My mother had a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice. When she was a little girl working on the family farm in Slovenia, the family received a letter from a music school in Ljubljana inviting their daughter Leapolda to be sent there to study singing because they recognised her potential. Leapolda's father refused this request as he said all hands were needed to work the farm. This is a tragedy as I am pretty sure she would have gone on to become one of Slovenia's singing stars, and her life would have been very different.
Both my mother and father came from the same village in Slovenia called Ostrožno Brdo, which is located near Ilirska Bistrica.
My Father was born in 1928 and died in 2000.
He was the instigator in orchestrating the first Slovenian music classes at Slovenian Club Adelaide in 1970/71 from which came the band Triglav.
Teachers are important in passing on knowledge, but people with vision, organisational and management skills are equally important for without them things would not begin or continue.
My father was a champion of Slovenian culture and particularly at a time in the 1970’s when there was a ‘white Australia’ mentality of Anglo Saxon values stranglehold on Australian culture he stood up to that by declaring with his actions that Slovenian culture is just as important.
If there were more people of his calibre and commitment I don’t think we would have any problem with engaging second generation Slovenians in our community.
One of the important events that the band Triglav performed at was welcoming the
Ansambel Lojze Slak to Slovenian Club Adelaide with Slak songs in 1972.
The Ensemble leader Lojze Slak was very impressed.
In recognising his passion for sustaining Slovenian values in a foreign country Slovenska izseljenska matica awarded him a certificate in 1982 for which he was deeply grateful.
My Father was instrumental in forming in 1992 Slovenski pevski zbor Adelaide - Slovenian choir Adelaide. He was the driving force behind the choir.
During his time the choir performed at Slovenian Club Adelaide events, Slovenian club Jadran and Planica in Melbourne, various events for the wider Australian community in Adelaide - Australia Day Parade, Christmas Parades and performances, Council multicultural days, Adelaide University Multicultural Week etc.
He always held the belief that music defines the society we live in and it has the power to bring us together and to touch and reach anyone on earth. Music and singing is not just something you do in your younger years he would say, it is a way of life. If you ever find yourself in a Slovenian village you’ll see what he means, the impact it has on daily life. Even at home I would often walk into the kitchen and find my father and mother singing a song. They harmonised in perfect harmony and it was a joy to listen to. Funny, how the world can’t be like that. If it had not been for my father I would never have taken up music nor would I have persisted with it when I was going through music school, because it is extremely hard work. It’s far easier to watch television and play cricket (though I was asked to train with the State squad) and football with your mates. He gave me a lot of encouragement, and a few threats along the way I might add through his steely determination, but I’m glad he did. He drove me everywhere when I was learning music and playing in bands and picked me up late at night when the shows finished. That’s devotion and commitment. I remember once we were walkingndown an alley in the city on a winter’s night carrying what looked like some kind of case when we were approached by a policeman demanding us to open it. Opening the case only revealed our accordion. We were just going home after music lessons. I guess we must have looked like two suspicious characters up to no good; my father like~ to wear a long black leather coat and with his dark black hair pushed back, it promoted the look.
I was enrolled at the Adelaide College of Music (the largest music school in Adelaide at the time and affiliated with the Adelaide University Conservatory of Music) and my first grade music teacher spent more time playing music himself in my music lessons than I did. He didn’t prepare me in practice and theory for the exam. My father was rope able at the outcome of the exam results and threatened the music school with legal action and exposure in the Advertiser for running a scam operation. The music teacher was promptly removed and a new one installed.
My father’s effort saved many a student’s musical aspirations and year I obtained an honours pass in music and I was awarded the best accordion player at the school, thanks to dad’s effort years earlier. He picked me up late at night when the shows finished.
In my final year I obtained an honours pass in music and I was awarded the best accordion player at the school, thanks to dad’s effort years earlier.
My father played a rather unique ‘musical instrument’ that involved his mouth (can’t give too much away, family secret!) by which he could hum melodies with this “instrument” and make a variety of noises. When he was in hospital after a hernia operation, some years ago, he would make these sounds in earshot of the nurses. Of course they being concerned that their pristine private hospital had been invaded by mice, birds and such like animals scurried around the ward looking under beds and everywhere else for these invading rodents to keep and save the hospital’s reputation. We, the family, were embarrassed by his behavior but my father thought it was a hoot - he was quite a character. With the strength he had left he was still able to muster up enough energy to play his ‘musical instrument’, the night before he died.
My father was a proud Slovenian who pushed boundaries and looked further afield for achievement. Through his cultural interests he developed the first Slovenian band in South Australia in the late 1960’s and participated in choral singing through the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and during the early part of 2000, while undergoing radiation treatment. In 1992 he formed our Slovenian Choir (when he asked me to assist him, how could I refuse), which has performed at Slovenian Clubs (Adelaide and Melbourne) and at some of South Australia’s premier events. He has carefully catalogued every appearance of our choir.
As a tribute I have dedicated the very first Slovenian song I ever wrote, when I was 13 years old, to my father. It is called Bistriška dolina (he named the song way back then - my father comes from a region in Slovenia called Brkini and a village called Ostrožno Brdo, which is near a town in the region called Ilirska Bistrica).
Music I have composed is with people and places such as the Governor General of Australia, Government House Canberra, and the President of Slovenia. All this would not have been possible without my father’s encouragement and the determination he gave and showed me throughout his life.
Words from my father, Alojz Vatovec, extract from his poem Tujini domači spomini. The poem tells about immigrating to a new land with no money (empty pockets), finding prosperity in the new home the pockets are no longer empty. Even though we live in another country, we will always remain Slovenia’s sons and daughters and wish her all the best.
Zares je lepo na svet’,
hočemo lepo živet’.
Naj bog ti dobro srečo da,
naša krasna Slovenija!
V tujino smo odrajžali
da bi tam srečo našli.
Tujina nam je dala kruh,
žepek ni več suh.
Slovenija nam predraga si,
smo tvoji sini in hčeri.
Ostali tebi zvesti smo
pod tujo zvezdico.
I am proud to say that the music score of his poem and the music I wrote to accompany it is in libraries (Slovenian Club Adelaide Archive, Ilirska Bistrica council (the council region where he was born in Slovenia), State Library of South Australia, National Library of Australia in Canberra, the British Library in London, the New York Performing Arts Library in New York City and the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.) for future generations to reference.
And ... another example of my father's activity as promoter and facilitator of Slovenian music. For his 60th birthday he and my mother went to Slovenia to celebrate this occasion. Whilst in Slovenia he bought a diatonic accordion, not for himself but he knew a Slovenian in Adelaide (Ivan Benc) who used to play it. So he loaned the accordion to Ivan, who had not played the accordion for years. This kick started and sparked Ivan's interest in playing again. Ivan eventually bought his own accordion, and he played it right to the end of his life.
My father also knew a Slovenian who used to play drums, so he bought a drum set and gave it to Karlo Filipčič to play. Ivan Benc and Karlo entertained people at Slovenian Club Adelaide on many occasions."