I am fairly well behind posting pictures to Nunal and likely will never catch up with all the stuff from the summer I had intended to put here. Oh well.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Texas working on a project with Texas Folklife (and particularly its visionary director, Cristina BallĂ­, who launched the effort) on helping to foster sustainable cultures of young musicians in Texas Czech polka music. I got to meet a bunch of musicians and cultural workers involved in the Czech polka scene, which was a marvelous experience.

I've been working on sustainability issues in Conjunto music, which is a real model for developing programs for teaching young musicians and vibrant traditional transfer (I've written about it here). I am currently collaborating with Cristina on a full book on sustainability in Conjunto music culture, so you can look forward to that.

This polka project is an important one and a lot of fun too, not least because it means spending time with musicians in Texas, which I always welcome.  This time around I was in some places I had never been, as well as places I love to be, like San Antonio and also Austin.

That is to say, the music playing parts of Texas, not the Nut-Haus Tea party parts of Texas. Though these elements are not rare in the state.  Case in point:

It's hard to read, but that bumper sticker says "SECEDE". It is even spelled right.

Or in front of this statute in Schulenberg (a Czech town with a polka museum and a famous old timey dance hall)

Yup, that is not one but three fetuses on this statue. The fetuses are persisting in stylized drops of blood, with some angels cavorting along the base.

Another place I went was Dallas, where I was at a Czech festival that started with a polka mass and ended in a big party with two polka bands and a lot of food. The food was ok, the music was better.

Interestingly to me, the sermon was an extremely caustic critique of the wealthy and their unwillingness to accept responsibility of the poor. Quite powerful, actually. I would not have been surprised by it in South Texas, but was a bit un[prepared for it here.

The priest is quite an accomplished harmonica player, and he played a nice version of Amazing Grace while peddling his cd at the end of the mass.  Don't worry, all proceeds went to charity.

I was a bit shy taking pictures during the mass. I wish I hadn't been. The music was supplied by three accordions and a tuba,
I was surprised by the highly charged sermon given the general political vibe.
That sticker says "fight terrorism, support a missionary." Indeed.  I was thinking of marketing "support terrorism by supporting a missionary" stickers, but that might be a harder sell

Here is the scene at the polka fest proper.  The pictures don't really capture the happy feeling and the load of kids running around. I was a bit focused on the size of the hall, which was built to accommodate thousands.

Of course, I had to stop by the grassy knoll before leaving Dallas.  It was marked.


Very strange and not welcome feeling to be at that site. On the road there are two X's taped onto the spots of the shots.  People would run into the road, grin, point at the Xs, and take pictures. The pointing and the grinning reminded me of Errol Morris' film "Standard Operating Procedure."
It was weird, this pointing and grinning.
On the way back south I managed to stop by a place I have always wanted to go --Mount Carmel.  It was very peaceful and worth visiting for that reason.  I have taught about these events for years, quite interesting to be there in person.



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