Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The return of Vašek

As Kate wrote about in this post, an important part of our stay in Prague in 2010-11 was Vašek Vacek. Part of it was that he was instrumental in making some connections that helped get us over there. And once we were there, he provided a range of companionship and hospitality.

A few days ago I saw a poster in the metro for a performance Thursday at the State Opera, the one of Prague's 3 opera houses that I had not yet been to. So I sent Vašek a text to see if he were interested in going. He was, and called back suggesting as well that I join him at a small cafe for some music the night before. Which I did, and which was tonight.

Šalmovská literární kavárna (Šalmovská  Literary Cafe) is a small place that holds about 50 people. It's tucked away on a side street half a block off of a major thoroughfare near Charles Square. Tonight was a French evening. A woman who teaches at a French "gymnasium" in Prague, and who has a wonderful voice, held forth with Edith Piaf and other chansons, accompanied by a relaxed piano player. In between songs there were humorous readings about winter in Czech (with one in Slovak), some translated from Peter Mayes.

As the singer was making her way to the stage, Vašek asked her if she knew any songs in English, since there was an American in the audience. She only knew a couple of lines, but she was very good-natured about him importuning her.

Towards the end of the first set, she called up a clarinetist, whom she introduced as a fellow with both God-given talent and good looks. He told about how he was heading to city hall the next day to deal with a fine. He and his buddies had been out playing on the street, and they hadn't wrapped it up right at 9pm, so the police had come through to disperse the crowd and fine the musicians. "But we resisted them."

"How did you resist them?"

"By not paying."

So now they have a bigger fine for having resisted a police order.

After some more banter with the clarinetist, the singer said that, in honor of the American guest in the audience, they'd do a song about Armstrong. The tune turned out to be "Let my people go," with French words from which I got roughly "Louis" and "Armstrong." Then the clarinetist and pianist did something loosely inspired by "Summertime," and the set was over.

Neither Vašek nor I could stay late, so we left at the break, but not before Vašek had chatted with the clarinetist and gotten his card.

Off we went into the city's drizzle. Another thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Thank you, Vašek!

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