In today’s Mailbox we talk to our very special guests, Tracy Andreotti, the winner of this year’s Radio Prague annual competition, and her husband Henry Claude who came into our studio.
Tracy Andreotti won a weeklong stay in Prague, courtesy of PARKHOTEL Praha, for herself and her husband, Henry Claude, for her entry in Radio Prague’s annual writing contest. Congratulations once again and welcome to Radio Prague, it’s great to have you here.
TA: Thank you, it’s great to be here.
HC: It’s a pleasure.
Please, tell us, where are you from and what do you do?
TA: We both live in Saint Louis, Missouri, and we’ve lived there for a while. I’m originally from California, lived in New Jersey, in Massachusetts. But we’ve been based in Saint Louis for a long time. We are both musicians. I play cello which I’ve played since I was eight years old. I’m a freelancer, I play in different orchestras. We play with our opera company, we play pretty much anything for hire and then a lot of other groups that we form on our own. And I am also a teacher of cello and beginning strings for children.
Tracy, you wrote in your entry that it was Josef Škvorecký’s books that drew your attention to Czech culture and eventually Radio Prague. Is it really true?
TA: Yes, it’s definitely true. I was interested in the history and the culture of the Czech Republic and I had actually for a long time focused on and really liked the German writers and I also really liked non-fiction. I started reading a lot about the fall of communism and I was always so impressed and intrigued by how it happened here, in this country. So certain names started cropping up and one of them was Josef Škvorecký. And so I finally decided, ok, I will try and find one of his books. And as I wrote about it, I found The Engineer of Human Souls. I absolutely loved his writing, I think he’s just an incredible story-teller. And then I started reading little blurbs about other people on the back of his books or on the cover: “he is like Hrabal or you will like Milan Kundera” or whatever. So then I started reading all of them. Yes, he was the first and he just opened up all these doors to me.
Do you listen to Radio Prague or do you read our website or do you combine the two?
TA: I don’t listen on the shortwave radio. I found [Radio Prague] on my computer when we got new MacBooks a few years ago. It was listed under News and I was actually looking for BBC and I saw Radio Prague as well. So that’s when I started looking at the website and reading that and checking it. So it’s the first thing I go to every day and I look at that. I also listen, I have it set up on my computer where I can listen to what is being broadcast at the moment. And then obviously the podcasts, as well.
Do you have the same passion for Czech musicians as you do for Czech authors?
TA: I do for a few. What’s interesting is, of course, you grow up and as you’re studying classical music, you’re playing Dvořák and Smetana, you know them and especially as a cellist, I mean, the greatest work ever written for cello is the Dvořák Cello Concerto. So there are those and then it wasn’t until I got this big interest that I discovered the music of more contemporary although still old Czech composers Janáček and Bohuslav Martinů whom I absolutely love now. And actually on Radio Prague one of my favorite people who I’m completely obsessed with right now is Iva Bittová. There had been a [Music Profile] on her and then I went on YouTube and saw some of her videos and now I have all her albums and whenever I feel depressed, I listen to some Iva Bittová.
I’m asking also because I know you took part in a couple of our monthly mystery Czech quizzes concerning musicians.
TA: Oh yes, when did Schubert die, that one I knew.
If you know the answer to this one, please don’t give it away.
In September we are looking for the name of an opera singer who was born in 1807 in the east Bohemian town of Teplice nad Metují and died in 1886 in the German city of Dresden.
You have until Thursday, September 30th to send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague. In the next edition of Mailbox we will reveal the mystery man’s identity by quoting from your e-mail. From me it’s good-bye now and many thanks to my special guests, Tracy Andreotti and Henry Claude.
TA: Thank you so much.
HC: Thank you.
The main prize for the winner of Radio Prague's annual writing contest was sponsored by PARKHOTEL Praha. Tickets to a concert at Prague's Rudolfinum Concert Hall were provided by the Prague Philharmonia.