Anyone with a hankering to hear and/or dance to what might be the best Slovene polka music in the state should make a date to visit St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Isanti Sunday, Aug. 5.
The Singing Slovenes, fresh from their appearance at Branson, Mo., will be the featured attraction at the St. Elizabeth Fall Festival beginning with a polka mass at 10:30 a.m. in the church and continuing with dance music on the parish grounds.
Why do the Slovenes sing? According to co-director Frank Bucar, the group, founded in 1980, has a mission. “We want to preserve and promote Slovenian music and cultural heritage,” he said.
Bucar, who directs the multi-national group with assistant director Mary Spehar White, explained that Slovenia is a country nestled in the Alps between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia.
Though the emphasis of the group is on Slovenia, singers and performers include folks with heritages from Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Poland, France, Norway, Finland and Sweden.
“Our performances, we like to think, are educational as well as entertaining,” Bucar said. “We dress in native costumes and part of our performance includes both geographical and language lessons.”
One highlight for the group is the annual Slovanian Heritage event in Michigan. Bucar said that Duluth is hoping to host the event next year. Part of the Heritage celebration is to honor the Venerable Frederic Baraga, a Slovenian missionary who became the first Bishop in the diocese of Marquette, Mich., in 1853 and established a mission presence in Duluth in those years.
The Singing Slovenes headquarter in Gary-New Duluth and appear at festivals, churches, senior centers, nursing homes and “wherever we can take our music ministry,” Bucar said. In addition, the group has released two recordings emphasizing Slovenian music and culture.
He explained that the Gary-New Duluth neighborhood was the site of a large steel mill that employed many emigrants from Slovenia. The mill closed in 1972. Motivation behind formation of the singing group was to preserve the various cultural traits of those Alpin people who had settled the region.
“We feel that sharing the joy of our musical heritage helps promote good fellowship and love among neighbors,” Bucar said. The singers are accompanied by guitars, accordions and drums.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish is located on the corner of Co. Rd. 23 (Whiskey Rd.) and Co. Rd. 5 in Isanti. The festival will include dinner, games, a country store, silent auction, drawings and Bingo.