Czech Heritage Museum is proud to sponsor a concert featuring baroque Czech Christmas classic, “Hej, Mistre!” performed by students and faculty of the University of North Texas College of Music
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015
WHERE: Temple Brethren Church, 2202 Birdcreek Drive, Temple, Texas
Singing Handel’s “Messiah” is a favorite tradition of the Christmas season in most Western countries, but in the Czech Republic, people gather to sing another baroque composition written in Czech by Jakub Jan Ryba.
“Hej, Mistre!” or “Hey, Master!” joyfully tells the Christmas story from a shepherd’s point of view. The title is also the opening line, when a shepherd boy runs to wake his master after seeing an unusual star in the sky.
Students and faculty of the University Of North Texas College Of Music, funded by the Czech Educational Foundation of Texas, are bringing this beautiful music to eight cities across Texas. The tour stops in Temple on Wednesday, Dec. 2 for a concert at the Temple Brethren Church. The concert begins at 7 p.m. and lasts about 90 minutes. Is open to the public and there is no admission charge.
“It’s a good opportunity to hear music that is beyond the Smetana-Dvorak-Janacek Top 40 and a great way to begin the holiday season,” said Thomas Sovik, professor of music theory at UNT.
The tour is part of the International Festival of Czech Music held Nov. 18-21 at the University of North Texas in Denton. The festival included four days of masterclasses, concerts, lectures and film screenings by guest artists and scholars from around the world, plus a day-long academic conference on Czech music, concluding with a performance of “Hej, Mistre!” with soloists, choir and orchestra, including the large pipe organ at the Margot and Bill Winspear Performance Hall on the UNT campus.
The touring group includes the four soloists and a smaller choir, accompanied by organ and cello. “I’ve written an organ-continuo accompaniment (organ and cello) to compensate for the orchestra that we will not be bringing,” said Sovik. “This is probably how the mass would have been originally performed in Jan Ryba’s church in Rozmital pod Tremsinem in 1796.”
The piece is also known as “Ceska Mse Vanocni” or “The Czech Christmas Mass,” although, it is considered a pastoral rather than a mass. Ryba wrote it in 1798, while the Czech lands were under Catholic Hapsburg rule. The piece is organized with movements named for parts of the traditional Latin mass, such as “Kyrie” and “Gloria.”
Ryba’s piece concentrates on the Christmas story of the birth of Christ, unlike Handel’s comprehensive history, which works through both Biblical Testaments, from the ancient prophecies of Isaiah, through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Accordingly, the Ryba piece is joyful and exciting. Written as a pastoral, there are sweet and delicate soprano sections contrasted with the rousing rustic male voices of the shepherds and then glorious full-choir angel choruses.
While here in the U. S., operas and choral pieces are not often performed in Czech, Bach and Mozart were said to have considered Czech especially suited for singing.
The piece has been paired in an animated film with the art of Czech illustrator Josef Lada. Lada is known for his charming Christmas postcards as well as for his illustrations for the iconic Czech book, “The Good Soldier Svejk.”
The Czech Educational Foundation of Texas has a Temple connection. It was established in 1954 when Attorney August Kacir of Temple, Henry Maresh, M.D. of Houston and John M. Skrivanek, Ph.D. of College Station sought a state charter for the non-profit organization.
The current CEFT Board of Directors includes several local residents: Attorney Sidney Kacir (son of August Kacir), Czech Honorary Consul Brian Vanicek and Mark Labaj of Temple, as well as Frank Horak and Joe Liles of Holland.
The CEFT funds programs at three Texas universities. The Texas Chair in Czech Studies” for teaching the Czech language at the University of Texas at Austin, the CEFT Czech Fellowship at Texas A&M University and at the University of North Texas, the Frank J. and Hermine Hurta Kostohryz (cq) Residency in Czech Music and Culture and the Dr. Jim and Rose Bezdek Endowment Fund Celebrating Czech Music and Culture.