Czech and Slovak Choral Society forming

Cedar Rapids native hoping to cast spotlight on little-known composers of his heritage

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After a career spent as a freelance pianist, singer and vocal coach in New York and Europe, Steven Vosatka has moved back to his native Cedar Rapids and is eager to return to the musical roots of his Czech heritage.

He is forming the Czech and Slovak Choral Society, a non-profit, volunteer musical group that will perform the works of Czech and Slovak composers. That was the focus of the doctoral research he started in Manhattan, before pursuing performance opportunities.

“It seems to me that there are a lot of deserving composers (who) are relatively unknown,” said Vosatka, 65, who studied with the late Julian Bern at Cornell College in Mount Vernon and earned a master’s degree in piano performance in 1979 at the University of southern California Thornton School of Music.

He went on to study opera with Vincent La Selva, founder and artistic director of the New York Grand Opera, and became one of La Selva’s pianists for his evening classes Juilliard. Vosatka’s performance career has taken him to opera houses in Germany, summer festivals and a year playing for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.

“I have all this experience and now, when I’m approaching retirement age, I need to find something to do with it,” he said.

Anyone with a choral background who is willing to sing in Czech and Slovak languages is invited to participate in his new ensemble. An organizational meeting and rehearsal will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 10 at Hus Memorial Presbyterian Church, 2808 Schaeffer Dr. SW, Cedar Rapids.

He will teach the text by rote, so a working knowledge of Czech and Slovak languages is not a requirement.

“If you’ve sung in other languages, this should be relatively easy,” he said.

“I have done this before with the Boys Choir of Harlem, with some Bartok. They pulled it off — they performed them,” he said. “I was proud of them. It’s not that difficult.”

He would like to present two concerts in the choral society’s first season. The first will pair Jan Dismas Zelenka’s Magnificat with a Czech Christmas Mass known as “The Bohemian Shepherd’s Mass.”

“It seems to be a nice complement, the two together in one program that would be done in Czech,” he said. He hopes to use a baroque orchestra in the second half, if funds allow, and is closing in on a performance venue.

Vosatka would like to have at least a dozen singers in the ensemble, to get a nice choral sound across all vocal parts. Rehearsals will be held most Wednesdays in the fall, beginning at 7 p.m. at Hus Church. Music will be provided, but participants will be asked to pay a nominal membership fee to help purchase the music.

If you go: Czech Choral group

WHAT: Czech and Slovak Choral Society

WHEN: Organizational meeting and rehearsal, 7 p.m. Sept. 10

WHERE: Hus Memorial Presbyterian Church, 2808 Schaeffer Dr. SW, Cedar Rapids

INFORMATION: Steven Vosatka, (319) 423-4585

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