Musicians from around the world recreate famous Hussite choral

'Ktož jsú boží bojovníci' in Jistebnice Hymn Book, photo: archive of Natonal Museum

A new arrangement of the famous 15th century Hussite choral Ktož jsú boží bojovníci or Ye Who Are Warriors of God is currently being put together by over a hundred musicians from all around the world to mark the 600th anniversary of the medieval town of Tábor. I discussed the project with its initiator Miroslav Váňa, who works as a music producer at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

“I was born in the town of Tábor, which has its 600th birthday this year, and when I discussed the possibilities of celebrating the occasion with the city’s mayor we came up with this project. We talked about different songs and this one sort of crystallised as the best possible option. It is a song that everybody knows in the Czech Republic.”

The new version of Ktož jsú boží bojovníci will feature some 60 musicians from all around the world. How does the recording take place?

“We currently have over 120 musicians who signed up for the project from the original 60, so we are happy about that. The project and the recording will take place basically in people’s living rooms and in their recording studios.

Tábor,  photo: Barbora Němcová

“We hope that the final video will not only be great musicwise, but that it will also provide the future generation with a little window into what it was like in 2020 to record something like this. So we are happy about the music part but we also hope that it will be a historical momentum that we will be able to share with the future generation.”

So if I understand it correctly, each of these musicians will record their part alone and a sound engineer will then put it all together...

“That’s correct. We had a really talented composer from Turkey, Eren Başbuğ, to compose the piece and we just yesterday sent the parts to over 60 musicians in six continents. Each of them will record several takes of their own part and the sound engineers will have to put all that together.”

Can you mention at least some of the musicians who are taking part in the project?

“For example we have jazz icon Kenny Werner from the United States. We have an amazing producer from India, Clinton Cerejo, and the singer of his band Bianca Gomez. We have the frontman of the band Dream Theatre, Jordan Rudess, who is going to be playing solos on ipad. And there will be many other amazing musicians who I think will be worthy of discovery by Czech audiences.”

Do you think the 15th century song can resonate with modern-day audiences?

“Yes, for many different reasons. First of all, the message of the song is the same today as it was before. This is a song about how to behave during revolutionary times. This is a song about good and evil and about giving rather than taking.

“So all these aspects of the lyrics are very current and some events that are happening around the world are not unlike the events that were taking place in the 15th century. So that’s one thing.

“And then musically, we had over a 100 musicians doing short videos and takes on the song. Some of the things from the jazz musicians sounded like jazz standards: the melody is very beautiful, yet very simple. So it can be turned into electronica just like it can be turned into a jazz song.”

The world premiere of the new arrangement of the famous Hussite choral, both in the orchestral and a cappella version, will take place during the festival in Tábor on September 11 and 12.