23 April 2015

Master Jan Hus, a song recital by Daniel Dobiáš

I had been active in the British Czech and Slovak Association (BCSA) for many years but recently this activity has been mostly limited to going to a few of the socials and I had not been to one of the more formal events for a while.

Some of this was out of choice, the history of the area does not particularly interest me, so I tend to avoid talks on things like WWII, and some of this was due to calendar clashes, mostly me being forced to work away from London.

If there was one type of event that would grab my interest then that was a concert of some sort and events at the Slovak Embassy were always worth going to for the venue and hospitality.

And so I booked a place at Master Jan Hus, a song recital by Daniel Dobiáš.

As things worked out I was working away that day but Reading is very well served with fast trains to London Paddington and from there it was only a couple of stops on the District/Circle Line down to Notting Hill Gate so I was able to get to the Slovak Embassy in good time for the recital and it was no great hardship to miss the AGM of the British Czech and Slovak Association which preceded it.

I presume that everybody else there knew about Jan Hus but it was all new to me. This meant that I could enjoy learning the story as well as listening to the music.

Having said that I do not normally like history I have to admit that the tale of the martyrdom of Jan Hus interested me. All of those years of listening to In Our Time has had an effect.

Put simply, Jan Hus was a campaigned for reform in the established (Catholic) church in much the same way that the more famous, to me, Martin Luther who he pre-dated by a century.

It was a bonus that the words of the story were read by Jolly Thompson who worked on the same project as me in Prague back in the early 90s.

The songs were pleasant enough though I lacked the musical frames of reference to categorise them other than to say that they sounded like I expected songs at a piano to sound like, though it was definitely more Schubert than Swann.

Two other things helped to make the evening pleasurable. There is usually art on display at the Slovak Embassy and this evening was no exception with its display of pictures by Olga Pastekova in a collection called My Shadow, My Friend. As is often the case there, the pieces were quite provocative and I liked them all for that. The Embassy could play safe and show, for example, pretty landscapes, and I admire their courage for daring to be daring.

The final thing was the people. There were many people there that I knew and there was plenty of opportunity before and after the recital for what we now call networking and used to call chatting. There was some drink too which helped the ambiance but was never the point of the evening.

Everything about the evening was pleasant, friendly and charming. Just like I expected it to be.

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