Music In Their Blood The Vejvoda Family Saga
One of the most popular pieces of music ever written is the Beer Barrel Polka. You can hear it performed all over the world, yet not everyone knows that it was actually composed in 1927 by a Czech musician and band leader by the name of Jaromir VEJVODA (1902-1988) from the town of Zbraslav near Prague. Originally, it was called “Modranska polka” - later “Skoda lasky” (“Wasted Love”). It was called “Rosamunde” in Germany - in fact, over the years, it has been translated into more than twenty languages, including Chinese and Japanese.
I recently had a chance to talk to one of the three sons of the composer of this famous polka, namely Josef Vejvoda. Born in 1945, he started to study music at a very early age. At first he played and composed jazz music, performed in many bands, founded his own trio, and eventually composed some classical music and pieces for brass bands. He told me: “My father gave me some valuable advice: If you ever start composing music, remember that good music must have a nice melody, good rhythm and dynamics.” Josef conducted the famous polka himself in Carnegie Hall in 2002. He played for several presidents including Vaclav Havel and George W. Bush. A recording of the famous Beer Barrel Polka was presented as a gift to Mr. Bush and now resides in the White House library.
The Vejvoda family owns a restaurant in Zbraslav near Prague, called, not surprisingly, “Skoda lasky.” Two concerts take place annually in Zbraslav to commemorate Jaromir Vejvoda. In 1996, his granddaughter Monika took part in this concert as a conductor. Josef’s other daughter is an actress.
And the famous polka has even been in outer space! Josef Vejvoda was informed by a NASA representative that they had it on board of the spaceship Discovery and used it instead of an alarm clock every morning to wake up the astronauts!Eva Strizovska
Translated by Marie Dolansky
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