CROATIAN SINGING CLUB "SLAVULJ" (Nightingale)
Present day Petrinja is located in the river Kupa valley, more exactly on the
location where river Petrinjčica empties into river Kupa. Medieval town of Petrinja was
located around ten kilometres upstream the river Kupa. Ottoman Turks located their
fortified position in old Petrinja and Croats captured it in 1595. During the following
period Petrinja became one of the most important defence positions in the area between
rivers Kupa and Una. Until 1881 Petrinja was part of the Military border region, a unique
European defence system whose main purpose was to prevent further Ottoman Turks
incursions. Petrinja became an urban centre of Banal military border with economically,
educational and cultural functions. After the abolishment of the Military border the town
continued developing as a centre of culture and Croatian national movement. During the
late 19th and early 20th century the town set an example for other Croatian towns of
similar size and it gave the impulse for the educational and cultural development of
Banovina region and other neighbouring parts of Croatia.
In the cultural history of every town the music takes an important position and it
was especially so in Petrinja. Since the early 18th century Catholic priests and Franciscan
monks from nearby Hrastovica monastery developed church music. After the Franciscans
left, teachers in Petrinja played organ in the parish church of St Lovro. First musical
societies in the Croatian and Slavonian Military border region were established during
the late 18th and early 19th century – regimental music, choirs and piano players. Music
from famous operas was part of public musical appearances held in Petrinja, Bjelovar
and Nova Gradiška around 1815. It included, among others, works of Austrian
composers W. A. Mozart (1756-1791) and Joseph Weigl (1766-1846), French composer
Nicolas Isouard (1775-1818) and Italian composer Luigi Gaspare L. Spontini (1774-
1851). Petrinja was the headquarters of the 2. banal regiment and its regimental band was
founded during the second half of the 18th century. Communal music had its roots in the
organization of communal militia (Bürger-Militz), founded in 1808. Still, before the
foundation of the Music society in 1841, the activities of the communal music were
negligible because the regimental band took the main role in all the important public
Musical societies formed in the civil Croatia and Military border during the first
half of the 19th century were modelled after the similar societies previously formed in
Vienna, Graz and Ljubljana. They were called Musik-Institut, Gesellschaft der
Musikfreunde and mostly Musik-Verein. Such societies were organized in Križevci
(1813), Varaždin and Zagreb (1827), Senj (1828), Osijek (1830) and in 1841 also in
Petrinja. During the late 1830s and early 1840s patriotic citizens and Military border
officers in Petrinja attempted to establish the musical society similar to the one organized
in Zagreb. The Musical institute in Petrinja was finally established in 1841. Its book of
regulations was taken over from the Zagreb Musical society and only on September 28,
1842 the Court’s military council approved the book of regulations for the Petrinja society. These regulations gave the possibility for the establishment of the special
Musical school within the Society, and also departments for church music, theory of
music, communal brass band and choir singing.
Independent amateur choir singing societies in Croatia were organized mostly after
the 1860. Their appearance in Croatian provinces was motivated by the need of the
patriotic groups and individuals to use the music for the Croatian national awakening and
the developing of the Croatian national consciousness. First such societies were organized
in Karlovac (1858), Zagreb (1862) and Križevci (1864). These were examples for similar
activities in Petrinja and during 1864 efforts were made to establish a society that would
gather all persons interested in the spreading of Croatian songs. The decision to establish
a Croatian singing society was initiated by Josip Břiza, a teacher of Czech descent.
Břiza was member and later the head of the men’s singing quartet of the Petrinja Musical school. He thought that Petrinja should have its own singing society and decided
to gather persons with musical and singing talents. He gave them private lessons in fourpart
singing and tried to raise interest for popular songs. Those were first steps in the
establishment of the Petrinja singing society. During the initial period the Society had a
private character and rehearsals were held in the Petrinja secondary school (today 1st
elementary school). First songs rehearsed by the Petrinja singers were a Tyrolean
marching song translated to Croatian language, patriotic song Naprej zastave slave
(Onward the banners of glory) by the Slovenian composer Davorin Jenko and the
composition Byvali čechowe statni junaci of the Czech composer František Škroup.
Teachers of music Ernest Joanelli and Johann Šplihal helped Břiza during the first years
of the Musical society existence.
