History of choir Rastislav

Begining of choir's history is dated to spring of year 1868. ...

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1862 - 1918: A Song from the Heart of Homeland

In the 2nd half of the 19th century, cultural and national activities of patriotic intellectuals in Blansko region culminated in foundation of the Slavonic association of readers and singers named RASTISLAV.

In spite of the fact that the main goal of the association, as the name shows, was the patriotic activity aimed against denationalization of the society, the aims and effort were fully supported by the emperor court including count Hugo František Salm, whose godmother was Austrian empress Maria Teresa.

Hugo F. Salm (founder of the Moravian Municipal Museum in Brno) was a well educated scientist, technician, and thinker. He significantly supported cave research of Dr. Jindrich Wankel in the Moravian Karst territory.

In this period, a group of patriots gathered around J. Wankel and strived to discover the cultural wealth of folk artistic activities.

The influence of national folk music activities together with melodious and picturesque character of Moravian songs have formed a connection between patriotic intelligence and nation, thus creating a new, enthusiastic, and advanced-in-culture society.

One thousand years after the famous “Byzantine mission” of Great Moravian Duke RASTISLAV, at the end of 1862, a group of Blansko patriots inspired with the same ideals of endeavor of better education and inter-Slavonic solidarity established The Slavonic association of readers and singers named RASTISLAV on December 28, 1862.

The body and soul of the association was MUDr. Jindřich Wankel. He was a physician of Salm’s Iron and Machine Works (future “Father of Moravian archeology”) and Ignác Vondráček, the director of the iron works enterprise. As it was usual at that time, count Hugo František Salm was a member of the board and the most prominent sponsor/supporter.

The choir conductor and teacher Alois Ferlík did his best to get an own flag for Rastislav. The designer of the flag was Prague patriotic painter Josef Mánes, who had been a friend of Mr. Wankel since their grammar school studies in Prague.

The blessing celebration of the Mánes’s flag of The Slavonic association of readers and singers RASTISLAV was held on the day of Our Lady of Sorrows on June 5th, 1884 in the church of Our Lady of Sorrows in Sloup village. The celebration was attended by a large number of local people as well as audience from the Moravia, Bohemia, and Slovakia.

After the association had completed its educational and patriotic mission, it was dissolved in 1918 when the Czech and Slovak Republic was established. The Mánes's flag was donated to the Moravian Municipal Museum in Brno.

There are notes of prominent visitors as well as notes about the activities of the association in the visitor’s book of The Slavonic association of readers and singers RASTISLAV. For example: There is a copy of the telegram sent to Dr. Julius Grérg when he was released from prison on August 27, 1863; a note “Unyieldingly and faithfully for life” written by the Moravian land archivist Vincenc Brandl and signed by members of the Hlahol association (Prague) on July 5th, 1863 and Prague Sokol signed in 1864. Of course, there is a signature of Josef Mánes. There are French and Russian signatures as well. There is a signature of Prague literature critic J. H. Nebeský. Some of the most valuable signatures come from Russian archeologists Mr. and Mrs. Count A. Uvarov, who was a friend of Mr. Wankel and visited Blansko.

In 1863, the RASTISLAV association had 203 members. After the Citizen Forum had been founded in 1870, the number of members in the RASTISLAV association was about 50 till the beginning of the World War I. The RASTISLAV association inspired multiple association founders. However, most of the associations have never been as important and serious as the RASTISLAV association.

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The Flag of the Slavonic Association of Readers and Singers RASTISLAV Designed by Josef Mánes

The staff of the RASTISLAV association decided it was necessary to get an association flag. Mr. Wankel was asked to choose the most prominent painter among his friends in Prague, a painter who would be committed to design the flag for the association. The decision confirms a good sense of symbolism as well as of moral values, honor and importance of a patriotic artist.

Josef Mánes, the author of design, created the final patterns for embroiderers. He himself found embroiderers and watched them working.

The flag replica could be seen at some Rastislav's concerts and in the Municipal Library in Blansko hall (long-term exhibition).

The flag is double sided with a rectangular shape (dimensions 197 x 193 cm).

On the white front side made of silk rep, there is the name of the association RASTISLAV stem-stitched. The material used is silk and golden and silver fiber. The association name is fringed with an upper and bottom wavy stripe, which is stylized with a flower ornament stern-stitched with golden and silver fabric. There is also folk silk flat-stitch embroidery of birds and flowers.

The back is made of blue rep. There is a Moravian heraldic spread-eagle with red and silver squares, embroidered with silver and red fiber. The flat Moravian spread-eagle is fringed with stem-stitch. Its head is decorated with a crown, embroidered with golden fiber, beads and spangles.

