Tonight: Muzicka gives a taste of Czech through folk music

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On Wednesday, they looked like average young people, a group of high school and college students in shorts and T-shirts.

Tonight, they won't be able to blend into a crowd quite so easily.

They are Muzicka, a lively group of students from Prague, including one American who lives in the Czech Republic, who perform traditional Czech folk music.

Wearing classic Czech costumes, they will perform at 7:30 tonight in Union Hall at Bar Marco in the Strip District.

Martin Pavelka, 22, said he and the other students are celebrating their native Czech Republic with music.

"It's part of our nationality," Mr. Pavelka said. "We enjoy playing the instruments and meeting a lot of great people."

Mr. Pavelka and his fellow performers arrived in the United States Tuesday around 6 a.m. with their instruments, including a traditional Czech cimbál, in tow.

As they begin their first tour in the United States, Mr. Pavelka said, Muzicka is looking forward to showing off its unique sound to American audiences.

"Folk music is not the same all around the world," he explained.

Czech folk songs may be different from anything the audience at Bar Marco has heard before, but their sentiments are relatable, Carol Hochman said. Ms. Hochman, 73, of Swisshelm Park, is the president of Pittsburgh's Friends of Via, which promotes Czech heritage and supports a nonprofit in the Czech Republic called the Via Foundation.

"There are songs that the village would have written and sung," Ms. Hochman said.

"They're very simple story lines. They usually have to do with young men and young women finding each other, those kinds of lighthearted songs."

Muzicka will perform mostly songs native to the Moravian region of the Czech Republic, Ms. Hochman said.

"For some of the audience who have Czech and Slovak backgrounds, the sounds of this music will be quite familiar," she said.

Those with no experience of this Eastern European music should still catch their toes tapping to upbeat tempos and lively rhythms, Ms. Hochman said.

"For Americans, it's always enlightening," she said. "It's just a way to begin to understand another culture through the art that culture can produce, that they can share in. In this case, it's the art of folk music."

And familiarizing Pittsburgh residents with new kinds of art is exactly what Andrew Heffner, Bar Marco's event coordinator, said he wants to do in the space above the bar and restaurant.

"We want [Union Hall] to be sort of an art space, a place where there is exciting, interesting, open-to-the-public kind of events," Mr. Heffner said. "We try to leave space on our calendar for things that are interesting and could fit different kinds of venues. ... It's just fun for us to have something different happening upstairs."

Admission to the concert is $10. A cash bar will feature Czech beer not normally served downstairs in honor of the international performers.

"It seemed really interesting to have this kind of music because it's unique," Mr. Heffner said. "There's not a lot of performances like this. ... There will be music that I don't think most people in this city have heard."

When Mr. Pavelka and his group pick up their instruments tonight, he said he hopes that crowd also includes listeners in their own age group who are looking for music that is new and different.

"The Czech folk music, a lot of young people play," he said. "Young people can enjoy it, too."


When: 7:30 tonight at Union Hall at Bar Marco in the Strip District, 2216 Penn Ave.

Cost: $10

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This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe: Megan Doyle: or 412-263-1953.


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