The weeks before Christmas may symbolize to some people hasty shopping in crowded stores or the rush to get the Christmas preparations ready. But others try to get away from the rush by attending various concerts and events related to Christmas. Many of these events are staged by amateur choirs. There are literally hundreds of choirs in the Czech Republic, and Christmas is their peak season.
December 8th is the anniversary of the death of John Lennon, who was a powerful symbol of non-conformity for young people throughout Communist-ruled Europe. On the anniversary of his death, the annual underground memorials at Prague's "John Lennon wall" during the 1980s are recalled by somebody who was there.
Czech music fans and musicians were deeply saddened on Tuesday by the news that the singer-songwriter Zuzana Navarova has died of cancer at the age of just 45. Her death came as a shock to many: she appeared in concert only last month, and received a gold record for 10,000 sales of her 2001 CD Barvy vsecky.
The writer Jan Stavinoha was born in Prague in May 1945, a couple of weeks after the Soviet Red Army freed the Czechoslovak capital from Nazi control. In 1968 the Soviet Army returned to Prague not as liberators but as oppressors. Stavinoha, then a 23-year-old student of classical music, forged paperwork saying he was a "reliable person" worthy of a passport — and fled to the West. Today, nearly 40 years later, he is a popular 'Dutch' novelist, and, he says, a "tourist" in his homeland.
Fifteen years ago to the day student protestors took to the streets of Prague demanding an end to one-party rule, kicking off a process that would quickly - far more quickly than anyone expected - lead to the unravelling of Czechoslovakia's Communist regime. Music, too, played an important role: with the outcome of those turbulent days far from certain, tens of thousands demonstrated on Wenceslas Square, singing the civil rights anthem, 'We Shall Overcome'.
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