Showing posts with label Prague Half Marathon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prague Half Marathon. Show all posts

Monday, May 3, 2010

Smetana's "Ma Vlast" is worth knowing

One of the great attractions of living in the Czech Republic, is that high culture is so alive, so affordable, and so accessible.  Give it another twenty years of capitalism and it may not be so. 

No American could imagine a scenario where every single person in our country knows a specific composer and his works. We all come from too many different backgrounds as citizens.  There is American classical music, but do you think more than 10% of the population knows Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" or Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man?"

When I hear those American-composed pieces, they move me in a way that I consider almost nationalistic because they so perfectly capture an "American" sound and feeling. I wish I could share that pride with every other American when the music plays.

There is a shared culture that everyone knows based on being Czech here in the Czech Republic.  You can assume that when a Czech hears the opening bars of Bedrich Smetana's "Vyshrad" tone poem from his symphonic creation "Ma Vlast" (or "My Country" in English) whenever a Czech train station announcement is played overhead on the train station loudspeaker, they all instantly recognize the opening bars of the music.

One of my blog followers told me that Czech Airlines plays "Ma Vlast" every time they land a plane in Prague coming from out-of-country.

When the Prague Half Marathon began last year, and President Vaclav Klaus set the runners off, the athletes ran from the starting line accompanied by the second tone poem of Smetana's "Ma Vlast" entitled "Vltava."   I can see why.  "Ma Vlast" is a gorgeous, stirring piece of music.  I don't even feel the nationalistic pride that a Czech would but I can imagine how it must make their chests swell.

I recommend a specific album called "Smetana Orchestral Works" recorded by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra in Municipal Hall in Prague in 2001 if you are new to Bedrich Smetana's music.  It was recommended to me by the music library staff at Prague Municipal Library.  "Ma Vlast" is included, along with another piece of music that is played often in the Czech Republic called "Wallenstein's Camp."  Click on my title to get your "Czech music soul" stirring and see the album. Where else is Smetana's music used within the Czech Republic in ways that touch citizens?

Do you have favorite pieces of classical music that represent your homeland or that you associate with a specific geographical place?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cheering on the Athletes at the Prague Half Marathon

Today my friend Anna ran her first half-marathon! What a fun and exciting challenge to set. Gulnara and I offered to serve as her "Sherpas," the people who carry the water and raisins necessary for refueling along the way.

Over 6,000 people from 79 different countries had signed up to run. It set off at the Rudulfonium and went through some of the most beautiful streets in Prague. It was probably cobblestone most of the way.

This was Gulnara's first time at a race too!

A nice Czech couple who helped us find our way.

Three fun-loving ladies from Spain
ready to run!

Adorable Anna
preps for her first half marathon

Three pals before racetime

Milan from the Czech Republic

Marc, an auditor from Luxembourg
We enjoyed getting to know people before the race
and cheering them on.

Mohito from Japan
works here in Prague
as a construction engineer.

Czech native Karel
was excited to run.

Agnes and Stephanie
are U.S. Department of Defense civil service staff
working in Germany
They were off to see the Mucha Museum while
their friend ran the race.
Thank you for your service to our country, ladies!
We appreciate it.

This woman and I had fun
chatting about her height
we never spoke the same measurement system
though so let's just say
she was a good half a head taller than me.

We American ladies had to give our native friends
a hard time about the European
way of doing things.
Notice how the male numbers don't have an "M" for male.
Men are the default.
They put an "F" for female who are the exceptions.

The parade of flags

Another Prague native ready to run

Jorg from Germany

As the race gets close to starting
you can feel the runners get jazzed
as their adrenaline gets ready to be sprung.

And they're off!

Align Center
The Prague Half Marathon
is officially opened by Vaclav Klaus,
the President of the Czech Republic.
The first piece of music played
as the runners take-off is
Smetana's "My country."

I shook the President's hand
but got a bigger kick
out of listening to two teenage Czech girls
literally squeal when they got to meet him.

President Klaus
of the Czech Republic
(he's better-looking in person than in the paper).

My compliments to him and his English teachers.
His accent when speaking in English
was practically native.

This man, who is Czech Secret Service
totally impressed me with
how graciously he did his job
with a constant smile
for those in the crowd
even as he protected the President.

The lead pack
halfway through the race.

A fun exuberant Czech runner.

It was nice to experience his enthusiasm
because Czechs in the crowd don't
cheer on their countrymen.
They just watch.
Anna said the only cheers she heard
along the way were in English.

Anna coming in strong and with a smile
near the end of the race.
Her goal was to run a 2:30.
She ran a 2:32.

I saw these braids go by during the race
and knew it could be only one woman:
Black Girl from Prague!
I was right.

Marco from Bavaria
blew us kisses as he raced.

Everyone should get a medal sometime
in their life, don't you think?

Anna happy, tired, and sore.

Can you get a better backdrop for a race well run
than Prague Castle?
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