Thank-you concert blossoms into annual event

The Prague Post

Brevnov monastery hosts this year’s lineup of classical performers

When her 6-month-old daughter was struck with a bacterial infection, Lenka Nováková and her family met many wonderful doctors, hospital staff and other generous people willing to help. She wanted to thank them for the generosity they showed not only her family, but other families experiencing a crisis.

“I came across people who offered help without being asked, and it made a great deal of difference,” says Nováková. So instead of sending thank-you letters or flowers, she organized a benefit concert.

“We held the concert at Bertramka,” she says. “It was a small event, mainly friends, family, doctors and others we met when our daughter was ill.” The money raised was given to Stredisko rané péne, an organization that helps children born with disabilities. It was used to buy an eye-stimulating device for children with sight problems.

With a bigger venue and an impressive lineup of musicians this year, Nováková is hoping for even better results. “It’s going to be a spectacular concert,” she says. “The musicians involved are all playing free of charge.”

This year’s performers include the Talich Quartet, a fine chamber ensemble that plays only a few times a year in the Czech Republic. National Theater singer Roman Janál is familiar to local audiences for his roles in operas such as Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. Throw in pianist Norbert Heller along with a budding 12-year-old violin player, and you’ve got a talented group promising an entertaining evening.

The Talich Quartet will be playing Dvorák’s American Quarter. Janál is singing three of Dvorák’s Biblical songs, as well as two arias from Bach’s Christmas Oratorium. Pianist Heller will be joined by the Talich Quartet’s Petr Maceček on violin for Dvorák’s Sonatina, and Heller will also accompany the young violinist Gerardo Paitán.

Brevnov is a lovely place to see a concert, the second-oldest monastery in the country, dating back to the 10th century. Prokop Siostrzonek, the abbot of the monastery, went to school with Heller, who helped Nováková organize the concert. “Everyone who gets involved wants to help,” says Nováková.

Even the staff working the event will be volunteers. “I contacted the Prvni obnovené reálné gymnázium for help,” says Nováková. “Six students will be acting as parking attendants and hostesses and working in the cloakroom.”

The proceeds from this year’s concert will go to Kojenecký Ústav, an organization that helps severely disabled or neglected infants. “They give help and support to families with disabled children, help parents who need assistance in learning how to be parents, and act as a foster and adoption agency,” says Nováková.

Depending on the amount of money raised, Nováková hopes the agency can buy some new equipment or make much-needed building improvements. She’s also using the concert as a way to say thank you to the organization’s volunteers. “People can volunteer to become ‘aunts’ to a child,” explains Nováková. “They visit, play and give love and support to their child every week, and this lets the children form a bond with someone who is only there for them.” These volunteers will be attending the concert free of charge.

“The concert is a unique opportunity to see great artists together, hopefully raise some money for charity, and say thank you to the people who are doing the work,” Nováková says.

And that’s got Christmas spirit written all over it.