Retro Music for Children and Their Parents

7 November 2016, 1:00
Retro Music for Children and Their Parents

The new family comedy Jak jsem se ztratil aneb Malá vánoční povídka (How I Got Lost or a Little Christmas Story) bets on more than just a music flashback to the sweet early 1960s. The Brno National Theatre has been playing it since its weekend premiere. A seven-member band directly on stage forms the audio and narrative backdrop to the sentimental journey back in time. Older folks will emotionally reflect on the sweet "sixties", while those younger will discover this decade. And that is what the new production of director Martin Františák bets on.

And it is the supporting idea for the actual shape of the production which has been primarily a playfully sounding, uncomplicated theatrical revue for several generations. There was no similar family-friendly title on the big stage of Mahen Theatre. Its dramaturgy and marketing connection to Christmas time is obvious. Actually, for the record, it cannot be kept a secret that this prosaic artwork of Ludvík Aškenazy was transformed into the stage form by director Jan Borna already in 2000 in the Divadlo v Dlouhé Theatre in Prague. And there, they have been playing it for sixteen years, it has had over 440 reprises and is always sold out. It is a desired and durable product lusted after by theatre directors.

However, this will also be the result in Brno. The love of Czech people for retro cultural flashbacks can be seen throughout the last quarter century. After all, the successful musical comedy Šakalí léta (Big Beat), in which the actors sang, danced and played about freedom, independence, the red star and rock'n'roll, was also based on this concept immediately after the revolution. And Františák's production made this hit film and the musical genre its flagship. Let's think back to how the calm small-town and narrow-minded life was stirred up by young hooligan Baby, who infatuated everyone around with his eccentric clothes, guitar and passion for wild music. And all seven members of the Vkus band, who are the live musical accompaniment of the 90-minute evening and come on stage directly from the auditorium, have the black crazy hair with sideburns, glittery jackets and the overall rock'n'roll look.

In contrast to Pavel from Prague, one Christmas Day, the dad loses track of his 5-year-old Jakub in Brno. The theatrical result is a musical performance, in which the little boy meets a man with a carp, a shy girl, the last lamplighter, a coachman and the postman Klement with his horse Karlička at Christmas in Brno (Maltézské náměstí is not cited). Františák staged the story in counterpoint to fragile, dream-like scenes and wild rock music. It is not extremely complicated entertainment. Grown-ups should be tempted mainly by the ever-present music. For example, some of the songs played include the hit song Půlnoční by Neckář, the wittily used hit Roň slzy and the famous Marnivá sestřenice by Jiří Suchý, which was set by Ashkenazy, when Jakub is questioned by the Police. Add songs by Ivan Hlas from the above film, the carol Půjdem spolu do Betléma, the armorial Christmas spiritual song Silent Night and four new hits. Despite the genre diversity of the musical material, everything is held together by the story of a little lost boy. The Vkus band is a random, but well-coordinated group that does not lack the drive of rock showmen. I could also imagine an even louder sound that would get the audience even more pumping. Fortunately, the singing in the songs goes smoothly as used to be the case in the ensemble.

 The small audience from preschool age will probably be more intrigued by the theatricality of the whole performance, also playing with some features of puppet theatre, than the music. Františák stages everything as theatre in the theatre. He did not resist the temptation to also display three very little kids on the stage. On the other hand, he resisted the temptations to improve this retro theatre with modern technologies, to which children may be quite possibly unresponsive these days. Life-sized puppets, a lamplighter on stilts, a grasshopper as if from a carnival parade or Andersen's dreamy Little Match Girl do more good than spectacular video effects or other technical tricks.

The main role of the young boy is played by an adult actor and father of three Miroslav Černý. A real 5-year-old boy goes on stage with him, it is not about impersonating a child resembling hypocrisy and acting falsehood, to which children are most sensitive. The resulting musical performance of Františák could use more detailed group scenes, which sometimes give the impression of an unorganised mess. The production benefits from an honest rock'n'roll sound and sentimental flashbacks as also represented by the stage of Marek Cpin with a black-and-white view of the city and an ad for Malcao. The production is a working and successful example of playful musical theatre, the intelligent spontaneity of which transfers onto the little ones from the beginning and communicates with them.