A red ribbon made of silk rep with the name of the association is sewn to the flag. The ribbon is embroidered with double silk thread that creates a dense ornament, especially in the lower part. Silk, golden fiber, spangles and bullion are added. The flag and the ribbon are fringed with trimmings made of golden and silver fibers. To achieve stateliness and venerability old embroidery’s techniques and composition were chosen.

The flagstaff with blue longitudinal stripes was made in Prague. Josef Mánes designed the nails and the spike of the flagstaff as well. At the top of the flagstaff, decorated with several gems and Czech garnets, there is Moravian spread-eagle sitting. It is made of silver with its wings widely spread.

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1919 - 1968: Tradition of singing in Blansko

The upheaval at the beginning of the existence of the Czechoslovak Republic shifted the association activities out of sight of the society.

In 1926, Mr. Kočvara (managing clerk of Ranný company in Blansko) used a letter from association and former members of RASTISLAV to ask Leoš Janáček if they may name their singers’ association after his name. He suggested naming the new established association “Dělnický pěvecký spolek” (Workers’ Association Of Singers).

The first conductor, who worked with A. F. K. ČKD Blansko, was Dr. Zdeněk Blažek, who became a composer later. The second conductor was Josef Šoupal.

During the Nazi occupation in 1940, the association was silenced. The main reason of the activity prohibition of the Workers‘ Association Of Singers of A. F. K. ČKD Blansko was the patriotic Theme Tune (Znělka) composed by Šoupal. The tune used words written by Petr Bezruč that roused against Nazi occupation, and was used at the beginning of the association’s concerts:

If thee, the nation
Written by Petr Bezruč

If thee, the tread down nation
If thee, the chained giant
If thee understood my song
I would say I had been singing well.

After the World War II, the Workers’ Association of Singers of A. F. K. ČKD Blansko renewed its activities and co-operated with a new Symphonic Orchestra of Blansko.

The February 1948 brought disintegration of these associations. The Union of Youth ČKD Blansko took the initiative to establish a choir “Mladý Dimitrovec“. The deputy headmaster of the High School of Blansko Jaroslav Zeman was appointed the conductor. The mixed-voiced choir “Mladý Dimitrovec“ (Dimitrov Youth) consisted of young people – members of the Communistic Union of Youth, who used to sign in small school choirs in villages.

The “Mladý Dimitrovec“ won the first prizes in district contests and gained the second or the third prizes in province contests. The accompaniment was an accordion (B. Zouhar) and a guitar (Fr. Hlaváček). The choir used to perform at various company and political events of the ČKD Blansko. A continued staff turnover, especially of the girls, culminated with total disintegration in 1964.

The former members of the Šoupal’s choir established “Mužský pěvecký sbor města Blanska“ (Men's Choir of Blansko). The chief and conductor of the choir was prof. Jaroslav Zeman, the president was Jaroslav Polák, the members of the committee were V. Kryl, J. Kupčík, and Z. Krupica. The choir had 30 members and concentrated on the production of Czech classics.

The “Mužský pěvecký sbor města Blanska“ with its high quality and artistic program was appreciated at many large power construction sites of the ČKD Blansko Company in Czechoslovakia and abroad (Austria, Poland, Bulgaria, German Democratic Republic, etc.).

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1969 - 1985: The RASTISLAV Choir Renewal

After the Kuchyňka’s book dealing with the history of Mánes flag for RASTISLAV had been found accidentally, a group of members of “Mužský pěvecký sbor města Blanska“ – L. Ondráček, F. Polák, J. Kupčík, and Z. Krupica – decided to return to the original name RASTISLAV.

On the occasion of the 1st District Song Festival in Sloup village on August 30, 1969 (at the time of the beginning of tough normalization), the “Mužský pěvecký sbor města Blanska” adopted the original name RASTISLAV.

After prof. Jaroslav Zeman, the conductor, had retired, the president of the choir convinced Karel Hradil, the conductor of Brno FOERSTER Choir, to become conductor of RASTISLAV.

In 1970, the choir received a new women part and became “Smíšený pěvecký sbor RASTISLAV ZK ČKD Blansko“ (Mixed-voice Choir RASTISLAV of Trade Union Club of ČKD Blansko).

The co-operation with composers, prof. Dr. Z. Blažek and prof. Z. Zouhar, essentially contributed to the artistic growth of the choir. The publicity of RASTISLAV increased together with the success out of the district and the province of South Moravia. The demand for its performance was growing.

The increasing artistic level made it possible for the Mixed-voice Choir RASTISLAV to travel abroad. It performed Czech vocal music as well as the world’s classics to the audience of the concerts in Austria (Lenzig, Bad Goisen, Linz), former GDR, Poland, Bulgaria, and Hungary.

