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.
The JazzFestBrno international music festival has revealed its programme for the 17th year, which will last from 1 February to 10 May 2018. Along with the earlier announced concerts by Wynton Marsalis, Avishai Cohen, Brad Mehldau and Donny McCaslin there will also be other famous names in jazz like the big band of Christian McBride, the guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, the drummer Omar Hakim, the pianist Kenny Barron and Vincent Peirani.
Today the design team made up of Tomasz Konior (POL), Yasuhisa Toyota (US) and Petr Hrůša (Czech Republic) and the representatives of the city of Brno signed a contract for the design documentation for a building permit and the design documentation for the second stage of the Janáček Cultural Centre. This will be the new concert hall that for decades Brno has been waiting for.
Magdalena Kožená, patroness of the Concentus Moraviae festival, today will take the stage of Brno’s Boby Centre with Ondřej Havelka and his Melody Makers. This benefit concert for the festival will jointly promote the songs of Cole Porter and at the same time invite us to the next year. The event will also include the christening of the Cole Porter CD with songs which will be performed by Kožená and Havelka’s Melody Makers in a premiere as part of this year’s Concentus Moraviae festival.
It will soon be six year since the death of President Václav Havel. The Sokol Brno I Symphony Orchestra in cooperation with the Theatre Goose on a String will be following up on last year’s event, the Czech Christmas Mass by J. J. Ryba with the subtitle "Hej Václave" (“Hey, Václav”). The orchestra is looking for musicians who want to be part of the event this year.
The three musketeers in fact numbered four. In the same way 3fo3 (which reads as “three fotři” – a play on words since ‘fotr’ is an unflattering term for father) is made up of four members. To the founding members of Bombarďák, Michal Dalecký, Jiří Jelínek and Filip Nebřenský, Matěj Pospíšil was added as a kind of d’Artagnan. However otherwise everything has stayed the same. Bombarďák – or rather the lyricist Jiří Jelínek – speaks to kids with a dynamic language full of fashionable and modern expressions. In the space of very brief songs (on average under two minutes) they are able to tell humorous tales full of wordplay and situational humour. One song follows on from another, mostly upbeat, with speaking as well as singing, on the borders of song and theatrical sketch, but all fitting together well.
For what is already the sixth time the National Theatre Brno has presented promising choreographers from among its own ranks. Yesterday in the Reduta Theatre there was the premiere of another year of the unusual project entitled Choreographic Studio. Nine mini productions were performed by soloists and members of the company to their own choreography.
Pavel Šporcl’s new and first Christmas album Christmas on the Blue Violin, with traditional and less well-known carols, came out at the end of the November. At the same time as the CD is coming on to the market Pavel Šporcl is setting out on a tour of the Czech Republic with the same name. He will be coming to Brno on 11 December together with the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra, the soprano Jana Šrejma Kačírková and the Czech boys’ choir Boni pueri. The programme (of which not much could be found out ahead of time) and the venue for the concert in the Boby Centre hinted at quite a spectacular and challenging production with many question marks and potential pitfalls. And it should be said right at the outset that precisely because of this the concert cannot really be evaluated artistically.
An interview between Kateřina Bajo, the main coordinator for the membership of Prague as a city of literature in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and David Dittrich, main coordinator for the membership of Brno as a city of music in the same network. The UNESCO Creative Cities Network was set up in 2004 and its main aim is to support cooperation and international cooperation and creativity. Now it brings together 180 member cities from 72 countries from around the world. The cities fall into 7 creative areas – literature, music, design, film, gastronomy, traditional crafts and media. A city applying for membership in the network has to fulfil very strict criteria, and it must be supported not only by the commission of experts but also by all the member cities.
As part of the tour which has been in progress since the spring, on 28 November the group Zrní (which translates as Grain) will be coming to Fléda in Brno. They are performing their latest album called Jiskřící (Sparkling). The members of the group (four Honzas and one Ondra) reacted to our questions collectively, with only the responses of Honza Unger as the author of the lyrics sometimes coming to the forefront.
Přístav, many times winners of Porta and other folk festivals, are not prolific with new albums. In 2001 they made their debut with the recording Prašná cesta (Dirt Road), in 2008 they brought out Papírový drak (Paper Kite) and as recently as in 2017 their third disc PřiHrátky. This average of eight years between LP recordings has one advantage. In between the group plays intensively, work on themselves and so a certain progress should be visible in each new album. Theoretically this should be the case and fortunately with Přístav it is. And just as with the previous disc I stated that Přístav is becoming steadily more convincing, with this new one that feeling has deepened.
Many comebacks tend to provide rather a nostalgic or even sad perspective on something that will never return. There are however exceptions that prove the rule. Gaia Mesiah returned with its own verve and perhaps even greater energy than before. There were goose bumps at Fléda on Wednesday both among the audience and on stage.
Brno is now one of the 180 cities from around the world that belongs to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Only some three dozen of these are focused on music. After Prague it is the second city in the Czech Republic to be accepted into this network. The awarded title recognises the work of artists, people working in culture, the diversity of genres and cooperation with the surrounding region.
Budoár staré dámy used to be a Brno-based band with a mostly female line-up. Both of these things have changed over the years. These days, the charismatic band-leader and singer Marta Kovářová (neé Svobodová) is currently accompanied by three men. And although part of the band still lives in the South Moravian capital, Marta herself got married and now lives in a “village in a cold gorge”. Her new role of married woman and housewife is projected into several songs “about cooking”. Life in the inhospitable countryside might be connected with the choice of Lubor Kasala’s poem Z ježatých hor (From the Spiky Mountains) (“Mrazem to mrská a zimu pase” – “The whip of frost herds the winter”), the musical version of which the band used at the very start of their new album. It was a good move, because it is an energetic song with a very specific and colourful text (“…kde jektají mývalové umývadel a syčí hadi sprch” – “… where chattering raccoons was in basins and hissing snakes shower”). The dynamics, rhythm and track timing is masterful. The band, despite the fact that these days they no longer have a chance to rehearse together as much as they used to, presents itself in top form – energetic, aggressive, but through all the chaos still organised. There is not a single surplus note to be heard.
As part of the Moravia Music Fest on 16 November the group Organic Quartet with Ondřej Pivec will be performing in Brno’s Metro Music Bar. This organist of Czech origin, who has lived in New York since 2009, has in recent years worked with the major signer Gregory Porter, and for his work on his album Take Me To The Alley even won a Grammy. In Brno he is presenting his new album Terms And Conditions Apply, which he recorded with his former Czech fellow players – the guitarist Libor Šmoldas, the drummer Tomáš Hobzek and the saxophonist Jakub Doležal.