The municipal council of Velká nad Veličkou decided already in mid-April that this year's Horňácké Festivities (original name: Horňácké slavnosti) would not take place on the traditional dates around the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, and their scope, previously meant to be of three to five days, would also be modified. Obviously, it was impossible to foresee the development of lockdown measures towards the third week of July, but musicians from the Horňácko district tried to come up with at least a partial alternative solution in order to maintain continuity. Eventually, two concerts were officially held on two consecutive Saturdays:  On 18 July,  live broadcast of a public radio recording of Czech Radio Brno under the title Hrajte že ně, hrajte aneb Horňácké trochu jinak (Play for Me, or Horňácké Festivities in a Slightly Different Fashion) took place at the Culture House in Velká nad Veličkou. A week later, at a sports complex in Javorník, a traditional competition for "the biggest expert on Horňácko peasant songs" was held under the auspices of the Horňácko Dulcimer Band of Libor Sup. Needless to say, both events have found their spectators and listeners.  more

The Brno-based rock band Kulturní úderka (which translates loosely as "Culture Brigade"), led by singer and guitarist Štěpán Dokoupil, did not keep its fans waiting for too long this time. While there was a fifteen-year break between their first and second albums, the new album Black Metall was released less than two years after the previous album Sarajevská Katarzija (Sarajevo Catharsis). The name of the new album must be handled with care. Úderka has never had anything to do with black metal as a music genre. And once again, we are treated not to metal, but to relatively raw rock, which in some moments is pleasantly softened by the keyboard of Omer Blentič, or the trumpet of their guest artist Jan Kozelek.  more

Cultural life has endeavoured to move into a sterile and "life-safe" social networking environment in an unequal struggle against the viral phantasm and government lockdown regulations. In the darkest months, music institutions competed with one another in staging recordings of memorable concerts, and major opera houses broadcast to the world those of their performances that gained the most success from spectators.  more

Shortly before the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, the Brno-based group Plum Dumplings released a new album. As opposed to their official debut L'épitaphe des papillons (The Epitome of Butterflies, 2014), sung in French, the band went for Czech lyrics this time. We are talking to the band's vocalist, who presents herself as Adéla Polka.  more

Oldřich Veselý, a Brno-based singer, composer and keyboard player, died in January 2018. In February 2019, the 10th Brno Beatfest, dedicated to his memory, took place in the Semilasso music hall. And a year later, a CD recording of this concert was released under the title Malý princ [The Little Prince], complemented by several bonus items.  more

On the twenty-fourth of May of this year, five days before her ninety-second birthday, Mrs. Anna Kománková passed away – and with her departed her particularly extensive songbook of ballads (not only) from the Javornicko and Horňácko districts, which she had always carried in her head. She was able to perform all the songs conserved in her memory in a distinctive and inimitable style. All her life she safeguarded the rare legacy of her ancestral heritage – all the more interestingly because she did not write down the hundreds of often complicated tunes and many dozens of verses and variants of ballads, but she knew them all by heart. Even after she reached the age of ninety, when she no longer enjoyed good health and did not perform in public, she remained in contact with the Javornický ženský sbor [Javorník Women's Choir], which she had revived and eventually led for many years. She never pushed herself forward anywhere, while at the same time she learned a lot from the skills of her ancestors: apart from singing (dozens of songs from the hymn-book  and hundreds of folklore songs) she was an excellent embroiderer: She sewed and embroidered with her own hands every part of the folk costume she wore.  more

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When pronouncing the name Jiří ‘moravský’ Brabec (1955-2018) (the name is partly a pun referring to a typical Moravian dish called "moravský vrabec", which is pork roast with braised cabbage and  dumplings – translator's note), anyone, who until recently had any business concerning the Czech-Moravian folk and country scene, is reminded of the unmistakeable figure of a mighty man wearing a beard, with a strong voice and an inexhaustible source of information, and an enviable general knowledge of not only the above-mentioned music genre. We are speaking here about a complicated but deservedly respected personality who was able to surprise us with his knowledge in a number of disciplines, but also with his self-deprecating humour and unexpected physical dexterity. Unfortunately, for the last time he surprised people around him with his sudden departure, only a few days before his sixty-third birthday in June 2018, almost unnoticed by the public media, for which he had worked for so many years.  more

Electronic music, big beat and clubbing go together - but that’s only a small part of the truth. In fact electronic music was here long before clubbing, and thanks to enlightened teachers at JAMU it was doing very well indeed in Brno as early as the 1960s. That is, long before synthesizers and sequencers appeared on rock podiums, long before any old band had a computer, long before the first dance parties in glittering halls and dark cellars. Today electronic music is one of music’s most omnipresent genres: neither dance parties nor contemporary operas can do without it. Electronic big beat music has occupied reggae and swing, remixing is a daily affair, Brno artists have learned to sell instruments they built themselves to the whole world and to amplify an old knitting machine. As early as 1907 the composer Ferruccio Busoni dreamt of the future potential of electronic music, but not even his imagination and genius could have anticipated what Thaddeus Cahill’s first weird experiment with an immense electrical organ would lead to one day.  more

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Editorial

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