MERRILLVILLE | Music from Croatia and other Eastern European nations filled the Croatian Center on Sunday during a revival of the Hoosier Hrvati Adult Tamburitza Orchestra of Northwest Indiana.
“The Croatians in the area deserve a lot of credit for preserving the culture,” said Tamara Browne, a Gary native, who came from Washington, D.C., to attend the first concert by the new orchestra. She accompanied her sister and mother, Marsha Browne and Marianna Browne, both of Chesterton.
The Browne sisters grew up in Glen Park and attended many dances and other events at the original Croatian Hall in downtown Gary during the 1970s. Sunday’s audience included multiple generations who witnessed the revival of their culture.
Founded in the 1990s, the Hoosier Hrvati (Croatian) Adult Tamburitza Orchestra of Northwest Indiana was reassembled a year ago under the direction of Rudy Grasha Jr., who was recently inducted into the Tamburitza Hall of Fame.
Tamburitza (pronounced Tahm-boo-ree-tsa) originated in Croatia as a peasant folk instrument and is the name of a family of stringed instruments that include violins, mandolins and the upright bass.
Many of the instruments used during Sunday's concert were handmade by the late Milan Opacich, who kept alive the music and heritage of the Slavic peoples, teaching generations to build instruments and play music.
“It’s good to see a nice audience,” said John Pruzin Jr., secretary/treasurer of the Croatian Sons Lodge 170 and among the 19 musicians in Hoosier Hrvati orchestra. “My job was to get you ready for this concert.”
The Prijatelji Tamburitza Orchestra of Chicago also played during the concert as special guests. The orchestra dedicated its first song to Katherine Bedalov, who recently passed away.
The finale, called "Pjesme Moje Kuce" ("Songs of My Home"), blended the two orchestras.
“The orchestra came on Tuesday nights, many of the musicians coming from Chicago, to practice with us,” Pruzin said. “It’s been a pleasure to work with them.”