News & Info



Songs for a beleaguered organization

Unique musical pairing will benefit women's rights group

By Will Tizard, May 06, 2004

Building bridges between Bach and Ukrainian Jewish music is something not every performer would be willing to try. But traditional singer Kateryna Kolcova-Tlusta and violinist Bibi Pelic are no ordinary performers, and their May 6 concert is about much more than musical bridges.

A benefit for Liga lidskych prav (the League of Human Rights), the concert will raise funds for that organization's programs to combat domestic violence, child abuse and police misconduct, according to Gwendolyn Albert, spokeswoman for the event.

Concert proceeds are coming at a crucial time for the league. The goal at the moment is simply to "keep the people paid and the lights on," says Albert, adding that the people in question are very few. The league relies mostly on volunteers to run its three component programs.

Based in Brno, the organization counts among its recent successes a media campaign in late 2003 in which a diverse variety of women's groups persuaded Parliament to pass its first law identifying domestic violence as a crime. Another significant development was a visit by a U.S. judge and prosecutor who offered training to Czech police in the effective handling of domestic violence.

In a country where some studies show that up to 38 percent of women have suffered such abuse, the league fills an essential role, says Albert. Yet fundraising remains difficult. Up to now, the league has been unable to get financial aid from the Soros Foundation, a major philanthropic nongovernmental organization in the region. And the league is not yet eligible for EU funding.

But there's a painless way to help keep the organization up and running: Go see Kolcova-Tlusta, who has performed traditional Jewish music for a decade in the Czech Republic and who will be singing both old and modern Ukrainian songs for the benefit.

The concert program is titled "From Generation to Generation." Kolcova-Tlusta says the music was chosen to "show how people's personalities are influenced by songs that last generations."

Coming off a recent yearlong research trip to the United States, Kolcova-Tlusta says to expect Western influences in her music, already a diverse repertoire that includes klezmer, Balkan traditional music and songs in Ladino, the old language of Spanish Jews still spoken within some Roma communities to the east.

Pelic, a Croatian-born classical violinist who was recently awarded the EU Mahler prize, will take the stage to join Kolcova-Tlusta. He will then play solo, performing Bach partitas and pieces from the six solo sonatas of Eugene Ysaye, a 19th-century Belgian violinist and composer.

Pelic's Bluebird foundation, an organizer of the event, has a Web site with more background and donation information ( The league site ( maintains a news listing of significant developments on the domestic-abuse front.

Pelic says the unconventional program was inspired by the common ground of religion between Kolcova-Tlusta's repertoire and Bach's compositions. "It fits together," he says. "Bach is also religious in his way. Somehow it corresponds - both are spiritual. It should be an exceptional music performance."

In addition, says Kolcova-Tlusta, "We want to convey the message that those who were forced to leave their countries for different reasons and find themselves in trouble are, in spite of it, trying to make the world the better place with their art."


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