It’s almost Oktoberfest season in Sanford, and our staff here at Hollerbach’s has been working hard to craft our biggest, most festive Alive After Five Oktoberfest yet. In an effort to bring even more German music and Alpine flair to our event, we are excited to announce that famous polka band Sonneschein Express will be taking the stage in Sanford’s own Magnolia Square!
Sonneschein Express is a highly sought after German band comprised of several members who travel across the country playing polka favorites for German festivals every year. Acting on a glowing recommendation from Jimmy Horzen, our in-haus accordion player, we began the booking process with this band almost two years ago, and are very excited to finally have them play in Downtown Sanford.
“We are delighted to play for the Sanford Oktoberfest this year,” the band writes. While Jimmy and Eckhart hold court with our guests inside, the sounds of Sonneschein Express will fill Magnolia Square and First Street as guests enjoy beers and brats in the open air. Martin Gross of Sonneschein Express was kind enough to answer a few questions about their band to help our local guests get to know them before the big day.
So, you and Jimmy were once in a band together called the Sauerkrauts…
The Sauerkrauts from 1983-1986 was Jimmy Horzen on Accordion, Gary Trumet on Bass and Tuba, Scott Martindale on drums and myself on trumpet and guitar. We all sang and were very dedicated, practicing hours to perfecting the music and our show. Disney brought us together and I think it was a really special group. That was the group that performed at the reunion last year. Gary had several different versions before and after that time that performed at festivals and events all across the US.
The only connection between the Sauerkrauts and the Sonnenschein Express is me. Jimmy has helped me out here and there just like I help him out when Eckhart is on vacation. I will say being the youngest of the Sauerkrauts, I learned a lot from the other three that surely helped shape where I wanted to go with the Sonnenschein Express.
Florida is so different from the Alpine region, and yet German and Austrian groups and festivals can be found across the state. What’s it like to play this specific genre of music in Florida?
The wonderful thing about Florida is there are so many Germans or people of German decent. They move down from up north or they semi-retire from Germany, especially in the Fort Lauderdale and Fort Meyers area. Also, many people have attended an Oktoberfest or other German fests and it’s always a good time so they come back and support these events. The music, like the beer and the food, makes for a great party!
What are your favorite songs to play as a group? What do you consider your top crowd pleasers?
We don’t have a favorite song, but our show instruments like the cow bells, the singing saw, the alpine xylophone and the alphorns are unique and people always enjoy hearing them. Of course the Beer Barrel polka, the Birdy dance, some drinking songs and of course the toast “Ein Prosit” where everyone shouts Hoi! Hoi! Hoi! are definite crowd pleasers.
Your group is composed of musicians from all kinds of musical backgrounds. How do you feel this affects the musical dynamic?
Besides the usual German repertoire, some of the biggest hits at Oktoberfest are Country Roads, Hey Baby and Margaretville. It’s nice to have a diverse band that can play all different styles and it’s fun for the band.
What is it about polka that makes it so danceable?
It’s just fun music! It’s happy and people just start tapping their toes and get up and dance.
How do your families like your music and your travels? Does anyone ever get tired of polka?
The travel, especially around Oktoberfest season can get a bit much, but it’s great when the family gets out to a few events. Polka music does get played around the house, but we listen to all other kinds of music as well.
How many gigs would you say you do a year? What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for a gig?
The Sonnenschein Express only plays about fifteen to twenty events a year. All the members of the band work with other groups and perform in some capacity at EPCOT with the Oktoberfest Musikanten in the Biergarten. The farthest we’ve ever traveled was to Edmonton, Canada where we performed two pops concerts with the Edmonton Orchestra.
Once Oktoberfest season begins in mid-September, the various members of Sonneschein Express play gigs non-stop between their different music acts, with very very few days off during the entire month a half period. We are so very thankful to have the full band with us at our Oktoberfest this year and hope that all of our local gemutlichkeit lovers will come down on October 13th and 14th to enjoy this delightful and rare musical experience!