Croatian star shares her musical talent, Christmas story
by Jessica Langdon
The story of Christmas has been told for more than 2,000 years, but as a singer and songwriter, Tajci hopes she helped people in Kansas approach the season from a new perspective.
Tajci (pronounced TY-chi) and Matthew Cameron and their three sons — 13-year-old Dante, 11-year-old Evan and 8-year-old Blais — bring their faith to life through music year-round.
The family shared not only its musical gifts, but a heartfelt story of faith and a quest for God’s love during several performances of “A Christmas Concert Experience” in Kansas in late November and early December.
Tajci, a native of Croatia who soared to stardom as a young pop singer in Central Europe in the late ’80s and early ’90s, interwove her personal story and original music with traditional Advent and Christmas songs.
While in the archdiocese, she performed concerts in Topeka, Kansas City, Kan., Lansing and Olathe.
“She has a fantastic voice,” said Tom Winkelbauer, an accountant for the archdiocese and a parishioner of Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph Church in Leavenworth.
“How she was able to take her life story from Croatia and merge it with the songs of the Christmas season just made everything more meaningful,” he said.
Tajci shared what it was like growing up under the communist regime of the former Yugoslavia.
Winkelbauer was moved by Tajci’s stories of her family, and how she caught certain glimpses and sounds of the Christmas season — including moments her Italian grandmother shared — yet Tajci didn’t understand the entire story until years later.
The singer, who grew up in a musical family, burst onto the international scene as a teenager with her performance in a Eurovision Song Contest, and soon was living the life of a superstar.
“And yet I felt so lonely and so empty,” she said.
It wasn’t communism — or even the war that broke out in the region in 1991 — that drove Tajci to walk away from the commercial successes she had achieved.
Instead, at age 21, she wanted to find for herself the same thing she hopes her music today brings to others.
“My message is to really inspire people to search deeper,” she said, “to look inside to find who they are and the bigger purpose in life.”
And those answers don’t always match the world’s expectations, she said. They certainly didn’t in her case, when she realized that “I have everything and I still have nothing.”
Tajci left the life she knew and came to the United States seeking something more, and she found that being involved in the Catholic Church led her into a strong, personal encounter with God.
She shared that encounter — as well as a message of freedom — with the maximum security inmates of the Lansing Correctional Facility on Dec. 4.
“There are no walls, no bars that can be an obstacle between you and God,” she said.
She later described the night in Lansing as “breathtaking.”
“They sang ‘Gloria’ with me. They sang ‘Silent Night,’” she said.
They became engaged with the performance’s carols and stories.
“And when they sang ‘Silent Night’ . . . I don’t know how to describe it,” she said.
Many of the men approached the performers afterward to shake their hands, wish them a Merry Christmas, and tell them a little about themselves. Some shared their hopes and dreams for the future.
Tajci’s sons were not able to join her for the prison performance due to prison regulations.
The three boys, however, are generally an integral part of each show.
“It’s a beautiful moment when they come on stage and sing,” she said. “It just makes everything so real.”
It also brings her own path into focus, she said.
Winkelbauer found the part of the concert when the boys joined their mother onstage very touching.
And to him, the performance did make a very old story new again.
“It kind of re-energized me,” he said.