Big Band of Czech Radio celebrates 50 years of its existence

Foto: Khalil Baalbaki, ČRo

The legendary Big Band of Czech Radio is celebrating 50 years of its existence. The history of the band goes back to the 1960s, when it was called the Czechoslovak Radio Orchestra. Over the years, the band cooperated with most of the country’s best known jazz and pop musicians. On Wednesday it will celebrate its anniversary with a concert at Národní Dům in Prague.

Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  ČRo
The Czechoslovak Radio Orchestra was founded by the excellent jazz musician and composer Karel Krautgartner, who was in charge until 1968. Throughout the time, many personalities whose names have become part of Czech jazz history have passed through the orchestra; among them Karel Hála, Vlasta Průchová and Laco Déczi. The very first concert of the Czechoslovak Radio Orchestra took place on March 28, 1960 at Prague’s Obecní Dům.

Felix Slováček, who was in charge of the band from 1983 until 2002, explains what it was like to work in close cooperation with the radio:

Felix Slováček

“The advantage was that we went to work regularly and had enough time to prepare for recordings and concerts, unlike today, when people have a regular job and in the evenings play in an orchestra. We didn’t have to fight for survival and we could concentrate solely on music. There were two other conductors, one in charge of the jazz and one in charge of the dance orchestra, so we really had a wide scope.”

The orchestra has always promoted young singers, many of whom would later become big stars, such as Karel Gott. The home studio of the orchestra is the A studio in Prague’s district of Karlín. Every month it holds a public recording with a special guest, which is aired live on Czech Radio.

And what will be on the programme of the concert to mark the 50th anniversary of the Big Band of Czech Radio? Jan Spálený is the orchestra’s programme director:

“We cannot fit 50 years of our history with all of the soloists and other musicians into a programme which is one or two hours long, so we decided to focus on what we are doing now and invite people we cooperate with now. All we are doing now is the result of the effort of Karel Krautgartner and of the 50-year-long history of the orchestra.”

Among the guests at the concert will be Karel Gott, Marta Kubišová, Eva Pilarová and many others whose career has been closely connected with the Big Band of Czech Radio.