by Father Mark Goldasich
I get tickled when people ask, “Do you play any musical instruments?”
The first answer that pops into my mind is “the Flutophone,” which was part of my early grade school years. I’m sure that my parents — and the neighbors — were driven to tears while I endlessly played “Lightly Row” on it.
But my answer to the question is: “Yes, I play the tamburitza.” As they stare blankly, I say, “Now, don’t tell me you’ve never heard of the national stringed instrument of Croatia!”
People rarely have.
During my grade school and high school years, I belonged to the St. John’s Catholic Club Tamburitzans. The specific instrument I played was the “prim” (pronounced “preem”), the smallest tamburitza and similar to a mandolin. Besides the skill of learning to read and memorize music, we Tamburitzans became acquainted with the culture of our grandparents. We sang in Croatian and did traditional kolos (circle dances). But our repertoire also included songs and dances from many other cultures and musical styles.
We even cut six albums — yes, LPs. (As a side note, I appear on the cover of the fourth album, “Ljepa Jela” (“Beautiful Helen”), serenading Monica Yadrich under a willow tree in Loose Park. Thankfully, very few people recognize the younger me there!)
The Tamburitzans presented many concerts around the Kansas City area and nationally. I was part of the first group that traveled to Croatia, where we even performed on Radio Zagreb.
I say all of this to commend professional musician Ashley Stanfield and St. Agnes School in Roeland Park, our front-page story, for offering violin lessons to the students there. Giving up time after school to learn to read music and become proficient in playing a musical instrument will pay dividends for years to come and add beauty not only to the students’ lives, but to all who will listen to them play.
Stanfield, who belongs to the string quartet Opus 76, is part of the Candlelight music series. Although I’ve not seen her perform, I did attend my first Candlelight concert on Sept. 7 at the Gem Theater in Kansas City, Missouri, featuring the Fountain City String Quartet playing the music of Coldplay. The hourlong performance, lit by hundreds of (battery-powered) candles, was beautiful and mesmerizing. What’s captivating about watching live music is not only listening to the melodies, but watching the body language of the musicians, seeing how the music envelops them.
There’s more information about Candlelight performances at the website here. Tickets are affordable and would make an ideal gift.
Why is music so important to life? Martin Luther said it well: “Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.”
Go ahead, unwrap one of those presents now!