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Croatian seaside spiritual music


Croatia - Klape
And this Folk of Croatia be the foremother of its songs, and the Language and the ways in which it is spoken by the Folk be their forefather, and so it be that the soul of songs and their language have been living in centuries-old union. Here, history takes a pause to convey the facts, and folk-singers to proclaim the beauty, to bring forth a chant through dense veils of illusive facts, chant in which we shall be able to also discern the truth about things unattainable.

How, then, is one to liken that which is historical, mysterious, in endless and inventive motion - that magical popular creation begotten in the measures of historical suffering and joys of life, and then go still further and recount it, indeed sing this totality of events - to living examples, from the invisible and inaudible beginnings to the inflows of the present day? Needless to say, such an all encompassing undertaking would be ever be unfinished, in need of continual addition, abolition, evaluation. For here too have almost all levels of folk musical creation been in close relationship with social development and its phases (J. Andreis).

How then is one to understand Dalmatia, her songs, poets and singers, the humiliations to which she was subjected throughout her history, conquests, enslavements, trades with that which has been conquered and enslaved? Due to so continual a trade in ownership (...) such a Dalmatia possesses a cosmopolitan and polyglot character - it is a former Yugoslav Dalmatia, former Austrian, Napoleonic, Venetian, Hungarian, Byzantine, Roman and lllyrian, and today, Croatian (...) There can be no doubt that such a past has partly conditioned the nature of its inhabitants who, having to exist in such an historical environment, necessarily developed a sense for the humorous side of things which would surpass its tragedy (E. Betizza).

Fart of the songs presented here, men and women of the people sang while working in vineyards, guarding their livestock, picking olives, turning the grindstone in their cellars while grinding wheat and corn. We often recall the words of Ujevic during his stay on Brač: Yes, I saw the living folk of Dalmatia. The women of Brad in the silent nights, pressing olives in their 'machines'

The folk poets-come-singers were in permanent contact with life at different levels of time, and they sang their cultural and ideational experiences in a corresponding verse, and in what they sang they will see themselves. Those folk anonymities were both vociferous chroniclers and silent prophets of the future, where the echo of those, once upon a time chanted elations would be heard. And that is why it is in the songs you are listening to that the people of Dalmatia keep vigil and dream their dreams. The singing is usually commenced by the lead voice, a tenor, which sets the tone, the tonality of singing; it is then picked up by other voices, creating a two-part singing in parallel thirds, joined by other, deeper voices, thus spontaneously creating three-part singing and, occasionally, but as a rule in the final chord, four-part singing. The leading voice melody is wide open - up to a full octave, and either with its gentle rhythm it follows the nature of the verses, or its melismatic sequences, its Gregorian mood, where each syllable carries several note values, it achieves the auditive ambiance of images contained within the verses. (For example, in the numbers Zaspao je lipi Ive, Marijo, Marijo...)

Gregorian chanting (L. caritus gragorinus), Gregorian - tradition has it - after Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), who collected the practiced Cantilena Romana and codified how and when it should be sung in the course of the church year. To this day this form has remained known as Gregorian chant. A. Vidaković). It might be assumed, although erroneously, that in these folk chants an anonymous native singer joined his melody with a likewise anonymous indigenous poet, and that the chant represents the unity of the poetic and melodic. But there can be no doubt that both had emanated from the same singer, one who had conceived the verses and then enveloped them into a melody, into a chant. Inspired by his personal inclinations, and being surrounded by ritual religious chants, and more often than not by his singing in brotherhoods - he was, in living practice, instinctively creating tunes, or adapting or expanding existing ones, even while singing, creating the verses needed for that particular purpose.

Members of brotherhoods had to take part in the funerals of their deceased brethren, in processions, in the celebrations of church festivities and of the brotherhood festivities, in their feasts and similar events. All that created situations where brotherhood members prayed or sung specially written or translated texts. In those texts a prominent place belonged to the poems about the Mother of Jesus. (For instance, in 17th-century Vrbnik, on the island of Krk, there were 27 brotherhoods in a total of 900 inhabitants. And this is not an isolated case.) It is therefore not difficult to accept the claim by V. Štefanić, who tells us that our brotherhoods - in cooperation with the pastoral clergy - were those who carried forth the development of popular religious poetry. (N. Kolumbić) People living in remote settlements and hamlets, without road links, in difficult social circumstances, were isolated from the general community, beyond the reach of other cultural trends, inaccessible for mutual visits with other settlements, such a population inevitably had a lesser choice of songs and chants, and with it a less intricate structure of melody (B. Širola) than those living closer to townlets and towns, or in places located dotted along the coastline where life was more dynamic. Most often those singers were both church cantors and secular singers, and understandably, through the long periods of not only the Glagolitic but also the older times of chorals they transposed a good deal of liturgical verse and chant into the secular and vice versa - from everyday life into the life of the Church. Consequently, in the songs dating from those periods we can still discern a soft reflection of liturgical texts, the melodic atmosphere of entrance and first communion chants, psalms, hymns, exclamations, antiphons...