Citizens of Petrinja supported the activities of the Society and in 1865 the private
Society was transformed into a permanent singing society. Stjepan Pejaković visited
Petrinja in October 1865 and distinguished citizens organized a feast for him in the house
of Gjuro Bifflin, an innkeeper and merchant. In 1864 the first agreement on the
organization of the Singing society was also held Bifflin’s house and on the occasion on
Pejaković’s visit Břiza composed "Marching song of the Petrinja singing society".
During 1866 singing rehearsals were held in the new building of the high school,
usually in the evening, thrice a week. During this period name Slavulj (Nightingale)
became more often connected with Singing society. Břiza, a teacher of natural history
and physics, made a great personal effort to train Petrinja singers, most of whom were
craftsmen and merchants along with several officers and clerks. During 1866 the Society
had several public appearances. One was on April 26, on the occasion of the consecration
of the Secondary school by Josip Lehpamer, the Petrinja parish priest. Brigadier general
Đuro Pavelić, headmaster, teachers and pupils of the School and numerous citizens were
also present at this event.
According to the available sources the activities of "Nightingale" after 1866 were
successful. During winter concerts were held in the Reading club (building called
"Golden Lion" and later "Croatian house") and during summer in the shooting range
(later the famous holiday resort PIGIK). Until May 1868 Břiza remained the most
important person for the activities of the Society. Political situation at that time was not very favourable and Petrinja was under he conservative Military border administration.
For this reason the first regulations of the Society were written during 1866 and finally
approved in 1869.
Society’s name "Nightingale" became generally accepted only after 1868. Břiza
and members of the Society were inspired to take this name probably by Petar
Preradović’s poem Jezik roda moga (My mother tounge) from 1861. Břiza set to music
poems of Ivan Trnski and Petar Preradović. Jezika roda moga was not set to music, but
it was well known among Petrinja singers. Its verses talk about the gentle and glorious
voice of the nightingale and it is not surprising that the Music society took that name.
The first concert of the Croatian music society "Nightingale" outside Petrinja was
held in Topusko during July 1868 and on September 1, 1869 the Society made an
impressive appearance in Military Sisak, on the occasion of the printing of the first issue
of the opposition newspaper Zatočnik (Captive). On that occasion twenty singers were
present and their appearance was the biggest success of the "Nightingale" since its
foundation. They received numerous professional commendations and "Nightingale"
used the opportunity to animate the foundation of the singing society in New Sisak. It
was named Danica (The morning star) and it started functioning during late 1869.
The ceremonial consecration of the "Nightingale" banner took place in Petrinja in
1872 and representatives of the most distinguished Croatian singing societies were present.
Gjuro Eisenhut composed the song celebrating the banner of the Society and Ivan Zahar
wrote the verses. Shortly after this celebration J. Břiz moved out of Petrinja and his
position in the Society was taken over by Vaclav Skop (1872-1875). During that period the
Society was present at the 2nd general assembly of Croatian teachers, held in Petrinja on
August 25, 26 and 27, 1874. "Nightingale" was invited by the Singing society Kolo from
Zagreb to take part in the celebration of the inauguration of the Zagreb University, held on
October 19 and 20, 1874. This occasion was used to promote the foundation of the Croatian
singing union. During 1875 "Nightingale" representatives took part in the ceremonial
consecration of the banner of the Croatian singing society Danica in Sisak.
"Nightingale" became the most active member of the Croatian singing union and
made an invaluable contribution to the choir singing in Croatia, despite the short periods
when its activities encountered various difficulties.
In 1878 Petrinja singing society "Nightingale" was renamed to Croatian singing
society "Nightingale". A new name fulfilled desires of the Society’s president Ivan
Petrušić and its numerous members, especially professor Mijo Biljan, Nikola Kos and
Vilim Grgić, and others.
"Nightingale" was founded in 1864 and until the final abolishment of the Military
border in 1881, followed by the inclusion of Petrinja in Civil Croatia, it became the most
important and the largest cultural institution it that town. Differently from other singing
societies, especially those in Civil Croatia, "Nightingale" did not only work on the
development of choir and instrumental music, but also gave its contribution to the
development of the musical education of Petrinja citizens. Thanks to the work of the
leading members of the Society, it also developed strong Croatian national
characteristics. Citizens of Petrinja, clergy and army officers took part in musical evenings
organized by "Nightingale", but representatives of lower social groups, and especially
peasants, also began attending these activities in growing numbers. Since the
foundation of "Nightingale" several Croatian Serbs also took part in its activities along
with its Croatian members. These Serbs considered themselves as true citizens of
Petrinja and they were loyal subjects of the Habsburg Monarchy and their Croatian
homeland. Beside them, numerous Czechs gave an invaluable contribution to the
development of the Society and several Slovenians, Hungarians, Austrian Germans and
Italians as well.
