A Night to Remember
The 23rd Annual Slovak Ball featured Slovak Jazz legend Peter Lipa
The Slovak-American Cultural Center (S-ACC) or as it is known in Slovak, Slovensko-americké kultúrne stredisko (SAKS), organized its 23rd successful Slovak Ball, a black tie event, once again at the Royal Manor in Garfield, NJ. The NYC based non-profit organization, which was founded in 1969, has been active in organizing a variety of cultural, artistic, sports, and scientific oriented events in the tri-state area.
This year’s gathering of Slovaks from all over the United States and Canada brought together almost 300 guests. It was the largest Slovak Ball organized since its inception in 1993, with the first Slovak Ball entitled “Slovak Independence Ball” which celebrated Slovakia’s self-determined split from Czechoslovakia. Among the many attendees at this year’s Slovak Ball were distinguished guests from the diplomatic community including H.E. Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the United States, Peter Kmec and his beautiful wife Monika; H.E. Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the United Nations Frantisek Ruzicka and lovely wife Ingrid; Consul General of the Slovak Republic in New York Jana Trnovcova; Consul General of the Czech Republic in New York Martin Dvořák and his wife; Assistant Secretary General for the Department of Political Affairs at the United Nations, Miroslav Jenca and his wife Helena; and representatives from both the Slovak Embassy in Washington, DC and the Slovak Consulate in New York.
FCSU was represented by Honorary Consul Joseph Senko and Chairman of Friends of Slovakia and his wife Albina, and Director of External Relations Andrew P. Rajec, and members of branch 45 and Branch 746. Representatives of various Slovak organizations also came to support the efforts of SACC, including Mr. and Mrs. John Duch, Chair of the Slovak Heritage Festival, Ester Mlch founder of Czech And Slovak Association, Inc. in Boston,MA, and acclaimed Broadway star and recording artist Luba Mason.
Miss Sabina Sabados, President of the Slovak-American Cultural Center and Chair of the Ball Committee, welcomed all those present at the Ball. Father Francis Conka, a Slovak priest and member of the New York Oratory of St. Philip Neri, pastor of Our Lady Of The Sacred Heart In Tappan, gave the invocation. In attendance were also Fr. Martin Kertys, also anoratorian, who serves the Slovak community at the parish of St Cyril & Methodius Church in Clifton, as well as Fr. Stefan Chanas of St. John Nepomucene in New York City.
The evening began with a riveting performance by professional dancer, AnnaPROKOPOVIČOVÁ a native of Trebišova, and her partner Vlad Kvartin. They are currently ranked as top 10 in the world in under 21 years of age division and top 15 in the world in the adult division.
Special guest performer, violinist Filip Pogády, one of the most promising violinists of his generation and praised by the press for the beauty of his tone and his “lightning-like virtuosity”, captivated the audience with his performance of two classical pieces.
The evening wouldn’t be complete without a special performance by the guest of honor, Slovak jazz legend Peter Lipa, who is often referred to as the Father of Slovak Jazz. Born in Prešov, Slovakia, Peter tended to music from an early age and learned to play the violin, trumpet, trombone, and guitar. After graduating from the Faculty of Civil Engineering Slovak Technical University in Bratislava, he worked as an editor of the Czechoslovak Radio and later studied journalism at Komensky University in Bratislava. He didn’t start his musical career until the early 60s. In 1968, the Blues Five, for which he was a lead singer, was honored at the 2nd Beat Festival in Prague. In 1978 Peter Lipa started his own band Combo under the name “Peter Lipa Band¨ which is still in existence today. In parallel, Peter works and sings with the Visegrad Blues Band, EU4, and Traditional club.
Peter Lipa has created a distinctive vocal performance with an emphasis on lyrics. His music comes from a combination of jazz and blues, influenced by singers like Jimmy Rushing, Ray Charles, Al Jarreau, Joe Cocker and Bobby McFerrin. He was the first singer who applied the Slovak language in jazz. His repertoire features blues, swing and jazz standards as well as his own original compositions. Already in the 80s he ranked among the first five male European jazz singers according to Jazz Forum. In 1976 along with Miloš Paška he started an annual jazz festival – Bratislava Jazz Days. Since then, he also started MC-ing his own regular radio jazz program. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the Slovak Jazz Society was established whose presidency assumed Peter Lipa.
Unfortunately, due to communist censorship, he wasn’t allowed to record an album until he was 40 years old. His most powerful experience in music was a duet with American vocalist and conductor Bobby McFerrin. The maestro invited him on stage at the end of his concert in Bratislava 1986.
As a singer, Peter Lipa has performed all over the world and recorded 25 albums in Slovak and English. Three of his studio albums have been listed among The 100 Greatest Slovak Albums of All Time, such as Lipa spieva Lasicu (2005), v najlepších rokoch (2001),and Naspäť na stromy (1995). Most recently, his latest studio output entitled 68 (2012) peaked at number forty-eight on the Czech Albums Chart. Attendees of this year’s Slovak Ball had the opportunity to meet Peter Lipa in person and listen to him perform some of his most memorable songs live, including “balada o štyri kone vrané”. It was truly an unforgettable experience for all those present!
In addition to the program, guests danced all night long to the brilliant live music of the talented band, Express, led by Marek Soltis. Many genres of music were covered, from Slovak folk to modern pop.
The evening concluded with a rich raffle featuring prizes such as a roundtrip ticket to Vienna; a weekend getaway at the Hamptons; a weekend stay at the luxurious Hotel Elysee in New York City; choice of dinner at the resident of H.E. Peter Kmec, Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the United States, or dinner at the residence of H.E. František Ružička, Permanent Representative to the United Nations; New York Rangers hockey stick autographed by forward Rick Nash #61; Basket of Cheer from Slovak Goral Vodka Master, produced in Stara Lubovna and winner of many international awards; and much more.
The Ball’s success was attributed to the many devoted members and long-time volunteers of the Slovak-American Cultural Center as well as the tireless efforts of the Ball Committee, comprised of Miss Sabina Sabados, Mrs. Zuzana Krcmar, Mrs. Zuzana Maziarz, and Mr. Peter Krajnak. The most important note of gratitude goes to each and every person that supported the organization through their attendance at the event. S-ACC hopes to continue the wonderful tradition of hosting the Slovak Ball.
Save the Date -The 24th Slovak Ball will be held on Saturday, February 25th, 2017!
A sincere thank you to our
Photography by Marek Lukac
Photography by Rado Lesay