Trumpting Czech

Opus Osm

The Czech National Symphony Orchestra’s Prague Proms is an annual mid-summer music festival, this year (June 21-July 23) featuring a mix of classical, jazz, and choral music. Opus Osm managed to catch a busy Jan Hasenöhrl, founder of St. Blaise’s Bigband as well as of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, for some questions.

First, about the trumpet: Mr. Hasenöhrl started playing his instrument of choice when he was 8, he says, inspired by his trumpet-playing uncle. “Playing the trumpet isn’t just classical, or just jazz; I mainly play classical but I like playing in small groups as well,” Mr. Hasenöhrl explains. “My favorite is actually to play solo concerts of classical and Baroque music.”

Next, about St. Blaise’s Bigband, which has been playing a unique blend of contemporary big band sounds spiced with Czech expression for 16 years. Besides concerts in the Czech Republic and at the Prague Proms, they’ve also played in Switzerland and London. Their latest CD, entitled Waiting for Art, was introduced at Prague Proms in 2010. For Mr. Hasenöhrl, founding St. Blaise’s Bigband was his dream, and he appreciates the different aspects Czech jazz and Czech classical music bring to the local cultural scene.

“Czech classical music is well-known all over the world … composers, soloists, conductors and orchestras,” he says. “As I see it, our jazz is getting involved with world jazz slowly. But my feeling is Czech jazz musicians are on a good level.”

Prague Proms Surprise

He admits surprise at one result of the Proms festivals. “The idea was to do a festival of good music for people not familiar with Czech music and musicians,” Mr. Hasenöhrl tells Opus Osm. “Originally we thought people attending would mostly be tourists, but now we sell more tickets to Czech people.”

Prague Proms is a big undertaking, and with less than ten people working on it, festival time becomes an intensely busy month.

“We’re up all night preparing for the next day,” Mr. Hasenöhrl explains. “For the whole month, it’s nothing but this, no kids, no dogs …”

He adds that after six years, he feels the whole team has more experience. This year they were pleasantly surprised to have sold three times more pre-sale tickets than in previous years, according to the festival founder.

“I think we did a better campaign,” he explains. “We started in January. Also we are bringing in better names and the festival is becoming more well-known.”