skip to main content
Janet Mano, Leavenworth alphorn
Enlarge Icon
Credit: KUOW / Alec Cowan

Meet a neighbor: This Leavenworth alphorn player once organized a flash mob

If you're in Leavenworth, you'll likely hear Janet Mano playing solo alphorn up and down Front Street. She's also a member of the Bavarian-themed Leavenworth Alphorns.

NOEL GASCA, KUOW: Can you tell me the backstory of this instrument you're playing ?

JANET MANO: These are mountain horns from Switzerland and Austria and southern Germany. That area is called Bavaria, and it's very big region. And they were they were carved out in the summer months by the herdsmen, and they then they play for their goats and their cows and.

And over the years, if you look on YouTube, it's the funniest thing ... you put in cows, and alphorns, and it's like the cows are trying to sit on the laps of the people who are playing.

I'm actually kind of watching my back when I play on the street. I don't want cows coming up behind me.

ALEC COWAN: It's a cow charmer.

JANET: Yeah, it's a cow or a goat charmer. And they modernized it in the early 1800s so that we now have mouthpieces. ...

ALEC COWAN: That looks like a regular old brass mouthpiece.

JANET: Yes, so any brass player can play it. And they made them all the same length, that way we're in tune, we can play not just with the goats, but with each other.

We sponsor a big weekend here on Memorial Day. It's our alphorn celebration. We'll have like 25 horn players join us. Can you imagine the sound here, with 25 people?

We did a flash mob one year. Well, you know -- how do you sneak around with this? But people we're coming out of every alleyway and every place. And you know, we started with two and ended up with like, 25 players. ...

I have a friend who lives in those foothills. And he sits, on a nice day, a nice morning, with his cup of coffee and listens to the horn when we play from the balcony of the Enzian.

BRANDI FULLWOOD, KUOW: Does this come apart? Or do you have to carry it?

JANET: Well we try to keep that a secret. But the fact is, they did take mercy on us, because otherwise how would you get it in your Volkswagen?

They do come apart, and we do hike with them, because you get up in the mountains, and you just play with the sound. And that's what makes this kind of uniquely different than playing. I used to sit in the high school auditorium with my community symphony group, you know, orchestra. Now I get to go out and about.

BRANDI FULLWOOD: What made you decide to play right now ? Did you just decide to come out here?

JANET: Well it's because my husband's getting a haircut. And the sun's out, and then we'll up with the horn in the car and I'll walk home. And that'll be so nice.

ALEC COWAN: This is my first time here. The German thing is really interesting to me. What do you think of that?

JANET: You think about places like Leavenworth, and if they want to do a theme, it tends to be a Western theme. ...

But this, with the mountains right there, it is so, so vie Deutschland, so like Germany. We did two tours with the military in Germany, and so we're very familiar with this kind of setting, and it's just wonderful, and there's some really good food and shopping and you know, it's fun.

BRANDI FULLWOOD, KUOW: About the magic of Leavenworth; do the people who live here also feel that?

JANET: That definitely varies with the person, and things are changing. It's fun to see young people take on a farmer's market type lifestyle. ... I'm a knitter and all my fabrics are from alpacas. I love it.

Everything has its backstory. I have the pleasure of playing almost daily at the Enzian Inn; that's been a long-standing tradition. I'm talking to visitors every day, mostly, and it's fun. I love to point out to people when people can stay several days, then they can do some of the off the Main Street things. If you're only here one day, you just need to chill, because you've got a long drive to get here.

ALEC COWAN: Have you been in Leavenworth a long time?

JANET: We moved here as a retirement move. So six years ago. And our grandkids are just over the mountains. So it's just all seasons. It's so much fun.

ALEC COWAN: What brought you here?

Play time. To live in the mountains. I never realized how great spring is, with all the wildflowers and the wild birds. And then you come into summer, and we have a swimming pool. And we have the rivers and the lakes.

We were in Gig Harbor, which was a nice place too. But a lot of times it's sunny here when it's rainy there.

This interview was lightly edited for clarity.