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Dear friends!

Please accept my best wishes and greeting from the last of the "great" folk festivals in Slovakia - from Detva. Every week, during the summer weekends - the folk festivals take place in various towns and villages. The biggest & the best known festivals are the ones in Myjava (Western Slovakia), Vychodna and Detva (Central Slovakia) and the exhibition of Slovak and foreign folk groups and soloists, so called Eurofolklor

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Banska Bystrica is the center and a kind of "headquarters" of Eurofolklor. The town welcomes the visitors of the festival, offers accommodation and its hospitality to the people. The name itself tells us that the aim of this exhibition is the meeting of folk groups from various European countries. Each group represents its own country and its folk tradition - music & dances. Of course, Slovak groups are not missing, but their position is not dominant. Groups visit different towns and villages every day, where they present their program. This exhibition has been visited by many folk groups - not only from Europe, but also from across the ocean. I mention this fact, so that you, who read this newsletter, could also show your interest in the festival. You certainly have your own folklore and you'd like to show it to those who haven't seen it; don't know it. Unfortunately, I don't have the authority to invite groups or give some offers, I just wanted to turn your attention to this fact.

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During the first weekend of July 5-7 the folk festival took place in Vychodna. I'd like to ask "ucok” Linder - who was not missing there to describe the atmosphere of the festival to you. I was there a s well, with folk group Dobrona. I think the best way how to meet your friends among thousands of people - visitors, is to take part in a program of the festival. Your friends can see you on the stage and they immediately know where to find you. The folk group I play with was not invited to perform in Vychodna, so I used this little "trick" to get there. Sometimes it happens, that a musician gets sick or can't perform for some other reasons. Then, if you're clever, you just "offer" yourself -and you're there! I joined folk group Dobrona like this. I carry my viola everywhere with me, and so I could play not only in the program of the festival but “behind the stage” as well. Everywhere in the area around the amphitheater, in the village and in the hotels & hostels, music can be heard. You can choose and join anyone you want. Musicians can also be as we say -lent. You've just seen him playing with one group, and in a minute he plays with another band & in another costume. But this is quite difficult, because he has to know and feel the mentality of the region, which he represents.

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Our folklore must seem very chaotic for a foreign visitor. In our little country we have so many folk regions and each of them has its own traditions, dances, costumes and their own dialect. I want to ask Vladimir to start a new column in his newsletter, where he could give some basic information about - at least - on the ones which are best known, together with pictures or photos of the costumes. The most important & typical things though can't be shown in the newsletter. That is - songs, music and dance. But I suppose that ucok Vlado is very clever, nothing takes a long time to him and perhaps he'll produce a tape or a videotape which would complete this written information.

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But let's get back to the main point, I'll write something abbot the folk festival in Detva. It won't be a detailed report - as it was last year, I will only mention few programs which - I think - were the best.

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Podpolianske Slavnosti took place in Detva from the 12th till the 14th of July 1996. On Friday we could see some introductory undertakings, for example opening of the exhibitions, children's folk song singing competition and in the evening the official opening of the festival in Detva amphitheater, where the folk groups and bands from Detva and surrounding villages performed - as they do every year. Maybe you'd like to know why this festival in Detva got this name Podpolianske Slavnosti. Not far from Detva, there is a mountain Polana - 1458 meters high. And under the mountain Polana - all around it there are many villages with similar customs, traditions, costumes, music, and dialect. This puts them all together-and the whole area is called Podpolanie (Pod-Under).

