Davis & Elkins College will present the Prague-based ensemble Muzicka for a lively free concert of traditional Czech music and song to Myles Center for the Arts Harper-McNeeley Auditorium on Monda at 7:30 p.m.
The D&E performance is part of the group's first American tour, which features members dressed in traditional Moravian folk clothing and playing the cimbal, an instrument prominent in Eastern European folk tradition.
Muzicka is formed by a colorful cast of characters, most of who have been singing, dancing and playing folk music together since they were very young. They perform a wide variety of instrumental and vocal repertoire - from centuries-old dance forms such as the polka, the cardas and the UNESCO-protected verbunk to farm and pub songs depicting every aspect of Czech peasant life.
As members of Rosenka, a large folk ensemble in Prague, they spent their afternoons learning all sorts of folk songs and steps alongside other young children. But most important, Premysl Rubes, an older musician who saw their potential, took them under his wing and taught them not only how to translate the songs to musical instruments, but also the ways of the folk world - history, music and culture - and instilled in them a deep passion for this world.
Muzicka does not simply practice folk tradition rather, it is devoted to actively ensuring that such tradition remains a valued and thriving presence in contemporary Czech society. The ensemble performs in a variety of venues and functions including theatrical shows, educational concerts, folk festivals and cultural landmarks.
Over the years, Muzicka has grown as several new members have joined its ranks most notably, artistic leader and lead violinist Pavel Koplik. Born and raised in a small Moravian village where folk tradition is still a part of everyday life, Koplik exudes the spirit of Moravia in every note he plays, and under his guidance Muzicka has continued to thrive, winning numerous awards in festivals and competitions across Europe.
Also performing with the ensemble is violinist Elizabeth Shribman, an American living, studying and working in Prague through a cultural exchange program supported by the Rotary Foundation and Dartmouth College. The experience has led her to partner with Friends of VIA, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit which supports the preservation of Czech cultural heritage. Through the partnership, she has raised funds and organized Muzicka's first tour in the United States.
"To bring this music and this culture that I have come to love to my own country to share with friends, family and fellow Americans would bring full circle the multidirectionalism essential to real cultural exposure and exchange," Shribman says.