european tour


by Karla Linkner, President of the DCB

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The Dexter Community Band, conducted by Bill Gourley, embarked on their first European Concert Tour June 21 to July 8,2001. In the first part of this three-part article, the band toured Prague and Telc in the Czech Republic and Vienna, Austria.

After leaving Vienna on Thursday, June 28th, the band traveled through the countryside of southern Austria and Slovenia. The area was studded by small well-kept farms and white stuccoed houses. In Slovenia, the farm plots were many but smaller. There would be a two-acre plot of com, then a twenty-foot square of cucumber, then a few acres of wheat, then fifty feet of beans, etc repeating in similar patterns. Most farmhouses had chickens strutting about the yard. The telephone poles were interesting. Instead of being straight long poles, they were crooked short poles. They were used just as they grew.

At each of the boarder crossings, the band held their breath, remembering the difficulty of crossing the boarder from Germany into the Czech Republic with percussion equipment. The problem was that the rented tympanis (kettle drums) had opaque heads rather than the usual translucent heads and thus could conceal something inside. However, a few taps on the drums heads by the border officials showed that only music rhythms were inside and we were on our way to our next concerts.

At the Croatian border, we were met by Dr. Milford Wolpoff, the band's solo clarinetist and noted paleoanthropologist from the U ofM. Through Milford's association with fellow paleoanthropologist and friend Jakov Radovci6 of the Croatian Natural History Museum in Zagreb, all the activities in Croatia were organized.
On the outskirts ofKrapina, in the very north of Croatia, is the largest single Neanderthal site in all of Europe. In the 1970's, there was a rebirth of interest in the Krapina site. Much new information has been learned through the newest scientific techniques. Interest in this site was supported by the Croatian Natural History Museum, where the Krapina Neandertals are housed, and a new museum at Krapina was proposed. However, with the civil war in Yugoslavia, funding for the new museum dried up. Through the concert tour of the Dexter Community Band, it was hoped to draw new enthusiasm and attention to the Krapina site and the building of a modern museum. Dr. Wolpoff, while on this tour, was interviewed numerous times regarding the need for the construction of this new, modern museum.

Milford and his wife Rachael Caspari (also a paleoanthropology professor) gave field lectures about the site and it's implications in the development of present day understanding of Neanderthals. The Krapina site is one of the most important sites of Neanderthal man in the world because skeletal remains of almost 80 individuals have been found in 15 burial areas here. This number allows comparison of similarities and differences of individuals living in the same time period. Neanderthal remains at this site have been cal~bon dated to 135,000 years old. Neanderthals here were short and stocky, like some modem people, but with large nasal passages. They lived and hunted in small famitf groups. Recently, microcondriacal DNA testing has shown some groups had red hair and freckles.

The town people of Krapina welcomed the Dexter Community Band with an outdoor buffet of local hors d'oeuvres, wine, and Rakija (a plum brandy ofKrapina). After the reception, the band was brought to Trski Vrh, their small local church atop a hill overlooking Krapina. [The name of the church is not misspelled; it is just that many Croatian names and words seem to be short of or absent vowels. Actually, the "r" is rolled as in German and it becomes a vowel.] It was surprising to find an ornate church on a remote hilltop of a small town. The church was surrounded by a Romanesque wall and courtyard. It had a very ornate baroque interior but had suffered wear over the centuries. The people were very proud of their church, completely built by local townsfolk.

A local singer sang several classical pieces accompanied by the church organist. It was a real treat for several band members, who were also organists at their local churches around Dexter, to visit the organ loft. After some coaxing and prodding from other band members, band member Sandra Jameson was persuaded to play the magnificent old organ. At the end of the visit, the band took up a collection and presented this gift to the church to use in their restoration efforts.

