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.
On this very day (19 May) an event will start in Valašské Meziříčí which all the dulcimer players from almost all over the world have been looking forward to for two years. It is the 14th International Dulcimer Festival, which has been held in this town every odd year since 1995. This year, it is sure to be rather modest due to the pandemic situation; the organizers are going to stream some of the concerts, while others will be broadcast on the Czech Radio stations Vltava and Brno. This year, Michal Grombiřík, a dulcimer player, became the first ever such musician admitted to the Jazz Music Interpretation Department of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU). What is the path from a traditional folk song, through classical music to jazz music, and what exactly is Michal going to do at the aforementioned dulcimer festival? We covered all these topics in our conversation.
The poetic title Květy nevadnoucí (Flowers Never Fading) hides the most recent publishing achievement of Jiří Plocek. This compilation CD celebrates a quarter of a century since the establishment of the Moravian folklore series in his GNOSIS BRNO publishing house, which released fourteen albums created between 1995 and 2005. And they are not just ordinary albums. Jiří Plocek's enthusiasm and feeling for song is indisputable, but there is much more coming from the recordings – for example, it is the enthusiasm of the singers themselves, which Jiří Plocek fuelled during the recording sessions, while letting them play and sing according to their own will and mood. I must also emphasise the choice of performers themselves. The names have really become iconic by now – František Okénka, Zdeněk Kašpar, Karel Rajmic, Vlasta Grycová, Jiřina Miklošková and many others. Unfortunately, some of them have already departed from this world. Others, which we hear on the album as gifted children, are already rising to become another generations of singers – which is the case of Tomáš Beníček. I'm intentionally mentioning the singers, but the album itself also has a high musical quality. However, all the songs are performed by exceptional performers. This also gives them uniqueness in the spirit of a living folk tradition.
Let us hope that Sunday's concert to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the great music band of the Brno-based Valášek Children's Ethnographic Ensemble (Dětský národopisný soubor Valášek) will not be the last event that ever-changing government regulations will allow. And even if that, God forbid, was the case, it would be a dignified farewell.
After Easter, an official statement that ruined every folklore lover's day appeared on social networks and in the media. The folklore festival in Strážnice will not take place this year. The reasons are well known to everyone. Yesterday, another wave of coronavirus lockdown easement began, and this was not the only reason why we talked to Martin Šimša, director of the National Institute of Folk Culture (NÚLK) in Strážnice. Well, is there really a reason for mourning? What can we look forward to in the immediate future? And when is the best time to visit the castle park and the open-air museum in Strážnice? These questions, and not only these, will be answered in the following interview.
Last year, after several years of stagnation, Brno's folklore enthusiasts woke up again and began organizing gatherings with dulcimer music, folklore parties, etc. at several different venues. This is certainly gratifying. However, motivation, experiences and concepts differ. One of them is We <3 folklore in the Metro music bar.
Several years ago, a miracle happened to Jura Hradil. This devotee of the electronic nu jazz alternative came to the hilly Carpathian landscape somewhere on the border between Moravia and Slovakia and heard a song, firstly one, then two, then hundreds. It wasn't a blurry echo of old times, but the bright tone of a Horňácko song.
The small Ponava music club has been renowned in Brno last several years for its very high quality music production. Here and there, its diverse programme also features folklore projects. On Thursday, a duo of the well-known multi-instrumentalist Marian Friedl and the Lachian vocalist Sabrina Pasičnyk performed on this stage.
Two sold-out concerts launched on Saturday filled-up the hall of the Koruna cinema in Břeclav, where the Národopisný soubor Břeclavan [Břeclavan Ethnographic Ensemble] celebrated its 65th anniversary and joined thus the series of jubilee folklore ensembles this year. The afternoon concert had to be eventually added because of the huge audience acclaim, which only confirms that in South Moravia folklore is still widely known and enjoys unremitting popularity.
Last weekend, the 74th Strážnice International Folklore Festival 2019 as well as the 37th Strážnice Children's Folklore Festival were held in the South Moravian Mecca of folklore. The biggest folklore festival in the Czech Republic enjoys great interest and it wasn't any different this year either, despite tropical temperatures, with tens of thousands of people coming back to Strážnice again.