The association took participation in the "Union of Czech Choirs" competition series. Since 1975, the RASTISLAV association has taken part in "The Songs of Friendship" competitions as well. In 1977 and 1979, RASTISLAV won the bronze medals (silver medal in 1982, respectively).

During this successful period, the choir was presented both in national TV and radio. Film clip from the Eliska's Cave in Moravian Karst was included in "Blansko Area, the Gate to Moravian Karst" movie.

After the death of prof. Karel Hradil in 1979, PhDr. Jaroslav Dostalík (former artistic chief of the choir and conductor) has became the general manager of the choir. After a short work of Mr. Javůrek, Mr. B. Grepl became the assistant conductor of the choir.

An enthusiastic choir member Ladislav Ondracek initiated the invitation from "Brucknerhaus Linz" association. Joined event took part in May Musical Festival. RASTISLAV prepared evening concert where the audience could hear the Middle Age music, pieces of A. Dvorak , L. Janacek, B. Martinu, and present compositors from Italy, Germany, Russia, and Hungary. The concert was a great success.

After PhDr. Jaroslav Dostalík had left to Prague in 1984, there have been several short-term conductors. After a one-year work of Mr. Bohuslav Navrátil, who was also a conductor of “ELIŠKA“ choir in Brno and “KANTILA“ choir in Křtiny, a student of the 5th year of JAMU (Janaček’s Academy of Brno), Mr. Tibor Varga, took over the conductors‘ baton. Mr. Jaroslav Martinásek became the assistant conductor. Later on, he became manager of the choir. He started a whole new period of the RASTISLAV choir. This period might be outlined by the motto: “Music for the soul“.

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1986 - 2005: Music for the Soul

During the autumn 1986, RASTISLAV prepared the very first performance of the Christmas Mass by Jan Jakub Ryba „Hey, Master“. The premiere of this masterpiece was held on December 28 th 1986. The event showed the drift the choir would go on in the following years. The performance as well as the premiere was a courageous act in the adverse political climate of totality, especially in the Blansko region. That’s why the audience accepted the work enthusiastically.

The conductor J. Martinásek established the tradition of Christmas concerts and influenced focus of further RASTISLAV activities. The choir repertoire has become tightly connected to spiritual music that was to make up 80% of the repertoire of the choir in the future.

The Velvet Revolution in 1989 brought not only a citizen liberty and ideological freedom for the choir, but also many problems as well. These included members leaving the choir and substantial financial troubles.

In December 1994, the ČKD Inc. company cancelled the sponsorship contract and forbade RASTISLAV to use entire equipment including books of music, clothes and training rooms. The choir has been saved thanks to the committee and especially the conductor who found new the training/meeting rooms. Thus, ASTISLAV moved to the District Court Yard building in Blansko in January 1995. The switch was completed without interrupting the choir's activities. The conductor of the choir J. Martinásek took has become choir manager and started to take care of performances including financial sources.

The RASTISLAV choir founded the Civil Association in January 1995 to have a legal personality and established the commission and executive structure for upgoing choir activities. Thus, the choir can study the sacral music of national and foreign compositors effectively. Newly studied pieces are presented mostly with orchestra and the audience accepts the work warmly. The locations of the concert have included churches to go well with the sacral music.

Nowadays, the RASTISLAV choir prefers the sacral music titled "Music for the Soul". In cooperation with prominent soloists from Brno (Jarmila Hladíková, Daniela Straková, Jaroslava Hýlová, Anna Barová, Jarmila Janíčková, Zoltán Korda, Richard Novák, Aleš Šťáva etc.) and excellent orchestra CZECH VIRTUOSI, the choir studied series of valuable musical pieces of world authors. The choir quality is much improved with cooperation of prof. Blanka Chladkova (a voice consultant) and Jan Kral (an assistant from the JAMU) in Brno. Some concerts have included impressive spirit meditation parts recited by prof. Radovan Lukavsky.

The Mixed-voice Choir RASTISLAV Blansko takes part in various festivals in the Czech Republic as well as abroad and co-operates with the Proglas radio and the Czech TV. Prior to the Pope’s visit in the Czech Republic, a festival of spiritual music was held in Olomouc where RASTISLAV sang the last concert – oratorium by Josef Haydn “Seven Words of the Saviour“.

In 1996, the choir sang at the live broadcast of an advent concert from the church Of Our Lady below the chain. On the Christmas Eve, the CT1 television channel broadcast „KOLEDA“ (Carol) by Karel Stecker sung by RASTISLAV.

In early 1998, RASTISLAV prepared the consecration of the Mánes flag replica. The original was as old as 1864 and the replica was made by the „Velebný a Fam“ company in Ústí nad Orlicí according to the severely damaged original. A 1:1 scale replica shows many artistic features following Josef Mánes’s original. The embroidery was handmade following the original that is deposited in Moravian Province Museum in Brno. The flag of RASTISLAV by Josef Mánes is the only one in Moravia and some say it is the most beautiful design J. Mánes had ever made.

