Music is a very important role in the Serbian American community. The early Serbian immigrants from the Military Frontier areas brought with them their native mandolin-like string instrument called a tamburica (tamburitza), which varies in five different sizes and ranges. George Kachar, one of the first teachers of tamburitza in America, brought the love for his music from his homeland to a small mining town in Colorado, where he taught during the 1920s.
His most remarkable students were four Popovich brothers who later became famous as the Popovich Brothers of South Chicago. Having started by traveling from community to community, they gained prominence by delighting Serbian American audiences for sixty years with their art, while also achieving national recognition by appearances at the White House and by participating in the "Salute to Immigrant Cultures" during the Statue of Liberty celebrations held in 1986.
During the annual Tamburitza Extravaganza Festival, as many as twenty bands from around the country perform for three days, with performers undoubtedly vying for the Tamburitza Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri. The new students and performers are actively recruited and trained by the Duquesne University Tamburitzans, which maintains a folklore institute, grants scholarships for promising students, and makes good use of the enthusiasm generously shared by the junior team called "Tammies." A few active tamburitza manufacturers in the United States continue to assure an adequate supply of this favorite instrument.
The immigrants who came to America after World War II brought in a different style of music performed on accordions. Drums, keyboards, and the amplified modern instruments came into use in the last few decades. These musical groups mostly play the newly composed folk music, which combines traditional instruments, melodies, and styles with modern instruments, lyrics, and production techniques. Generally speaking, be they older or newer immigrants, the Serbs sing of love and death, of parting and hope, of the tragedy that accompanied them throughout their history, and of the heroic deeds that helped them triumph over adversity. One of the most beloved and nostalgic songs is Tamo deleko , "There Far Away," referring to the distance of the homeland.
Serbian American choirs, performing mainly at social functions, were formed early on, such as the Gorski Vijenac (Mountain Wreath) Choir in Pittsburgh in 1901, and the Branko Radičević Choir in Chicago in 1906. There were no church choirs in the early part of the twentieth century, until Vladimir Lugonja (1898-1977) founded the Serbian Singing Foundation of the USA and Canada (SSF) in 1931 as an antidote to the Great Depression. Many choirs joined in, connected with the church parishes, and totaled thirty by World War II. Their membership in the federation was contingent on their singing in church. Since 1935, the federation has been sponsoring annual concerts and competitions where both secular and liturgical music are performed. A number of Serbian priests have come from the ranks of the SSF; many are well known directors and conductors such as Adam Popovich, Director of South Chicago's SLOBODA. A respected veteran of the Serbian American choir movement, Popovich and his choir performed at the White House for Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidential inauguration.
The gusle , another symbol of Serbianism, is a string instrument similar to a violin. Gusle musicians have used it since the earliest days of the Serbian kingdom in accompanying the chanting of epic poetry. Although this instrument is capable of rendering only a few melancholy notes, the guslar , or bard, manages to evoke myriad emotions. During the Ottoman period of Serbian history the guslari traveled from village to village bringing news and keeping alive ancient Serbian heroic epics and ballads, which played a role of utmost importance in the development and preservation of the Serbian national conscience and character.
The kolo , meaning the circle, is the Serbian national dance, and by extention the Serbian American dance. Danced in a circle as well in a single line, the dancers hold each other's hands or belts, and no one, from teenagers to grandparents, can resist the lively tunes and sprightly motions. A good number of folk dancing ensembles throughout America has kept alive the rich repertoire of folk dancing, and it is difficult to imagine any kind of Serbian celebrations without a performance of one such ensemble.
- The oldest choral group in the North American continent which is still flourishing is the SSS Branko Radichevich of Chicago, IL which was founded in 1906.
The first convention of the Serbian Singing Federation was held in October, 1931 consisting of representative from the following signing societies: Chicago - S.S.S. Branko Radichevich, Gary - S.S.S. Karageorge, Detroit - S.S.S. Ravanica, South Chicago - S.S.S. Sloboda, Youngstown - S.S.S. Vojvoda Putnick.
It was this historic convention that laid the foundation of the Serbian Singing Federation and set its direction for future expansion and growth. Elected as the first President of the SSF was Petar Sekulovich from Gary, Indiana. Both the March 1931 conference and the October, 1931 convention were held in the Christopher House in Chicago, and the SSF Headquarters until 1936 was in the city of Highland Park, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan.
♪ S.S.S. Branko Radichevich, Chicago, IL
♪ Stevan St. Mokranjac, Chicago, IL
♪ S.S.S. Njegoš, Cleveland, OH
♪ Kornelije Stankovich Choir, East Chicago, IN
♪ S.S.S. St. George, Lenexa, KS
♪ Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Cathedral Choir, Pittsburgh, PA
♪ Serbian Men's Choir "Kosovo", Northeast Ohio
♪ S.S.S. Karageorge of Merrillville, IN
♪ S.S.S. St. Elijah, Merrillville, IN
♪ S.S.S. Aleksa Shantich, South Bend, IN
♪ S.S.S. St. Nicholas, Omaha, NE
♪ Stevan Mokranjac, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
♪ Petar Krstich Serbian Choir, Steubenville, OH
♪ S.S.S. Mita Topalovich, Joliet, IL
♪ S.S.S. Sloboda, Lansing, IL
♪ Holy Trinity Church Choir, St. Louis, MO
♪ S.S.S. Ravanica, Detroit, MI
♪ St. Elijah Serbian Church Choir, Aliquippa, PA
♪ Dr. Laza Kostich Serbian Singing Society, Midland, PA
♪ Draža Mihailovich Choir, Cudahy, WI
♪ St. Romanos Choir, Toronto, Canada
♪ S.S.S. Stevan Šijački, Milwaukee, WI
♪ S.S.S. Bishop Stefan Lastavica, Schererville, IN
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