MUNSTER | The Duquesne University Tamburitzans got a rousing welcome from a near-capacity crowd Sunday at the Munster High School auditorium.
The oldest multicultural song and dance company in the country, the Tamburitzans are in the midst of a tour that takes them from Florida through the Midwest to the East Coast. The Sunday performance in Munster was the troupe’s only Indiana stop on the 2013 schedule.
While onstage, Tamburitzans in traditional folk costumes dance and play folk instruments such as the jaw harp, stick bass and goat drum, in addition to the accordion, upright bass, violin, coronet and clarinet.
Sunday’s performance took the audience on a tour of Eastern European nations, including Serbia, Greece, Germany, Slovenia, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Bulgaria.
Audience members got a lesson in culture and geography as each number focused on a different nation.
For Slovakia, audience members learned men traditionally dressed in shirts that left the midriff bare. Legend has it that the king caught peasants stealing food and hiding it under their shirts. To solve that problem, he made everyone cut their shirts and wear them shorter.
During a Macedonian number called Sedenka, which means Gathering, male and female dancers teamed for an intricate display of step dancing. During Detvanka Zabava, Slovakia, two troupes of male dancers engaged in friendly competition that included clowning and even a little bit of gymnastics.
The Tamburitzans’ mission is to preserve and perpetuate the folk cultures and traditions of Eastern Europe.
The group was formed by Dr. A. Lester Pierce in 1937. He brought his Slavonic Tamburitza orchestra from Austin, Texas, to Pittsburgh, where it was enthusiastically received by the city’s ethnic communities. Pierce and Duquesne University negotiated a work scholarship program that eventually resulted in the Tamburitzans.
Now in their 76th year, the Tamburitzans, all full-time Duquesne students, are headquartered on campus in Pittsburgh. Members are granted scholarships both from Duquesne and from the Tamburitzans Scholarship Endowment Funds. The group’s library also houses a world-renowned collection of international folk artifacts.