Slunohraní — A Miracle in 4 Days

Opus Osm

After the final concert, everyone is invited to float a luminaria in the nearby park's fountain.

Can the Janáček Quartet Transform 30 Amateur Musicians into an Orchestra – in Just 4 Days?

About 30 people – lawyers, accountants, IT programmers by day, musicians the rest of the time — sat down last week at the elbows of the members of the internationally-known Janáček Quartet. Their goal: to form an orchestra performing a public concert Friday under Brno Philharmonic violinist, and now conductor, Richard Kružík.

And they had just four days to do it.

That’s the aim of the Slunohraní (“Sun Playing”) Music Festival, now in its third year, held for a few short days every July in the picturesque small town of Nové Město nad Moravě. “Amateur musicians have so few chances to take a course like this,” Mr Kružík tells Opus Osm. “Some have never even played in an orchestra before.”

“Connecting amateurs with professional musicians is a very good idea,” concurs Miloš Vacek, first violinist for the Janáček Quartet. “A lot of people like playing the violin, viola, or cello, but they don’t have the chance to experience playing together.”

But the students, ages 18 to 70, get plenty of practice here. The festival is open, by application, to amateurs, music teachers, and professional musicians playing the violin, cello, viola, bass, or – new this year – flute. They alternate individual, private consultations (“It’s the right hand, the bow hand, that always gives them trouble,” Mr Kružík smiles) with mandatory public performances in a nearby park, as part of informal quartets.

Clarification: The Janáček Quartet led workshops for quartets, and the orchestra was formed and led by Richard Kružík. Students attended the concerts of but did not perform with guest artists Kristina Vaculová, Ivana Dohnalová, and Míša Rábová. We apologize for any confusion.

The students also play several concerts as part of the complete orchestra, with guest artists – this year, Kristina Vaculová, flutist with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, harp player Ivana Dohnalová, and Irish music violinist Míša Rábová.

And then there’s that final, Friday night concert, this year featuring works by composers no less than Mozart, Telemann, and Corelli. The concert is traditionally held in the courtyard of the Horácka Gallery, a restored estate in the historic town.

But this year’s event was delayed, and finally rained out, by uncooperative weather. After raindrops splashed into the Janáček Quartet’s first few measures of Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 9, members of the audience smilingly picked up their chairs from the courtyard and moved to the upstairs open-beamed gallery, where the concert started again.

“The people really love the spirit of the concert; they’re amazed by the special atmosphere,” says festival co-organizer Hana Zítková, herself a Prague project manager and budding flutist. “From year to year, more people are coming to our concerts. We’re ‘getting a reputation.’”

You can listen to the short excerpt, above, from this year’s final concert, and get a taste of the warm, welcoming spirit of not only the performance, but the entire festival. It’s not every day that an entire audience bursts into lusty (silný) cheers at the end of both halves of a concert. — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Mary Matz; video, Miroslav Setnička

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