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.
After a covid break, the streets of Brno were once again filled with costumes from various parts of Moravia as well as other European countries. On the first day of September, the International Folklore Festival Brno began. Like the vast majority of festivals and regular events that could not take place in the last two years, the IFF also had a break due to government measures. And that is why this year’s festival chose the telling subtitle “We Live”. This time BROLN provided the opening concert in the courtyard of the New Town Hall, and there were two special reasons for this.
The abbey in old Brno where Gregor Johann Mendel worked until his death hides several beautiful areas behind its walls. One of them is the Paradise Court, which is entered through an inconspicuous entrance next to the Basilica of the Assumption. On Thursday 16 June, the stone walls of this ancient space hosted the opening concert of the Brno and its churches project.
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.
More than twenty years ago, the Harafica cimbalom ensemble was founded at the Primary School of Arts in Uherské Hradiště. For most music fans, it is known for its unusual arrangements of folk songs, excellent performances of musicians, sold-out concerts, but also unusual fusions of genres. And it was about their latest cross-over project that I talked with the musical director and cimbalom player of Harafica music, Peter Gablas, from whose pen all the musical arrangements can be heard in it. It is their new album, which is called Harafica Symphonic. Connecting traditional folk music with the powerful sound of the Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava with the Brno conductor Robert Kružík. You can hear old texts from the collections of František Sušil, Janáček motifs and the singing of two interesting guests.
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.