During 1881, the first year of the inclusion of Petrinja in Civil Croatia,
"Nightingale" singing choir was very successful with the new songs. The president of the
Society during that period was Stjepan Vukovinski and he wrote the verses for those
songs and leader of the choir Vinko Hendrych composed the music. One of these songs
was the second March of the "Nightingale" (the first one was composed by J. Břiza).
These songs were played until the end of the 19th century, for example on the 20th
anniversary of the Croatian singing society "Kolo" held in Zagreb in 1882, and on the
25th anniversary of the Croatian singing society "Zora" in Karlovac in 1884 and also
during the joint concert of the singing societies held in Zagreb in September 1891, on the
occasion of the anniversary exposition of the Croatian-Slavonian economic society.
"Nightingale" sang the compositions of Ivan Zajc, Vatroslav Lisinski, Josip Eisenhuth
and Vinko Hendrych and a song "Our beautiful homeland" (Lijepa naša domovina) was
preformed twice. After that there was an initiative to adopt this song as the official
Croatian national anthem. In autumn of 1891 a women’s choir was organized and during
1892 also a men and female choir with 24 female singers from Petrinja.
In 1895 Croatian musical union organized a celebration of the 50th anniversary of
Ivan Zajec’s work and representatives of "Nightingale" met with the famous Croatian
composer and soon after that he became honorary member of the Petrinja singing society.
During late 1897 Zajc composed a new march of the "Nightingale". It was its third march since its foundation.
During late 19th and early 20th century "Nightingale" organized a series of
humanitarian concerts. Most of the songs played on those concerts were compositions of
I. Zajc, F. S. Vilhar, V. Novak and J. Eisenhut and also songs composed by previous and
current choir leaders (V. Hendrych, Slavoljub Lžičar, Josip Hajek, Karlo Pienta, Vinko
Šubir, Ivan Havlua and others). "Nightingale" men’s choir made an impressive
appearance during visit to Sarajevo in June 1900. Croatian singing society "Trebević"
from Sarajevo organized a celebration and societies from Croatia were invited to join the
event. Numerous Sarajevo citizens were present and also famous Croatian writers and
scientists, for example Silvije Strahimir Kranjčević, Tugomir Alaupović, dr Ivo Pilar and
dr Ante Trumbić. In September 1900 the "Nightingale" was present at the conference of
the Croatian singing union in Varaždin and on the celebration of the 25th anniversary of
the foundation of the Croatian singing society "Vila" from Varaždin. During 1901 and
1902 the Society increased its activities, mainly on the initiative of the historian dr
Rudolf Horvat. "Nightingale" choir made impressive appearances during the central celebrations of the Croatian singing union in Osijek (1901) and Zagreb (1902). These
activities continued during the period before the outbreak of World War I and during that
time the Society was led by choir leaders Stjepan Križanić and Stjepan Ivičić. After the
war and during the first years of the new Yugoslav state the Society was successfully led
by Vladimir Stahuljak, who composed several songs, the most famous being "Petrinja
flowers I" and "Petrinja flowers II".
The great celebration of the 50th anniversary of the "Nightingale" in 1914 was
postponed due to the outbreak of the World War I. The great celebration of the 60th
anniversary of the society was not held in 1924. It was moved to 1925 and became a part
of the great celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the Croatian kingdom. Fourteen
choirs attended the "Nightingale" anniversary and in the presence of Nikola Faller, the
president of the Croatian singing union, a constitutive assembly of "Nightingale" branch
in Sisak was held.
From 1918 on almost all "Nightingale" concerts included Croatian and Slovenian
composers, but also composition of Serb composer Stevan Mokranjac and Ukrainian
composer Bortnjanski and Brezovski. Chior leader Stjepan Križanić gave an emphasis on
church music. During the Christmas folk songs arranged by Stjepan Ivčić and Andrija
Zagorac were on the repertoire but also melodies from Rudolf Matz’s "Christmas tale".
S. Križanić also trained "Nightingale" singers to sing the lamentations of the prophet
Jeremy and they were preformed in the period preceding the Easter.