While the band was visiting the church, Bill Gourley, the conductor of the Dexter Community Band met with Neven Franges, the well-known Croatian jazz pianist and university music teacher. Neven would be performing "Rhapsody in Blue" in two concerts with the band. He had never played any Gershwin before and was enthralled with the piece. Even for professional, this is a difficult piece and first-time pianists are usually are coached by other pianists as they learn the piece. Neven, however, learned it alone, practicing it two to three hours a day in the month before the concert. Because of the intricacy of the music, the first week he spent memorizing the music, playing it only in his head. He gained great respect and appreciation for Gershwin.

The early evening concert had been advertised in town and many local people came to the concert hall. The hall was spacious but had not been used for a concert of this nature for many years. When band members sitting at the back of the stage asked for "more lights, please", they were told, through an interpreter, that the back lights had not been used since wwn and they were afraid to turn them on. Most were burned out and some popped when turned on. Lights or no lights, the concert went on, with the band's announcer, John Stosick, announcing each piece in English and Jakov's daughter, Seki, repeating (the announcing) in Croatian. It went well and the audience was quite appreciative, applauding for two encores. "Rhapsody in Blue", in particular, was quite a hit with the local people.

After the successful concert, the band was hosted by the Croatian Internet company HT -HNET to a dinner at a local restaurant located on a mountaintop. The view from the outdoor patio of the restaurant with the green valleys and full moon was breathtaking. A five-course traditional Croatian meal was served on the patio and accompanied by a live band playing both Croatian and big band music and dancing.
After the meal, much merriment was had when DCB president Karla Linkner made presentations to the Mayor of Krapina, and to Jakov Radovci6 and wife Danka, and to Neven Franges the pianist. The Mayor was eresented a plaque from the Village of Dexter to the town of Krapina. Gifts were exchanged. Zelko V., a famous Croatian celebrity, comedian, actor, and director injected much humor with special Krapina toasts and customs.

Neven was presented with a special plate signed by Catherine McClung. At a later time it was learned that this plate was proudly displayed on Neven's piano in his apartment. The close to a long, but enjoyable day, was a short trip to Zagreb and the Hotel Espanada.

The Hotel Esplanada in Zagreb, Croatia was built in 1925 as a stop for the Orient Express. It is a five star hotel. The main hall had photos and letters of famous guests; such as Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Richard Nixon, and Leonid Breznev; who had stayed at the hotel. When band members went to their rooms they found packets from the Zagreb Tourist Bureau. In these packets, were heart- shaped necklaces that read "Zagreb", as well as a book about Zagreb, post cards and a CD explaining the history of the city. (people in the Zagreb were especially pleased when band member wore these mementos while in the city.) The following morning at the sumptuous breakfast, one band member said, "I have felt like I should have worn a tuxedo for this wonderful breakfast".

Due to the fullness of the previous day, band members were given a "day of rest" if they so choose. However, a number of the more adventuresome opted to go a trip to Vindija Cave to learn more about Neanderthals and specifically the techniques used by Jakov Radovci6 in his excavation of this important (Neanderthal] site. The bus trip to Vindija was very exciting. At times, the busses wheels had no more than an inch or two to spare as the mountainous road twisted and turned. Once near the site, all had to undergo a good hike up to the cave, or more properly the rock shelter. Here Milford and Jakov gave much information about the techniques of excavating an archaeological site.

Saturday 30 June was the "Big Day" in Zagreb. The day began after breakfast with a tour of the city with local guides. The walking tour started at the Espanada and continued through many city parks and by museums to the inclined railway, which lead to the Old Gate and the oldest section of the formerly walled town. There the band visited the gothic St. Mark's church with its brightly colored tile roof with the imbedded ancient city crest then visited the large Renaissance Cathedral of Zagreb. Even though it was Saturday afternoon, the large Cathedral was completely full of worshipers and the service was broadcast to the square outside. The Croatians are very devout and sincere.

