese Opera Ball in New York City.

Check out this winter’s tips for food, shopping, wine and more and get ready for skiing in Zell am See. Because just cause it’s cold, there’s no reason to hide. Get out there, and

Don’t be a stranger,

margaret childs

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