Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

A Musical Profile: Jakub Martinec and the Czech Boys Choir

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

A Musical Profile: Jakub Martinec and the Czech Boys Choir

Article excerpt

"The sound, being meaningful, discipline, and working as a group." These are the qualities that Jakub Martinec, 32, embraces as the conductor and artistic director of the Czech Boys Choir. The choir was formed in the Czech Republic in 2010 as his brainchild, with the encouragement of local, regional and national communities of singers, and with parental and government support. In the short time since, the ensemble has drawn considerable acclaim. In 2011 the choir toured Canada and Germany, including 3 sold out, full evening performances in the famous Meistersinger Halle, Nurnburg. In 2012 the choir performed at the American Choral Directors' Association convention in Minnesota, and produced two compact discs and performances with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. The choir is based in the city of Hradec Králové (population 100,000, Region of Bohemia), directly at the joining of the Elbe and Orlice rivers. The city also boasts a wonderful orchestra, Filharmonie Hradec Králové, with which the Czech Boys Choir often performs.

"It is a challenging time for choirs and for the arts in the Czech Republic because of the European economic crisis," says Jakub. When asked if there were any benefits for choirs under the communist system of the former Czechoslovakia, he responded: "One and only one. When I was a singer in boy choirs (before the fall of communism), the government paid for everything. Uniforms, tours, everything. Now we must apply for government funding and raise our own funds, mostly in small amounts from a lot of people, and from our concerts."

Jakub Martinec' own training was, as he describes, "Choirs, choirs, choirs!" He was in choirs throughout his youth, and there remains a strong singing culture in the Czech Republic. He then studied music in university as a voice major. That came from his experience as the treble soloist in Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. Important, too, was the encouragement of an important mentor - the voice coach of the choir in which he was singing. "She is a retired opera singer - 90 years old, now, and twenty years ago she told me that I had a special talent, and I should consider studying singing." When it came time for undergraduate study, he chose the university in Ostrava, because it is the only school in Czech Republic that allowed singers to study performance, conducting and music education.

"At one point, I prepared boys to sing the 'three spirits' for performances of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) for a production in Rome. I was so inspired to be involved in the production, and it encouraged me to deepen my commitment to my own singing. I enjoy singing tremendously, and it supports my work with young singers." This has played a strong role in the integrity of his role as a teacher in choir rehearsals.

"SATB [male] choirs have their own fascinating sound that cannot be produced by other kinds of choral ensembles." In establishing their technical skills, Jakub spends a lot of time building the singers' ability to sing throughout their full range, including the vulnerable zone between combining the 'head voice' and 'chest voice' and the coordination required above, below, and in the middle . It is one of the many qualities that has elevated the attention the choir is receiving. …

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