Saturday afternoon, the members of the Vineyard Classic Brass Band assembled in a corner of the rustically elegant Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club, overlooking Sengekontacket Pond in Edgartown.
They were there on a warm, beautiful, sunny day to celebrate the life of Ladislav “Ladi” Navratil of Edgartown, a native of the Czech Republic who died Feb. 14 at the age of 36 of a rapidly-progressing illness.
It was a quintessentially eclectic Vineyard gathering that reflected the strengths of our community. Islanders of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities, assembled in a clubhouse rooted in the Vineyard’s hunting and fishing traditions, to say goodbye to a man born thousands of miles away who arrived on these shores and made the Vineyard his home.
Members of the West Tisbury Congregational Church, where Ladi sang in the choir, stood in the middle of the room under the frozen gaze of a deer, a moose, and a striped bass, among other creatures, and sang “Let the Life I’ve Lived Speak for Me,” an American spiritual by Joe Carter.
Friend and co-worker Stephen Hart played two original compositions, one on Native American flute and another on guitar.
Saskia and David Vanderhoop, salsa dance instructors, took to the floor with members of their dance group, not to entertain, Ms. Vanderhoop explained, but to dance in honor of Ladi, one of their group.
The formalities began that afternoon with a performance by the brass band of which trumpet player Ladi was a member.
Edson Rogers of Edgartown, Island trumpet player for all occasions, announced that the first song would be our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.” The second would be the national anthem of the Czech republic, “Kde domov můj?” — in English, “Where is my home?”
“Kde domov můj?” is not on the play sheet of the Vineyard brass band.
Frank Dunkl of Chilmark, bandleader, found the music and organized rehearsals. “We thought it was appropriate,” Edson Rogers said when asked about the choice of music. He added, “It is the best you could possibly do. Music is the universal language.”
The Czech nationals in the room sang along. There were some tears.
A Christian hymn, Native American flute, Latin beats, a stuffed moose head, and “Kde domov můj?” … much is made of the Vineyard’s natural beauty and attractions. It is in the quiet corners of Vineyard life where we so often understand the strengths of our community. When death knits us together.
Community Chorus, community gift
The generosity of year-round and seasonal Islanders comes in many forms. We take care of our friends and neighbors when they are ill, we rally around when they grieve, and we write checks and volunteer countless hours to support the rich assortment of human, civic, and cultural services underpinning life on Martha’s Vineyard.
A clarion reminder of the latter occurred this past weekend at the resplendent Old Whaling Church. Glowing with sunlight and bedecked by Margot Datz’s remarkable trompe l’oeil paintings, the Old Whaling Church is itself a tribute to generous giving and the wise stewardship of the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust. The Edgartown landmark passed from beautiful to transcendent this past weekend, though, as it provided a stage for the 90 voices (plus, for their spring concert, a string quartet and a tenor saxophone) of Island Community Chorus.
Imagine the precision an ambitious choral performance requires, and you’ll get an idea of the rigor and dedication music director Peter Boak and pianist L. Garrett Brown share with chorus members in order to make such wondrous sounds. Now in their 19th season, the chorus’ dedicated and talented Vineyarders volunteer countless hours learning and rehearsing and joyously performing rich, complex, and inspiring programs three times each year. The music, the setting, and the time and money needed to enrich Island life are a very great community gift.