Hasler Revival a Roaring Success, Repeat Concert in February
On December 9, The International Czech Club held a concert to celebrate the 60th anniversary Karel Hasler, the Czech composer killed by the Nazis in the Mauthausen concentration camp. Hasler's name is not well known in English speaking countries, but he was a very popular artist, composer and singer.
The concert, entitled "Karel Hasler, As We Don't Know Him" and attended by a large number of public figures and guests from abroad, was a sell-out and a repeat concert will be held on February 24th in the concert hall at Prague's modern central library. The initial concert at the Divadlo U Hasičů theatre was financially supported by the Czech Foreign Ministry, the Czech-German Fund for the Future, and the American Friends of Czech Republic.
Concert-goers were welcomed to the theater by typical old Prague music performed on the hurdy-gurdy by the Stastny and his friend team. The concert was so popular, and so many of the invited guests came that at one time all the seats were occupied and composer and singer Jiri Suchy and some guests from the Foreign Ministry had to wait while additional chairs were found. The organizers appreciate the patience and understanding shown by the guests while they waited to be seated.
The concert proper, introduced by Jiri Hanak and Pavlina Filipovska, was kicked off by amateur group Archeus, who provided living evidence that Hasler's songs have become part of the common heritage of several generations of Czechs. The group, led by singer Libuse Jandova with her son Honza on guitar, earned the sincere applause of the audience. The audience was also greatly impressed by the singing of the guests who Libuse invited to perform with her. The first guests were her own two youngest children, both dressed in stylish pre-war period clothes, and the second was a young woman, Natasha from the institute for mentally retarded people, where Libuse works. The great action!
The next guest of the evening, Gustav Oplustil, recounted his experiences from the making of his many serials and films about Hasler. Hilda Hojerova-Cihakovara reminisced about the time when, as a young girl, her parents were neighbors and friends of the Hasler family. Hilda attended Hasler's performances at the National Theater. Once, in 1938, she herself was invited by Hasler to appear in an evening patriotic performance at the National Theater. Hilda appeared on stage in the costume of the Czech athletics organization Sokol and draped in a Czechoslovak flag. Hilda, who was celebrating her 92nd birthday, received a magnificent bouquet of flowers and a big cake from sponsor Odkolek, the bakery.
The next guest was Thomas Hasler, the third and youngest son of Karel Hasler. Thomas, who lives in the United States, praised the contribution of the children to the performance of Archeus and of Hilda Hojerova-Cihakovara, saying that despite his lack of knowledge of Czech it was clear to him that their contributions came from the heart.
During the interval, visitors were able to take advantage of the Hasler mint sweets named after the songwriter and provided by sponsors SFINX, and the beer from sponsors Krusovice. Some guests introduced themselves to Jiri Suchy and were rewarded with autographs.
The second half of the concert was opened up by a musical whirlwind from Slapeto. Many years of professional playing have not deprived them of their enthusiasm for the music of Hasler. Slapeto took the event particularly seriously, preparing diligently with Pavlina Filipovska, who not only sang and acted as composer on the night, but was also one of the main contributors to planning the mix of words and music. Slapeto's performance included both popular lighter numbers and songs with a more serious subtext. For the finale, Ta nase pisnicka ceska (This, Our Czech Song) they were joined by Archeus, and with the audience heartily singing along, the performance was a dignified tribute to its composer.
Ian Finlay Stone
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