Abstract of the Dissertation:  "The Croatian Sacred Musical Tradition in Los Angeles:  History, Style, and Meaning" by Janice Foy, Ph.D. (UCLA, 1990)

Southern California is the home to two important sacred musical traditions.  In San Pedro the Croatian parishioners are mostly Dalmatians who sing for weekly masses at Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church.  The music is transplanted from their churches in Dalmatia to American soil.  This dissertation will show that they sing in a more “Pan Croatian” style rather than in a typically “Dalmatian style”.  The vital link to the Dalmatian style of chant is evident in their priest’s execution of the Gregorian chant.  This priest, who is Fr. Mate Bizaca from the Island of Brac, modeled his singing style and interpretation of the chant after his pastor’s style of chant singing from the island of Hvar.

The other tradition represents the Northern Croatian tradition which is practiced at St. Anthony’s Croatian Roman Catholic Church in the city of Los Angeles.  The number of parishioners has dissipated due to changing demographics, but still active are the tamburica and Kolo groups comprised of young people, mainly American-born, differing from those at Mary Star.  St. Anthony’s Choir is a volunteer choir and its tamburica orchestra ‘Croatia’ is responsible for bringing the musical styles of Northern Croatia, ie., Slavonia, to their Croatian Masses.  This tamburica orchestra is led by Tom Yeseta who is also a composer and arranger who provides much of the music for each service.  Unlike Fr. Bizaca, Fr. Segaric and Fr. Diomartic at St. Anthony’s sing only in the traditional Gregorian chant style.

The central thesis of the dissertation is that historical patterns, stylistic interpretations and many levels of meaning in Croatian sacred music serve as cohesive factors in preserving Croatian culture and Croatian ethnic identity within the larger macrocosm of the multi-ethnic Los Angeles community.  The present-day practice of this tradition was studied through participant-observation, interviewing, recording of the music, videotaping of the Masses, and through the study of the Croatian sacred musical repertoire.

In the face of adversity, the Croatians here and abroad have continued to celebrate their Catholicism via the maintenance of their sacred musical heritage.  Unique to the United States is the incorporation of the tamburica orchestra as instrumental accompaniment to the hymns and to the Ordinary of the Mass.  This was not allowed in Croatia as the tamburica is not considered a sacred instrument but a secular one.


Full text is at the UCLA music library and is available for purchase through University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor Michigan.  Information:  1- 800-521-0600


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