On the island of Cres, in a place called Valun, there stands one of the oldest Glagolitic monuments, dating back to the XI century. And if the Glagolitic monks on the island of Cres worshipped the Lord in their own tongue (or rather, in the old Church-Slavic) as early as the beginning of the XI century, then neither the priests - Glagolitic priests - nor the people used the Latin language in church singing (...) And when, in the year 1177, Pope Alexander III while on his way to Venice was driven by storm to Zadar, he was greeted by singing in the Croatian language. (J. Bezić). And so, in keeping with Roman custom, a white horse was prepared for him, and he was led in procession through the city to the accompaniment of countless lauds and canticles which reverberated powerfully in the Croatian tongue, to the church of St. Anastasia (I. Strgačić).

This is an important document which proves beyond any shadow of doubt the presence of Croatian Church singing in Zadar, which in turn also points towards the possibility that people sang in their native tongue in other towns as early as the 12th century.

Researchers and collectors of live popular chants, of the wealth of diversity of songs in which centuries of past are reflected, of views and ideas, of resistance to and acceptance of novelties seeping into folklore tradition, swept in by the tides of time, of arrogances on the part of bad neighbours, of distressing, lamentable migrations and decades upon decades of hostile foreigners. All those social, economic and historical upheavals can be felt, indeed followed, in those verses, in this monumental folk treasure. Especially prominent is the continual silent resistance offered by labourers and fishermen, i.e. by the rural folk to the ever more boisterous town folk, i.e. the urban mentality. Songs recorded in the field in Dalmatia (by F. Kuhač, L. Kuba, V. Bersa, B. Širola, I. Furčić, D. Fio, and others) are usually without titles, and the people knew them, and the melographs recorded them either by their first verse or by a part of the first verse. The lads would say: Let's have that one: Flowers of mine... and they would be referring to the first line, Flowers of mine, I'd be picking you too..., which is why the recorder of the song wrote it as: Flowers of mine.... Represented on these CDs are but a few chants, and their contexts indicate the type to which they belong: love songs, toasting songs, carols, patriotic songs, church songs, romances, lullabies... (0. Delorko).

It is unwise to discuss too much the context of these songs, since we shall never be able to delve into the hidden intuitive spiritual figures, into their utterly individual symbolism of the sensibilities of the time. A wise man once said: Talking about the context of a song is like talking about stars in water. Truth be told, however, that no song was remembered, handed down from generation to generation, if it did not possess depth, and depth comes with truth, and truth is what is easiest to remember and pass on. In addition to the spontaneous folk singing in the current practice of klapa singing - from the first organized klapas in Zagreb in the 1950s (Ensembles Dalmatia, The Petar Tralić Group of Dalmatians, Lebić...) - there emerged people who harmonized and arranged songs and chants, who arranged the chording of a chant in line with the ability of a singing group for which a given chant was most often specifically intended. Composers and their works are but a natural continuation of this abundance of folk, secular and sacral musical heritage. Music inventions of individuals, minstrels, rovers, fishermen and peasants have been building individual auctorial works precisely on that clean basic chording, and on clear melodic boundaries. And so the poets, who laid the foundations in the specific features of dialects of their home regions, carried on toiling in the vineyard of the chakavians they happened upon, and in the process making the verse, that was carried on their lips down through the ages and brought to our own time, still deeper and wiser. And it is here again, in that which is individual and auctorial, that the themes universal to all come forth like the inexhaustible boundaries of living - be they of love, or patriotism, romances and lullabies, religious or rebellious. Also represented are women's klapas. These burst into popularity particularly in the 1970s throughout Dalmatia, and then wider. This rests on the musical tradition of folklore female singing, simpler in its origins: in two-part and three-part singing, while klapa-style female singing is more demanding, more complex. This means that harmonization and arrangements of songs demand greater vocal challenges, and that demand remains when they are interpreting the compositions of contemporary composers.

Today, all across not just Dalmatia but across the whole of this beautiful land, and even through the Diaspora (Australia, Canada...) there are over 300 traditional singing groups popularly known as klapas, both male and female. And then there is the ethno-musicological festival of Dalmatian klapas in Omiš (which has been in existence since 1967), dozens of similar events up and down the coast and throughout the hinterland, as well as numerous radio and TV programmes of the same character. A quite new folklore phenomenon are children's klapas, which are becoming increasingly popular and are seeking their own place within the klapa milieu.

Songs, chants and compositions remain in this world after the demise of their known and unknown parents, to seek beauty through chords (L. As cor - to the heart), and ultimately find both beauty and truth. It would appear that a song begins its full life, indeed that it is truly born only sometime in the future, after its factual birth and after the passing of its anonymous parents... And that is why living in these songs are not only their prime begetters but also the generations that disseminated them and handed them down with so much inspiration and fervour, and the generations that are yet to be born and take to their hearts the heritage of their predecessors. And so, here before you, are our folk pre-Parents unknown, our honourable Forefathers, singers from the soot-covered hearth of this folk of Dalmatia.


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