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I don't mean to evaluate the quality of the programs themselves, but the beginning seemed to me a bit embarrassing. Anyway, with the "mood" the quality came as well. Late at night the folk group Lucnica from Bratislava performed its program. I am sure you've heard this name before, it's our very well known folk group that can be seen abroad maybe more than in our country. I exaggerate a bit, but what I want to say is that this group has no competitors in their category, of course. When I say that during their performance people "stopped breathing" - I told you everything. And now - a big surprise! On Saturday, 13th we celebrated Christmas Eve in Detva! It's true, believe me. There was one-hour-program called "Christmas in Detva" in the Roman Catholic Church. In fact it was a second night performance of the program performed here at Christmas 1995. It was very successful then, so the organizers of the festival decided to put it in the festival program. Those who came to the church didn't regret. Boys and girls sang Christmas songs, carols, and said their wishes. Songs were accompanied by folk music, brass band and the children's chamber string orchestra that works at the music school Detva also took part. Boys were dressed in winter village costumes, girls had warm scarves. The weather was a bit cold on Saturday, it also wanted to help to create this wiser atmosphere. And when we heard songs "Christ was born" and "Silent Night," everybody got this beautiful winter feeling. I was really excited and have a nice memory of this program.

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From the other programs I'll mention the performances of the Slovaks living abroad - as usual, on Sunday morning. At this point I'd like to explain a small difference between Vychodna & Detva as to the performances of the foreign groups. In Vychodna you see foreign folk groups which perform their own culture and music, these are not Slovaks living abroad. They can be from any country. If a group attracted the organizers of the festival, they invite the group to perform in Vychodna.

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On the other hand Detva festival is visited by Slovaks living abroad and their children who keep the Slovak tradition. Mostly they come with a dance, which they practice at home, and then a Slovak folk band accompanies their performance.

This year we had these folk groups in Detva: Domovina from Winsor, Canada; Slovak Social Club from Melbourne, Australia; Duha, Hungary; Limbora, Czech Republic; Slovak, Croatia; Jednota, Yugoslavia.

As it is every year - the meeting of groups was very touching and you could also see some tears (happy tears).

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The end of the festival was near in the Gala Program on Sunday afternoon we could see practically everything-dance, singing, music. Everybody showed the best parts of their program. Well, they certainly had to try. The whole program was broadcasted by Slovak TV. Everybody was excellent, I personally want to mention the children's folk band Cucoriedka (working at the music school in Detva) that started so lively right from the beginning that it warmed up everybody around. Primaska of the band is Maria Dianiskova, the girl so small that you hardly see her from the ground, but the way she plays "Cifry" is outstanding - equal to an adult violinist.

As every year, also this time a large number of craftsmen performed and offered their products. They had their small "workshops" with them and if anybody was interested, he or she could watch how the product is made. There were potters who made pottery right in front of your eyes-a jar or a bowl, whatever you wanted. Belt makers came to Detva with hand-made belts and other leather products. Women painted Easter eggs, honey-pies. Others offered their products made of leather, wood, straw, the artistic blacksmiths made the belt buckles. Besides these artists you could also see many stalls all around-selling souvenirs and various necessary (and sometimes unnecessary) things. The visitors of the festival stopped at the stalls and were buying things. Everybody wanted to take something with them-at least a small souvenir for a nice memory. This also belongs to the atmosphere of a Slovak folk festival.

Well, what to say now, at the end? 1500 musicians, dancers, and singers brought joy and happiness to Detva. Several thousand visitors of the festival took this perfect mood home with them. Only the "biggest fans" were leaving the festival very tired. WHY? Because they almost didn't sleep at all for 3 days and 2 nights they were playing, singing, dancing, making friends, discussing things, again-singing, playing-it always goes like this. I know it very well, I was there among them. Vladimir couldn't miss anything, of course. In his red cap he was "flying around" like a butterfly. He was everywhere among the audience, cameraman’s, people from TV, photographers. He was never left on his own, there was always something happening around him. Two years ago he was also on the stage-singing his favorite songs from Horehronie, but this time he didn't want to. He was so busy that we didn't even have time to talk and say goodbye. Well, what can we do, we have to meet again soon.

Best wishes and lots of love to everybody.

Yours Dana

Dana Hodulova
A. Bernolaka
2962 12 Detva

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Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 4, No. 3, Fall 1996
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1996
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.