Vladimíra Krčková recently performed at Life Fashion Café in Prague. She sang songs like “Once I had a secret love”, originally written for Doris Day in the 1950s. Standards like this one form the core of Krčková’s repertoire. Most pieces she performs are English-language tunes, but the singer also throws in the occasional French chanson and Spanish classics.
Krčková is only 26 years old, yet one website has already dubbed her “the Czech Jazz Princess” and her vocal ability is exceptional for such a young singer. Perhaps the most astounding element of her performance is the nonchalance with which she presents even pieces that are very difficult to sing.
“My family loved jazz very much. I first started doing jazz dance. I was in a dance group and doing physical theatre. We danced jazz and blues and some other American styles of dancing. And with time, I realized that I needed to sing it, too, not just dance it. And then I started singing with a big band. Later, I moved to Prague and now I just sing and compose music.”
Before moving to Prague, Krčková studied musical and dramatic arts at the conservatory in Brno. When she was offered a Berkley College scholarship, she didn’t hesitate and left the Czech Republic to study at the well-known music school in Massachusetts. Later, the Czech singer was admitted to the famous New School in New York.
One of the highlights of her time in America was touring with John Serry. The Grammy- nominated pianist has played with stars such as Aretha Franklin and Liza Minnelli. What is it like to collaborate with a musician of his caliber?
“Well, John is really great. When I first met him and sang with him, I knew immediately that I wanted to do every single performance and that it was reflecting what I felt inside. We had an amazing connection and it was so easy to deal with each other musically. He’s a really great guy, and he goes straight to the point, to the heart of the music. Anything can happen, but you’re really safe. You can do a lot of stuff that is artistically hard, but in the moment you’re doing it, it suddenly becomes really easy.”
Krčková applies the same philosophy in her work as a voice teacher. She believes that singing should come easily and that a sense of inner balance is the key to learning how to express oneself through song.
“I think the most important thing is to release the right things from the person who wants to learn how to sing. When you are clear on that, and are calm inside, then you sound great and you know more and more what you are doing.”
I asked the singer how the Czech approach to teaching voice differs from the way singing is taught in America.
“We have a lot left to learn when it comes to music education here in the Czech Republic. In my opinion, it’s not effective; it’s not an education suitable for the arts at all. It’s very hard to compare, American education is very clear, British education is great. They go and work with your soul, too, not just with your skills. Here in the Czech Republic, it’s very hard, you have to be very lucky to find a professor or teacher that will also help you deal with your emotional issues. And you always deal with them when you practice.“
What is the scene like here in Prague in terms of jazz singing? Is there a lot of space to experiment or are audiences rather conservative?
“Well, in my opinion, audiences are really willing, the problem lies somewhere else. I think the people who own the venues are more conservative and they are afraid to offer something new, like a jazz performance. Maybe it’s better for theater venues, and it’s easier there. But as musicians, our problems are dealing with managers rather than the audience. I think people are really sensitive and more and more educated. And they seem to enjoy seeing new stuff more and more.”
“I haven’t performed here for so long, but what I can say is that the level of musicianship in the city is getting higher and higher, there now are a lot of people here with great skills and musicality. I think we’re on a good track to becoming really European and one of the world’s destinations for good music. I think the problem is that a lot of people think that jazz in Prague is really great because there used to be a really amazing scene here. Now, a lot of people go and study abroad and bring new and open-minded approaches back to the city.”
Krčková is keeping busy these days. On top of teaching children and adults to sing fulltime, she is a guest soprano in the a-cappella group Voxtet and has been performing around Prague with her own repertoire. With so many projects under her belt, what does she consider the highlight of her career so far?
“What was really great was when I performed with Karel Gott, our most popular singer here in the Czech Republic, he’s 70 now but he’s got this great energy inside of him. We performed with him, and also with beat boxers, so it was sort of a hip-hop and pop fusion. Our performance was aired on Czech Television on their prime time New Year’s Eve show. That was fun. And in terms of jazz, touring with John Serry was absolutely amazing. To work with somebody who has played with Aretha Franklin or Liza Minelli was a really pure and beautiful experience.”
The episode featured today was first broadcast on February 19, 2010.