With Ash Wednesday, which this year fell on 14/2, ended for us the period of revelry linked to it – parades, feasts and other forms of entertainment. The four-week period of Lent has begun, culminating in the celebration of Easter. The last few days before Ash Wednesday are the time of masopust, fašank, vostatek and končiny. These are all Czech local names for traditional processions and costumed celebrations. The festivities have a very long tradition of celebrating the solstice, predating Christianity and reaching far back into antiquity. They take place in various forms throughout Europe. In South Moravia there are several places where the folk tradition of the celebration of fašank has become famous thanks to its specific form. The best known of these is the village of Strání, where for the whole weekend until Tuesday’s burial of basses a Festival of Masopust Traditions takes place.
Each premiere from the Ondráš Military Art Ensemble is an event that sparks great interest from folk fans. It was no different on Thursday in the slightly cramped quarters of the Divadlo Bolka Polívky theatre. The concert carrying the title Through the Landscape of Time had already been sold out a month ahead.
In an almost four-hour long programme, both audience and performers celebrated the 80th birthday of Horňácko folk legend Martin Hrbáč in Veselí nad Moravou. The concert that took place on Sunday 24 March, and was not only historic in its length but more importantly in the range of folk legends appearing on stage.
The ensemble Šafrán from Moravian Slovakia is already a traditional organiser of the Brno “fašank“. This event, in the spirit of folk traditions, always takes place on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and it marks the beginning of Christian fasting. Its roots go back to the pagan times, but it is now part of Christian feasts almost all over the world. Marches of masks in various regions of Moravia are called končiny, masopust, fašanek or, for example, šibřinky. Its ensemble parallel in Brno tries to stick to the folk pattern. It begins with a parade in Náměstí svobody Square. This year it continued through the Alfa Mall to the market building at the Cabbage Market. The end of the programme was performed by the ensemble Lučina, which showed the audience the so-called burial of a double bass. It is a custom consisting in a staged burial of this musical instrument, symbolising the end of entertainment, calming down and preparing for Easter.
A concert organised for an exceptional event took place on Thursday at ZUŠ PhDr. Zbyňka Mrkose (a primary school specialising in music) in Brno’s Židenice district. The event was given the title Cimbálový kolaudační concert (A Cimbalom Commissioning Concert. What exactly was being commissioned? From the title it was evident the main star of the programme was a cimbalom. This big instrument with its velvet tones was not the centre of attention by accident. The item being commissioned was a new cimbalom for the musical inventory of the previously mentioned music school. The manufacturer of the instrument was the Brno company of Všianský. The actual maker Pavel Všianský, a famous musician, also personally took part, telling the participants something about the construction of this instrument.
The second of the accompanying folk concerts of the Janáček Brno festival took place at the Reduta Theatre. And it seems that the bar, set by the first concert, has remained high. The show, called Chodníčky k lidové písni (“Roads to folksong”) was to present one of Janáček’s favourite regions in Slovácko – Horňácko – to the audience. This job was taken on by a cimbalom band with the fitting name of Musica Folklorica.
On Tuesday the tones of folk song resounded in the courtyard of the Rectorate of Brno University of Technology on Antonínská street in Brno. The first folk accompanying programme of the festival Janáček Brno 2018 carried the poetic name Kvítí milodějné (which might translate as Merciful Flowers), borrowed from the composer’s eponymous arrangements from a unique song cycle of Moravian folk poetry. The entire programme had an interesting and attractive concept, in which there were performances of three versions of folk material from the collections of Leoš Janáček. All three were close not only to the composer himself but were also generally popular.
In the somewhat untraditional environment of Brno’s Metro Music Bar there was a performance by the musical ensemble with the name Musica Folklorica, a group that needs little introduction for folk fans. These excellent musicians perform mainly their own arrangements of folk songs especially from Horňácko, Myjava and also Romania. They came to Brno to christen what is now their eleventh album.
After reconstruction the building of Czech Radio Brno has a new studio. Studio VII was figuratively baptised with the concert Living Notes from the series of folk concerts On a Moravian Note on Czech Radio Brno and Zlin. The musical dedication was made by the Horňácko group of Petr Mička, whose bandmaster is also one of the radio station’s editors. As guests they introduced the very talented young singers Anička Mičková and Janíček Pavlík and the Horňácko folk legend Martin Hrbáč. You can see the whole more than hour-long programme on the Czech Radio YouTube channel.
The temperament and emotion of Roma music are well known. In 2016 the recording studio Amaro records was set up with the same verve and positive energy. The entire voluntary project was set up with support and guarantees from the IQ Roma servis organisation. The guiding spirit and person responsible is Petra Borovičková, herself an excellent singer and member of several bands. The originator of the idea was Gejza Horváth, a top Roma musician who earlier ran courses for young Roma musicians. He saw huge potential in them.
The group Billy Barman from Slovakia ended its Czech-Slovak tour at Brno’s Fleda. This series of concerts was interesting not only its purely acoustic form but especially for bringing together five singers from SĹUK (the Slovak Folk Artists’ Collective). This fusion of pop music and folk was originally created for the Tatra Flowers festival. Its unprecedented success, however, made the musicians decide to expand their repertoire and perform not only in the Slovak Republic, but also for their Czech neighbours.