The consecrating celebration and assumption of the new RASTISLAV choir flag was planned in Sloup village, as in 1864. Multiple Czech and foreign choirs were supposed to join the event.

However, the event took place much later, in August 2001. The ceremonial concert had been performed in the cathedral of Our Lady of Sorrows in Sloup village for a large audience and many significant guests. Czech TV broadcast the program and the RASTISLAV association made videotape titled “Coronation Mass by W. A. Mozart”. During the event, the original association flag was exhibited in the church. Jaroslav Martinasek (the conductor) loaned that flag for a deposit of one million crowns.

Despite of all the difficulties, the association practices and performs regularly. Every year the association realizes dozens of concerts and goes on tour, especially in Austria and Germany territory.

In 2001, the committee and conductor/manager Jaroslav Martinasek began arrangements for a celebration dedicated to 140 years of RASTISLAV Association activity. This effort culminated in an anniversary concert held in December 2002.

Parallel to Czech Republic joining the European Union, RASTISLAV Association completes its long-term project entitled "Concerts for Europe". The choir management offers realization of particular concerts abroad (Austria, Germany, Italy, and many others).

Less than five month after this 140th anniversary concert, RASTISLAV is quitted from hitherto used place of work in building of The District Law-Court Blansko. The choir had to practice temporary at the rectory in Blansko, then in the Catholic House and finally in Ceremony Hall of the Town Hall Blansko. Unfortunately, in this time one important sponsor abandons the choir. So that hard times? Nevertheless the choir practiced, performed concerts and studied further parts of the cantata „Stabat Mater“ of Antonín Dvořák. One bright point was also CD record of F. X. Brixi´s „Missa Dominicalis“.

27th June 2004 became very important day of the choir because of premiere of Dvořák´s „Stabat Mater“. It was great spiritual experience not only for audience, but also for all those taking part. In August the choir obtained suitable recourse – in the Gallery of Town Blansko. In 2005 RASTISLAV cooperated with choir „Cantus“ from Morkovice on opus of Antonín Rejcha „Te Deum Laudamus“.

Collective concert with accompaniment of the State conservatoire Kroměříž took place in town Kroměříž.

The bass soloist Jan Šťáva (son of the soloist Aleš Šťáva) started to cooperate with the choir. This young man disposed with unbelievable voice range regarding to his age.

In September 2005 the Czech Broadcast Brno recorded the concert of opus of Joseph Haydn, "Seven last words of Messiah on cross" with meditation of famous actor Radovan Lukavský.

At the beginning of 2006 was RASTISLAV hard-working on the grandiose project and all members were really enthusiastic. The choir managed to study during 3 months world-famous oratorio „Elias“ of F. M. Bartholdy. RASTISLAV cooperated on this opus with the choir from Germany (Wiesbaden) and with the Philharmonic of Hradec Králové. The concert that took place in Hradec Králové was conducted by charismatic young conductor Thomas J. Frank. The oratorio „Elias“ became together with „Stabat Mater“ the favorite ones of the members of RASTISLAV.

At the beginning of July in the oppressive heat the choir recorded with the Czech Virtuosi orchestra CD of the Christmas Mass of Jan Jakub Ryba „Hey, Master!” The recording took place in the Knightly Hall of the Town Hall of Brno. The record will be used also for representation of the choir in the Christmas Festival in Rome in 2007.

At the end of 2006 the choir contacted the prince Alois of Liechtenstein. The year 2006 was prosperous not only due to successful performances, but also due to financial support from sponsors.

In 2007 was RASTISLAV again hard-working; concerted and worked on Dvořák´s „Te Deum“. In March RASTISLAV presented premiere of concert „RASTISLAV FOR CHILDREN“ with the songs and play. In this original play took part members of RASTISLAV. Their dramatic performance is on high professional level although they are amateurs only. All spectators (children and adults) accepted the musical piece with enthusiasm.

From the beginning of the year the choir is again prepared for cooperation with German conductor T. J. Frank and his choir. This time it is going about The 9th Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven. The hymn of the European Union will sound at first in concert in Germany (Wiesbaden and then in Czech Republic (Blansko).

The choir will continue in concerting on the European level in the second half of the year: firstly in Austria, then home in the Czech Republic, in Liechtenstein and finally in Italy (Rome).

The choir will celebrate 145 years from the establish of the RASTISLAV – originally club of singers and readers. In this time the choir is cemented by experiences from the concerts and by previous preparations. All members of RASTISLAV are almost like one family. We wish to conductor Martinasek to be healthy so we could in the future meet by music that is very close to our soul.

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