Jumping pilgrims: flautist Anne Engels plays in an annual procession with a difference

Third-year flautist and Music Scholar Anne Engels recently took part in an annual procession back home in Luxembourg with a difference; I asked her to explain what it was all about…

Anne_Engles_processionAnne: “This photo was taken at the Sprangpressessioun (dancing procession) in Echternach, in Luxembourg. There’s an entire history behind the procession. Basically, around ten thousand pilgrims come to Echternach every year on the Tuesday after Whitmonday to visit the grave of St Willibrord, a monk who originally came from Ireland and set up a monastery in Echternach. The monastery now functions as a secondary school and college.

“The procession starts in the schoolyard and goes around the entire city of Echternach. The pilgrims jump or dance to the tune of the dancing procession (a polka), which is being played by a number of different music societies from Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands. The procession ends in the crypt of the Basilika, where St Willibrord is buried.

“As far as I know the jumping is originally believed to be healing or protecting the pilgrims from a specific disease (but I’m not quite sure about that!). The dancing procession itself was also recognized as Intangible Heritage by UNESCO in 2010.”

You can hear Anne performing (without the dancing, unless you feel so moved) in the Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital on Tuesday 7 June, when she will be playing Poulenc and Messiaen; details here.


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