WINTER KOLEDNICA IN SLOVENIA
At the heart of Europe, where the Balkan Peninsula meets theApennine Peninsula and the Danube Basin meets the Adriatic Sea, lies Slovenia.The country, nestling between Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Italy, has a population of just under two million. Its capital city is Ljubljana. Itslanguage, Slovene, is a member of the South Slavonic family. Beyond theofficial borders of Slovenia, Slovenes can be found in areas of Austria,Hungary, Croatia and Italy. There are around 500,000 Slovene emigrants livingin other countries around the world. All of these Slovenes - those in Slovenia,those living in Slovene areas outside the borders and those scattered aroundthe world - are linked by a common culture and tradition and constitute auniform Slovene cultural area. In the past this common culture and traditionshaped the national identity and national consciousness of the Slovenes and,despite the influences of the Romance, Germanic, Magyar and Yugoslav worlds,the Slovene area formed and preserved its own unique cultural image, whichlargely belongs to the Alpine area. Thanks to their way of life and respect fortradition, Slovenes have managed to conserve, to the present day, many relicsof the past in both their material and spiritual cultures. The mostcharacteristic form of musical expression of the Slovenes is singing, althoughthe instrumental tradition is also important. Slovene folk songs consist ofnarrative songs (legendary songs, historical songs, social songs, etc.) andlyrical songs (children's songs, love songs, ceremonial songs, etc.). Slovenefolk songs are in major keys and are usually for three or more voices. Theleading voice usually takes the middle part, the upper voice follows it a thirdabove, and the bass line moves around the basic harmonic intervals. When thesethree voices are joined by a fourth voice, the fourth part interweaves amongthe other three, sometimes even ascending beyond the upper part. Songs areusually sung loudly, without changes of dynamics or tempo, and in a slow,drawn-out manner.
Singing was often connected to customs, and one such customis koledovanje, where a group of people (koledniki) go from house to house inand around the village on certain feast days and sing songs appropriate to theoccasion (although sometimes the greetings are spoken). The greetings bringhappiness and blessings to the house and its inhabitants, to the animals and tothe fields, and thus the koledniki are repaid with gifts. The koledniki performa kind of religious function and folk beliefs ascribe them supernatural power.Best known is koledovanje at Christmas, New Year and the Epiphany, althoughthere are also other types which differ considerably in terms of time andplace. Most of the koledniki are men, although children and women occasionallytake part. As a rule the singing is done without instrumental accompaniment.
In all probability these ritual visits from house to housederive from pagan times. The name koleda derives from the word calendae, theancient name for ritual house-to-house visits to mark the New Year which our ancestorsprobably adopted from the Romans. It is likely that during the period ofChristianisation - or through the intervention of Christians - the word koledabegan to be used for house-to-house visits at Christmastide. The first writtenreference to koledovanje in Slovenia dates from the second half of the 16thcentury when Primozˇ Trubar, the author of the first book in Slovene,refers to it as an ancient tradition.
The melodies of the songs of the koledniki do not differgreatly from other folk songs. The words usually contain a greeting to thehouse, a description of the event, a request for gifts, an expression of goodwishes, thanks for the gifts and a solemn farewell. In the past koledniki weregiven food; these days it is customary to give them money. At one time thiscustom would have helped some of the poorer singers get through the winter.Today the gifts are usually collected for charitable purposes.
The album contains examples of various sung or recitedkolednice (carols) and some songs from the Christmas and New Year period. Theseare just a small part of Slovenia's rich musical tradition. Some dance tuneshave also been added for their seasonal importance.
The beginning of the Winter koledovanje is announced by aSt. Barbara's Day carol (track 2). In eastern Slovenia on the evening beforeSt. Barbara's Day (4 December) singers known as polajzˇarji go from houseto house wishing happiness. Koledovanje also used to be a feature of the pigslaughter in winter. At slaughter time children (mainly the poorer ones) wouldgo from house to house, sing a song of good wishes and receive in exchange somepork or sausage. These days there is no longer koledovanje at slaughter timebut in some areas songs are still sung at this domestic celebration (track 4).
Christmas carol-singing (24 and 25 December) preserved paganbeliefs which are, however, combined with the Christian message. This period isclosely connected to nature and the winter solstice, when the days start to getlonger. At Christmas time koledniki would go from house to house and singsongs. Today, however, Christmas is more of a family holiday. People celebrateat home and sing various Christmas songs (tracks 6, 8 and 9). In easternSlovenia it was the custom on the day after Christmas, 26 December, or St.Stephen's Day, when the horses are blessed, to sing or recite St. Stephen's Daycarols. This usually happened on the eve of the holiday or first thing in the morning (track 11). Carols arenot sung on 27 December, the feast of St. John the Evangelist, but at Predgradin the Poljane Valley it used to be the custom to dance a round dance or koloto mark the winter solstice; Christianity 'disguised' this custom withcelebrations and dances to mark St. John's Day. They danced to the old balladPobelelo pole z ovcama which tells the story of three women who tear out ayoung man's heart (track 13).
Koledovanje to mark the New Year also includestepezˇkanje-Holy Innocents, today best known as a holiday for children whouse this day to 'thrash' grown-ups without being punished. On this day, 28December, we also remember the Holy Innocents massacred by Herod. Once upon atime it was adult men who went 'thrashing' and with their 'miraculous' rodsrestored vital energy (track 15). The transition from the old year to the newyear is a time when people exchange greetings and wish each other all the bestfor the new year. That is why even today New Year's koledniki travel around thecountryside wishing people health and happiness and blessing their houses (tracks17, 19 and 20).
As the Gospel tells us, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar,variously known as the Three Kings, the Three Wise Men or the Magi, followed astar until they found the Baby Jesus. Then they bowed down before him andoffered him gifts. In Europe, the singing of Epiphany carols on 5 January, theeve of the feast of the Epiphany, has its roots in medieval dramatic ritualsand is today the most widespread form of koledovanje in Slovene ethnicterritory (tracks 22, 23, 24). At Candlemas, 2 February, candles are blessed toremember the Purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of Christ inthe Temple. In the popular religious tradition Candlemas means the end of theChristmas period. In eastern Slovenia it is also marked by Candlemascarol-singing, a tradition which has also been adopted by female singers(tracks 26, 27).
The compact disc contains a series of documentary recordingsof Slovenian kolednice. The songs are recorded on various types of