Swiss folk and cabaret at the Goldener Hirsch Inn
November 30, 2010
Singer Elsbeth Gugi, known just as Gugi, grew up in Switzerland before moving to New Zealand. Ironically, it was while she was living among the Kiwis she learned to yodel.
"When I was 18 I wanted to move as far away from Switzerland as I could," Gugi said during an interview with The Park Record. "New Zealand was at the bottom of the map. When I got to New Zealand I couldn’t speak any English and worked on a dairy farm milking cows."
When people learned Gugi was from Switzerland, they, without fail, asked if she could yodel.
"I said, ‘No.’ and they said, ‘I thought everyone from Switzerland could yodel," she said. "So I asked my mother to send me some yodeling tapes and I learned to yodel while working on the farm."
Six months after receiving the tapes, Gugi, who loves the late singer Edith Piaf, got her first musical job.
"I began singing and playing the accordion at a Swiss bistro inside of a Ramada Inn, in Queenstown, New Zealand," she said.
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From there, she traveled to Australia, Asia and back to Switzerland.
"I got accepted to the Stadttheatre St. Gallen in Switzerland. I sang with the opera chorus there. And then I went to Vienna to study singing."
Gugi found she wasn’t as dedicated to opera as her instructors.
"I would sing at festivals and wreck my voice," she said with a laugh. "So I thought musicals would be better for me than opera."
Gugi relocated to New York and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, while continuing private voice lessons, before moving to Virginia, where she sang professionally in the Washington, D.C., area.
"There I did European cabaret singing in the style of Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf," Gugi explained. "I spent so much time not only signing, which I loved, but promoting myself and it lost its fun."
Gugi decided to visit Park City in the fall of 1999 at the invitation of a friend, Tom Matthews.
"I was having some personal problems and he said come out to Utah," she said. "So I put my dogs into my car and drove out to Utah.
"I remember as I was driving from Vail to Park City, the aspens were a golden color. The sky was dark blue and there was a full moon. The next morning I woke up and said, ‘I’m staying.’"
Two weeks later, Gugi bought a house in Oakley and has been a resident ever since.
"I found when I moved to Utah, there was not much of a demand for cabaret," she said. "And because of the mountain area, I found people like me to do more European folk music."
Gugi has performed at private parties and weddings and will now be the entertainer at the
Goldener Hirsch Inn, Saturdays, Dec. 4, 11 and 18, from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. She will also perform every other Thursday in January, February and March.
"Since the Goldener Hirsch is an Austrian-style hotel, they wanted to create the European feeling," Gugi said. "What I’m hoping to do there is to create a traditional après ski feeling.
"You see, in Europe after you ski, it’s very lively. Everyone goes singing and dancing in their ski boots. And there’s really nothing in Park City that is anything like that."
Gugi won’t be yodeling for two-and-a-half hours, she said.
"I’ll be mixing it up. I’ll be singing a half an hour of Swiss, Austrian and German folk music with my accordion and yodeling.
"And then I’ll change and do half and hour of cabaret, just to break it up. Hopefully people will join in and sing and dance."
Gugi loves entertaining, but she especially enjoys performing in front of a good audience.
"I just love when an audience listens and joins in to sing along," she said. "I love it when I can move them from a happy to a sad song. I like it when I sing at somebody’s wedding and they say I made them cry."
When Gugi isn’t singing, she’s doing a handful of other jobs to make ends meet.
"I used to remodel and build homes," she said. "And now that business has gone bonkers. So I don’t do that anymore. I built a house that I ran as a bed and breakfast that had an art gallery called the Gugiheim, which is a take off on the name Guggenheim, in it.
"I’ve done so many different things, but in a recession, it’s good to be flexible to do anything. Right now I build decks and stone patios. I paint and do tile work, also."
Gugi is comfortable with her life as a contractor and singer, she said.
"I don’t think I have ambitious goals anymore," she said. "If I can sing here and there and at private parties, it’s good."
Gugi will perform Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 and 18, from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., in the Goldener Hirsch Inn, 7570 Royal Street. She will also perform every other Thursday in January, February and March.