Next was Jelaci6a Trg (square), the large central square of Zagreb [with a statue of Jan Jelaci6a, the 1850 general and freedom fighter]. Here band members were surprised and delighted to see large posters of the band's concert, for that night, on kiosks in the center of town. The last area visited was the colorful Dolac Market of Zagreb with the fruit and vegetable section in the main square, the meat and bread markets underneath, and the flower market in a side square.

After the city tour many band members were able to visit Jakov's laboratory in the Natural History Museum and learn more about Neanderthals. Here they viewed (and could almost touch) the actual 135,000 year old Neanderthal bones from the Krapina. The group learned that the Neanderthals were intelligent beings who had evidently worked together in their pursuit of baby rhinoceroses for food. This interpretation was developed by one Milford Wolpoff’s past doctoral students and past Dexter Community Band saxophone player, Preston Miracle. Rhinoceroses formerly lived in central Europe and numerous baby rhinoceros bones are found in Neanderthal sites. It would take a great deal of hunter cooperation to lure baby rhinos from their very protective mothers. The bones of the Neanderthals show definite markings that lead some to think that perhaps there was some cannibalism among the groups. However, another line of thought tends to the theory that the specific marks could be made in the process of cutting the ligaments and tendons of the deceased to "bundle" them for burial. Many skull pieces show evidence of past injuries that had healed. The Neanderthals evidently had very active and hazardous. It is also proposed that Neanderthals were not all dark haired, but research leads scientists to believe some were blond and blue eyed, and others red haired with freckles.

In the afternoon of Saturday June 30, the band was scheduled for a special reception at the Mayors Palace. In this reception the Deputy Mayor of Zagreb gave the DCB a wonderful book, in English, about the city of Zagreb. When all band members have enjoyed this book the band plans to donate the book to the Dexter Library so that more people can learn about Zagreb. Karla Linkner, the president of the Dexter Community Band, then presented the Deputy Mayor with a plaque from the Village of Dexter along with a plate from Catherine McClung. These gifts were well received. The band then had the pleasure of being served refreshments by tuxedo-clad waiters. The Mayor's Palace was very beautiful and grandiose. The ornate furnishings were of the kind the band had seen displayed in other palaces, but no one was allowed to sit on those antiques. Here one used the antique chairs, ottoman, and tables. Richard Nixon had visited these same rooms! The band was almost speechless.

The highlight of the evening and of the whole trip was the Dexter Community Band's concert in Trg Preradovica (preradovica Square) in Zagrab. This square is the intersection of several pedestrian only streets in the city center and has a large number of outdoor restaurants and bistros. It is the main gathering spot of the people of Zagreb in the evenings. The Ministry of Culture had constructed a large elevated stage with cover, TV lights, and TV towers in the middle of the square. Arriving at the concert stage, band members were meet with TV lights, cameras, and microphones. Bill Gourley kept the band's focus and prepared the band for the ensuing concert. During band's warm-up, 1,000 people had already gathered. There were no chairs so they stood.

At precisely 8:00 p.m., the concert began with live broadcast over Croatian National TV and the Internet! The band was introduced by the national celebrity and comedian, Zelko V. with much fanfare and my many accolades, especially for Milford Wolpoff and his work in Croatia. Many of the band's friends and relatives in Dexter had received calls from Croatia to access HT -mNETs Internet site and they watched spellbound as the concert was broadcast live from Zagreb. The concert can still be accessed at

The program of" All American" music was warmly received by the over 3,000 people standing for the two-hour concert. Nevan Franges playing of "Rhapsody" was followed by thunderous applause by his countrymen. The band played a new arrangement of" Jelacica March" by Strauss. This special arrangement for the Dexter Community Band was made by the director of the National Croatian Military Band. This was a real treat to the audience and brought shivers to one's spine. (The band will perform this march in one of their upcoming concerts in Dexter.) Two encores, including the ever popular "Colonel Bogie March", concluded the outstanding day. At a post concert get-together, all of the organizers of the band's tour in Croatia were thoroughly pleased with the concerts and the band's reception in Croatia.

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