The Mandolin: A Modest and Sensitive Instrument

6 June 2018, 2:00

The Mandolin: A Modest and Sensitive Instrument

The mandolin player Martin Krajíček plays in various genres of groups. He has his own acoustic trio, is a member of the Jitka Šuranská Trio, plays in the “Mexican” group Mariachi Espuelas and in Cimbal Classica, plays klezmer and also teaches the mandolin. Since last year he has also been the organiser of the Mandolin Festival in Boskovice. This year it will take place from 8 to 10 June.

The Mandolin Festival is taking place this year for the second time. Why did you decide to organise this event last year?

If you are on your own, you have to (laughs). No, seriously. Already for ten years I have run mandolin workshops in Boskovice and the year before last it was already necessary to provide some kind of musical output for the public. So many varied genres – classical, bluegrass, swing, jazz and klezmer – and with only slight exaggeration a mandolin orchestra could not be kept under wraps. We also held a concert and it was a great success. After the concert the programme director for the Cultural Facilities of Boskovice Ivo Legner raised the idea of a mandolin festival, and so it was born! The town of Boskovice supported this project with a grant, and so a festival was born in which children, semi-professional and professional musicians perform.

How did it go last year? What in your opinion were its high points?

The high point was undoubtedly the Sunday concert of soloists with an orchestra. The festival is not a mass event, but rather a smaller more intimate celebration, the focal point being the mandolin and my current and future musical friends. It will always be for a few true enthusiasts and for listeners who are interested in something unusual.

Although the festival is called “mandolin”, but there are also players of other instruments, and this year even the Megafon vocal quartet. What rules governed the festival programme?

Megafon is a vocal counterpoint to the instrumental cascades. But I also include singing. This year it will be, for example, Jitka Šuranská. I select the programme from available players on stringed instruments, not only from the mandolin family but also guitars and zithers. These instruments have a fragile sound, and therefore I choose rather sensitive sounding more intimate projects, so that the whole sound spectrum is represented. On Sunday a mandolin orchestra and soloists will play in the concert hall of Boskovice Chateau without amplification as is traditional.

In Saturday's programme in the Chateau greenhouse musicians of different generations and even players on different instruments will be playing together. Will the programme have a unifying element?

The mandolin as an instrument has never been in the musical mainstream. That makes it interesting. With a few exceptions, players on the mandolin are very humble and sensitive people. I think that the choice of instruments is not random, and even if that happens I'm sure that the sound and dynamic possibilities of the mandolin affect the musician. Playing the banjo, electric, Spanish or bass guitar give a completely different world view. The concert‘s unifying element is of course the mandolin and the opportunity for direct musical communication between the musicians on stage, who have probably previously never met.

Before your trio the Anděl award winners Jiří Plocek and Jitka Šuranská will perform. Jiří was once your publisher, and now you play in Jitka's trio. What do you think is exceptional about their duo? What do you like most about them?

A certainly humility, knowledge of tradition and the ability to give the song exactly what it needs. No excess. Jiří has been a guest in my workshops a few times, but he is not so keen to be on stage. With Jitka it is probably an exception because he was happy to give concerts. Part of the workshop will be his lecture.

You yourself play in a trio with violinist Juraj Stieranka and the double bass player Juraj Valenčík. How would you describe the music you play?

Our programme is called The Mandolin across Genres and Continents. We play many genres, but for me the most important thing is personality. Musical lightness and playfulness should be the main denominator of the trio. Half of the repertoire consists of my works, and so it is along with the KK Band another group that plays my work. Juraj Valenčík and Juraj Stieranka and are easily able to cross the borders of genres with their distinctive approaches.

At the end of the Saturday programme there is to be a jam session. Was a jam also part of last year’s festival? Did it produce any exceptional moments?

I have also expanded the programme to a Friday concert, which we will begin at 8 p.m. The subsequent jam will then either have amplification, or there will be several separate acoustic jams in the environment of the chateau’s park. Last year the major concert was always followed by joint jam sessions with the participants at various locations. It was a remarkable experience.

How strictly will the Sunday programme be followed at the chateau? Who are the members of the Mandolin Orchestra?

The Mandolin Orchestra already has its repertoire, which is supplemented by works that we will prepare during Saturday and Sunday morning together with Jitka Šuranský and Michael Müller. The orchestra consists of teachers and pupils of my workshops and will be supplemented by local players of the double bass, guitar, clarinet and several soloists such as Martin Vejvoda on the ukulele. The orchestra is not made up of just the mandolin, but also the mandola and mandocello.

Workshops are part of the festival. What exactly can participants expect? And is it necessary to apply in advance?

There will be the already mentioned lecture from Jiří Plocek, and workshops from Peter Luha and Michal Müller. Those interested in workshops or in playing in the orchestra can apply by e-mail to tentyny@gmail.com. The complete programme is available at www.kulturaboskovice.cz.

There will also be children’s ensembles performing at the festival, and you yourself have taught for many years at a music school. Is there interest in the mandolin or acoustic music in general among kids? How can you motivate them to take an interest in these genres?

I would need to write a book about it, there is no way to put it in brief. The interest is there. But to take it somewhere it is necessary to create a team which will be made up of families and teachers, children’s groups, etc. And then to play and play. I am glad that I’m managing.

Every year a well-attended festival of alternative music is held in Boskovice in July, for many years Ibérica was held there, and now you are organising a Mandolin Festival there … How do the locals see these events? Is there interest in this type of culture?

The interest is there. The natives are content and regularly visit all the cultural events. We are a cultured town. But of course the Mandolin Festival does not have the ambition to be a major festival for thousands of people.

The festival is only just getting going, but I assume you have plans and possibly even dreams for the coming years. How would you see further years?

Wow, we are getting ahead of ourselves … There are plenty of ideas. I have the support of the town of Boskovice and local sponsors. But for now let’s keep our feet on the ground. The 2018 festival is still ahead of us. I moved this year’s event to June. It is going to be great in the park around the chateau.

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