Celebrate community and culture at the LPCA!
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Spend a few hours working on volunteer projects to support our arts programs and our facilities. Then enjoy an afternoon learning about the traditional dance and music of the Balkans and the Shenandoah Valley, capped off by a cooking demonstration and a feast featuring favorite foods from Croatia.
About Pickers' Paradise - A Collaboration Between Two Bands
Tamburitza and bluegrass share more in common than virtuosity on stringed instruments; both are but one piece of community gatherings that consist of multiple treasured traditions. Participatory dance is central to these musical forms when enjoyed in the cultural communities where they thrive, whether square dances in the Blue Ridge and Alleghenies of Virginia or kolo dances (circle or line dances where everyone moves together, hand-in-hand) at weddings or in the neighborhood community halls of Pittsburgh and other industrial centers in the Upper Midwest. In previous generations, square dances regularly took place at frolics, or house parties, held in someone's house—after the furniture had been moved outside—to celebrate the successful completion of a community harvest or other communal work day (a corn shucking or a sugar cane grinding, for example). At Balkan family and community celebrations, tamburitza music and dance still occur alongside beloved traditional dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
About the Chef and Outdoor Feast
Joe Grlica is a first-generation Croatian born in the working-class suburbs of Chicago. Many of his family members played tamburitza music; the sounds of Balkan string music filled their home on a regular basis. During their festive gatherings and holiday parties, his father Zvonko and his uncle Mike would cook traditional Croatian recipes, often preparing dishes that used what his father had harvested that year from hunting. Joe's father and uncle passed these recipes down to him; once he had his own family, he began to make them in his own home, sometimes adding his own experiments and variations. Joe explains, "The art of making these dishes is the use of homemade sausage and smoked meats that give it the flavor that cannot be obtained in any seasoning.... It's the wood that makes it good."
Joe will be preparing two dishes, kotlovina and peka. Traditionally cooked outdoors over an open fire, kotlovina is popular in Zagreb and northwest Croatia; synonymous with feasting and friendship, it is both the meal and the pan in which it is prepared. Meat is seared on the wide outer rim of the pan before it is added to the vegetables, water, and wine rendered into a sauce in the inner depression. From the Dalmatians on Croatia's Mediterranean coast, peka gets its name from ispod peke ("under the dome") and refers to the method of cooking this favorite dish. Meat or seafood is combined with vegetables and potatoes in a tray and covered by a bell-like dome. This is placed in the fireplace and covered with embers where it slowly cooks—up to two hours—in this self-contained oven.
About the Bands
Pickers’ Paradise features two groups, Tamburaški Sastav Ponoć from Pittsburgh and Danny Knicely’s Next Generation from the Shenandoah Valley, with some of the finest young musicians carrying these traditions into the 21st century. The cross-cultural musical sparks will fly and the jams will sizzle when these artists meet and trade licks on stage.
About the Dance Instructors
Beth Stafura is a Balkan dance instructor with over 20 years' experience. She began performing and dancing to tamburitza music in her family's home and their Pittsburgh neighborhood as a young child. Having danced with the Duquesne University Tamburitzans (DUT) in college, Beth has since been a dancer and instructor with numerous ensembles and workshops in Pittsburgh and throughout the U.S. and Canada, including returning to DUT, this time as a teacher.
Hannah Johnson, who will play fiddle and call square dances for Danny Knicely's Next Generation, devoted herself as a teenager to the traditional old-time string band music she heard at local fiddlers' conventions and square dances. She spent many evenings at the old community dances in western Virginia and eastern West Virginia, dancing or playing to the calling of local masters such as Ellen and Eugene Ratcliffe. Hannah studied traditional southern circle and square dances with the Ratcliffes in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, and today she is an in-demand caller throughout Appalachia and the Mid-Atlantic.