Czech Music Day, Sunday, May 25, gives Lawrence students the opportunity to hear and learn about music that doesn’t traditionally get the spotlight at music conservatories. Running from 1:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in Shattuck Hall (Room 163), Czech Music Day features lectures and concerts by Lawrence students, faculty, and visiting experts. It is organized and directed by members of CLU (Composers at Lawrence University). Admission is free, and a schedule of events is posted in the Conservatory.
Two individuals inspired CLU to dedicate a day to Czech music: Joel Blahnik, expert on Czech music and Lawrence graduate, and Dr. Derek Katz, Lawrence Conservatory’s resident expert on Czech music, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Leos Janacek.
Katz, a graduate of Harvard University and the University of California Santa Barbara, has delivered papers at national and international conferences in cities around the world, including Prague, Brno, London, and Chicago.
He and Devin Burke, a student composer, will speak at 2:00 p.m. about Czech music in general and its role in the National Rebirth, the movement that culminated in the recognition of the Czech Republic as an autonomous political unit. To this end they will examine Bedrich Smetana’s Ma Vlast, a work Katz describes as “a piece of nationalist rhetoric.” They also examine Ma Vlast on its own terms, as a piece of music apart from the socio-political situation that influenced (and was influenced by) its composition.
Blahnik, composer, publisher, teacher, and conductor, has been invited to the Czech Republic on more than one occasion. He co-founded the Prague Youth Wind Ensemble and has recorded with professional Czech orchestras and ensembles. He concludes this year his conducting residency with the Plzen Conservatory Wind Orchestra. A friend of student composer Jonathon Roberts, Blahnik has been actively involved in the organization of Czech music day.
“He’s been a wealth of information,” Roberts remarked. “Unbelievably enthusiastic about educating people on Czech music.” Blahnik encourages Lawrence students to network with students at Czech conservatories. His talk at 4:45 p.m. will focus on contemporary Czech music.
Authentic Czech kolachky and oplatsky will be served from 6:15 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (after Blahnik’s talk). These are foods Czech composers might very well have eaten at various times during their lives, and sampling this food gives profound insight into the music that they wrote. This is a good time to peruse the display of Czech books, maps, flags and folk instruments outside Shattuck.
Concerts at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. frame the events of the day. These concerts include works by Czech composers like Janacek, Suk, and Martinu.
Rebecca Dirksen, pianist, speaks about the set of short pieces by Josef Suk that she will perform in the concert: “It’s very appealing music… nobody knows about it, but it’s just beautiful.”
Suk was the son-in-law of the more widely known Antonin Dvorak. Kate Connolly will accompany an arrangement of a traditional Czech church melody. She remarks, “The harmonies and the colors are unique and surprising.