P R I M O R S K A VEČER
New York, Spring 2008
BRINGING THE MAGIC OF QUARNER IN THEIR SONGS
Mario Battifiaca - Mirjana Bobuš - Robert Grubišić - Karin Kuljanić - Gina Picinic
& local bands Extasy & Freedom
They finally made it to New York! The team that has dominated the MIK festival for the past two decades with singing, song writing, composing and arranging, came to America to do what they do better then any other group: tell, with their songs, everything that happens in lives of people who share with them the magical Bay of Quarner.
They came primarily to help the fundraising effort by IMAS (Islands Medical Assistance Society), whose purpose is helping people with medical needs on the islands of Cres, Lošinj, Susak, Unije, Ilovik & Velike & Male Srakane, where access to medical facilities could be quite a challenge.
The event started with American and Croatian national anthems, sung respectively by the two Islands' sweethearts, Gina Picinic and Karin Kuljanić. IMAS president Rose Maracich then introduced her team of officials and volunteers and acknowledged the presence of the guests from Istria S.C. and Rudar Club. She also thanked Vanja Pavlovec of Matica iseljenika for her help in bringing the four magnificent singers from Quarner, and honored Consul Petar Ljubičić and his wife Nela for his continuous support. Finally, vlč. Tomasseo of Most Precious Blood church in Astoria gave his blessing, and the music was under way.
The group's second appearance was at Women's Club of Otok Krk 30th Anniversary Dinner Dance. While the IMAS event had to be advertised without mentioning guest singers from Rijeka (due to uncertainty and delay with obtaining visas), Women of Krk had an extra week to let people know that they would be there. As the time drew close, they ran into a problem that was the opposite of the one they feared all along: too many people called for reservations. The word was out that a very special team of musical artists was coming, and people that are not on Krk's mailing list rushed to get their tickets. Once the seating problem was resolved, Bosilljka Radman, who ran the booking and other operations, gracefully acknowledged the presence of the groups from Seamens', Jurina i Franina, Istria S.C., and many clubs from the island of Krk.
The third and final concert took place at La Fortuna restaurant in Fairview, NJ, the hometown of Susak Klapa Club. It was quickly put together by Klapa'a president Nick Morin (Mezo) and team to provide one more opportunity for people to hear these great songs before the singers return home. The Sunday crowd was expectedly small, atmosphere casual, without speeches, and with a rich buffet of superbly prepared Dalmatian delicacies... about twice as good as at the previous events at half the price! C'est la vie: Sometimes you get what you pay for... other sometimes you don't!
Nearly all the songs the group performs are written and composed by Mirjana and to a lesser degree by Mario. Robert provides arrangements and instrumental support, while Karin brings it all this beauty of music and dialect to the audience with her beautiful voice and divine stage presence. Mirjana likes to point out that her songs are about life experiences, her own, of her friends, and of people sharing with her the beauties - and challenges, of Quarner.
She sings about her Lanterna, whose light was turned off in 1980's - then lit up again in mid-2000 after her song came out, about sale of old houses to foreigners who don't know their sentimental value, the building of Robert's Šterna (well), and of Nono's Passara (boat), which was interrupted by his passing... But the two songs that received the longest and standing ovations were MIK 2006 winner "Prošeći se z manun po Kvarneru" and "Majko Božja Trsatska". The idea for the latter came during Mirjana's most difficult time of her life, when she was fighting leukemia. One day, as she climbed the stairway to Trsat, like our mothers and grandmothers used to do on Vela Gospa (Asumption Day), Mirjana made the promise that if she recovers she would write a song to the Lady of Trsat. As her treatment showed progress she wrote the song and delivered it to the Shrine at Trsat. During this tour, Mirjana also sang the song at Most Precious Blood Church in Astoria.
Our earthly mothers got a prominent place in the repertoire as well. Karin sang "Materine ruke" from MIK 2007 and "Neka jubav moja sa" from MIK 1998, dedicated to her then newborn daughter Gea. Gea was another "star" of the tour, but preferred visits to New York City even though she can sing all Mama's songs when the moment is right (typically before jet lag kicks in). Mirjana sang her "Mojoj hćeri", which brought tears to many in the MIK 2006 audience.
Finally, Gina surprised her mother at the final concert with a song in English, and practically paralised the audience with the emotions, fighting to keep the tears off here face until the song's end.
THE FUN OF (NO) DANCING
At this first tour by the group in the US, the "unsuspecting" NY/NJ audience had to be "pre-warned" that the music they were about to hear would be somewhat different from "the usual". Instead of a night of polka-waltz-tango, part of the program would look more like a concert. It is safe to assume that the first reaction among many was: "What is coming to this world? No dancing or talking...!" But once the songs started flowing, there was no problem. The lyrics and soft hometown melody captured the audience and brought them back to the shores and homes they had long left in search of better life. And the singers, aware of the audience tastes, prepared songs and medlees that provided dancing rythms as well.
Another novelty for NY/NJ audience was the comedy component. Mario performed his standard comedy act adopted, as always, for the place where he happens to be. There were jokes about Boduli, Istriani, Amerikani, etc. Everybody was laughing, although those speaking Liburnian dialect could follow slightly better then the others. Interestingly, the best environment for this the standup comedy routine was the Church Auditorium in Astoria, after Sunday Mass. There the listeners were near and there was no detraction. And they listened and participated. At one point, Mario started about like this: "Back home, people have changed. They aren't nice like you are anymore. There is no friendship, no love, no sex..." A woman sitting in front of him interrupted: "Treba da ustaneš 2 vika pa biš vidi!" (You should stay 2 weeks and you would see!). Well, so much for us being better then "them"!
THE LITTLE GRAND FINALE
The third and final concert took place at La Fortuna Restaurant in Fairview, NJ. Organized at the "last moment", i.e. when guest singers were finally assured of their coming to the US, it had another handicap: among the tradition conscious Sansegoti, there were several who had recent deaths in families and don't go out dancing for at least a year (1 godišće) after that. So, the attendance was less then desired, while everything else was better and more fun then one could bargain for. La Fortuna was a very popular restaurant and reception hall in the 1980's. Since then it seems to have lost some glamour, but it is still a popular reception place for many of our co-nationals... and we got the impression that it would be even more so if more people tasted their Dalmatian style buffet! And, it has a fancier stage for the musicians!
It started on a more casual note first because Mario wasn't there. He was somewhere above flying to Split to on time for taping the next episode of "Malo misto" (or "Velo misto?"), so the program had to be rearranged. So Robert had to look in the paper to see who and what song is next. Mirjana had to look in another paper for the lyrics she wrote long ago but hasn't sung for a while. Karin deviated from her usual repertoire to grant "a request" and then to bring some life to the place with a fast song, which was an exception in two ways: different from her usual style and rhythm and in literary Croatian rather then in dialect. Mirjana ran into a friend from school days who learned about the event and came to la Fortuna. Gina opened her sequence with her first MIK song "Sansego gradiću", then surprised her Mom with a sentimental song mentioned above.
Everybody was listening, crying, dancing, laughing...
At the end everybody stood up and gave these extraordinary guests a very long and very warm applause. Clearly, they need to come back again soon!