In 1935 a 70th anniversary of the Society and a 100th anniversary of the Croatian
national anthem was preformed and "Nightingale" band music was founded. It had
uniforms and played a weekly concert in the central park in Petrinja. During 1937 a new
book of regulation was adopted and a new (the third) banner was consecrated. On August
15, 1937 a morning concert was held in Petrinja. Seven singing clubs were invited and
conductor of the Croatian singing society "Jug" from Zagreb was Jakov Gotovac. It was
his first appearance as a conductor and later he became a famous composer and retained
close ties with "Nightingale".
After 1945 the members of "Nighingale" were not allowed to continue their
activities and from 1948 they were included in the singing section of the Workers’
cultural and artistic society "Artur Turkulin". Nevertheless impressive results were
achieved from 1948 to 1991, mainly due to the work of the former members of
"Nightingale" – Eduard Gener (secretary and president of the "Artur Turkulin" society),
Mate Bučar (choir leader), Miljenko Novaković (singer) and others. Thanks to their
efforts in 1964 the "Artur Turkulin" society organized the celebration of the 100th
anniversary of choir singing in Petrinja. From 1968 to 1972 five festivals of Croatian
choirs were held in Petrinja. In 1972 "Artur Turkulin" singers took part in the
International musical contest in Arezzo in Italy and in 1974 in the International singing
competition in Montreux in Switzerland. From 1979 to 1991 choirs of the Society
markedly improved in quality and their concerts gained positive reception of musical
experts. "Artur Turkulin" singers took part in annual meeting of Croatian choirs in Zadar
and made appearances in Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Serb occupation of Petrinja (1991-1995) harmed the activities of "Nightingale".
Croatian population left the town and moved to the unoccupied parts of Croatia. Men’s vocal
troupe (founded in 1988) "Petrinja’s nightingales" continued its activities in exile and it was
led by Želimir Đeninović, the president of the Croatian singing society "Nightinglae".
Liberation of Petrinja in 1995 enabled the "Nightingale" to return to its town. In
1996 Josip degl’ Ivellia became the conductor and until 2004 the Society achieved the
greatest success in its long and famous history. During 1996 "Nightingale" organized
women’s musical group "Petrus" along the men’s choir. The Society made numerous
appearances in Croatia (Petrinja, Zagreb, Sisak, Bjelovar, Virovitica, Split and
Dubrovnik) and abroad. Notable foreign appearances were those in Italy (June 10-14,
1996) and during the visit to Italy pope John Paul II granted an audience for the members
of "Nightingale". The Society also appeared in Osnabrück in Germany (1996), on the
Second European ecumenical convention in Graz (1997) and in Prague (2000).
Nevertheless, the greatest success is production of new CDs. They contain melodies of
the famous, yet almost forgotten Croatian composers, preformed by the "Nightingale"
singers and conducted by Josip degl’ Ivellia. The first CD was produced during October
1997 and it contains spiritual compositions of Krsto Odak with Old Slavic texts.
This music was preformed by "Nightingale" society, oratorio choir "Hosana" of the Church of St Peter in Zagreb and Girls' choir of the Church of St Peter in Zagreb. In 1998 a CD with spiritual music of Alba Vidaković was produced and in 2000 another containing Croatian Christmas carols harmonized by Franjo Dugan. In November 2001 Men's vocal choir "Petrinja's nightingales", under the leadership of J. degl'Ivellia, choir "Hosana" and Franciscan junior choir "Cor unum" produced a CD with composition of Bonaventura Duda under the title "Soul of Christ, consecrate me". The first independent CD with compositions of Vladimir, Mladen and Juraj Stahuljak and sung by "Nightingale" was produced during 2001 and in 2003 a double CD was produced, containing the melodies of Emil Cossetta. In spring of 2004 the Society produced a CD with compositions devoted to the holy Mary of the Crucified Christ Petković. Commemorating the 140th anniversary of the "Nighitngale" activity a CD "Petrinja's music postcard" was produced.
The year 2004 is a truly impressive 140th anniversary of the Croatian musical
society "Nightingale". The celebration of this anniversary is held under the auspices of
the president of the Republic of Croatia Stjepan Mesić. The Society received numerous
awards and also the award of the Town of Petrinja for great contribution and merits for
the development and advancement of culture and art in Petrinja.
Dr. sc. Ivica Golec