Monday, January 05, 2009

Music (originally published in "The Bridge" in 2005

It's possible to find musicians in our history, including into recent years. At the end of the 1800's, Bedrich Smetana, then a young man, lived in an area zamek and, according to the local historical society, came here for hunting parties. They said he once gave a concert at our zamek and that he set "The Bartered Bride" around the fish pond in Posna, a nearby village. Wouldn't it be fun to interview people there, asking if this one's or that one's grandmother or grandfather were the prototype for a character in his opera?

We've liked inviting musicians to help us in our celebrations, but the first group, about six people, invited themselves on December 24, 1991. They were dressed in folk costumes and gave a little talk saying they were reviving the ancient Czech custom of caroling from place to place. We shared "Good King Wenceslaus", greatly pleasing them that English-speaking people remember him. When they'd left for a retirement home snow fell furiously for about fifteen minutes covering the bare ground and sealing the thrill for us of that magical, musical afternoon.

Weddings are perfect times to invite musicians. There's music for the wedding ceremony, a folklore group to perform local wedding dances and songs, and a band for dancing. I'd wanted a bilingual ceremony. Fr. Max accomplished this at the rehearsal in one sentence: "Now, Petr", he directed our organist cousin, "your family please sing all the responses in Czech." And they did. Hymns were in English, some scripture was in Czech, some in English. Fr. Max did the ceremony in English with the bridal couple reciting their memorized vows in English. The congregation chose their own participation language! Our violinist
friend played Bach's "Sheep may Safely Graze". Afterwards the folklore group was enjoyed and then dancing began with the classical Czech circle around the newly-married couple.

At another wedding a couple funny or off-beat incidents took place. We pushed two guitarists, who'd gotten off an airplane three hours before, to take part in the rehearsal. They survived, barely. The flautist did not come to the rehearsal, quite to our surprise. He did come to the wedding, not particularly early, but instead of the flute, he played the
saxophone for the offertory to everyone's astonishment! Between when I'd talked with him and the wedding, he'd decided that he knew the French chanson better than he knew the flute music.

During the reception I found a few of the folklore group just hanging out. "What are you doing?" "Waiting for the others." Long afterwards I realized that I had forgotten to send the bus for them! Others picked them up in several loads, so we did have the show after all.

The older cousin of the young man who played the saxophone is an accomplished pianist. She is now a PhD in languages, but she did give a concert here years ago. The old general who lived here then had some requests which she played competently.