Messzi tábortüzek - "Distant Campfires"         
   
 

These 4 little books and the attached CD's contain a representative sample of Hungarian folksongs. It is a small sample of a rich musical trove: the data base of the Hungarian Science Academy's Music Institute records over 150 000 songs. Some of these reach back into the centuries well prior to the birth of Christ, when the ancestors of the Hungarians lived on the vast steppes below the Ural mountains. Others are from the various periods of Hungary's 1100 year-long history within the Carpathian Basin of Central Europe.

In the early years of the 20th century, two great composers - Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály - realized that out there in the rural villages, the people still preserved the musical heritage of their ancestors. In Budapest and in the larger cities, popular songs and operetta arias had already started to erode this treasure. Bartók and Kodály embarked on the mission of collecting and recording the folksongs before they fell victims to modern city-culture. In addition, they led the way in disseminating these songs throughout the nation. It is thanks to them - and to the many who followed their example - that today we possess a vast musical heritage that continues as a living culture, as Hungarians sing these songs, wherever they may be.

Yes: wherever they may be. Because today, as a consequence of the tragic 20th century, one third of the Hungarian people live outside the present borders of Hungary. After World War 1, over 3 million found themselves living in foreign countries even though they had not moved at all: instead, the country's borders had moved-over their heads, so to speak - when Hungary's historic territory was reduced by two-thirds. In addition, throughout the century, another 1.5 - 2.0 million were forced to find refuge in countries of western Europe and overseas, in Australia and the Americas.

The life of the person in whose memory this collection is being published - Margit Kokron Dömötór - exemplifies Hungary's turbulent recent history. Forced by WW-I I to leave the country at the age of 6, she grew up in Switzerland, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, spending most of her adult life in Brazil and in the USA. As a young girl she joined the Hungarian Scout Association Abroad, which has troops in North and South America, Australia and Western Europe. While she held a number of leading positions, Hungarian folklore became her special area of expertise, which she transmitted to several generations of young people. She knew close to two thousand songs, and it is from among these that we have selected the contents of these CD's. Upon her death in 2001, the Scout Association, together with the Hungarian Cultural Society of Connecticut, decided to create a memorial foundation which would continue her work of preserving and disseminating Hungarian folklore.

The title of this series -Messzi tábortüzek - means "Distant Campfires". Wherever ín the four corners of the world the campfires may burn, those sitting around them and singing these songs will know that - bridging distances and national borders - they are united by a common cultural herítage which has come down to them through the ages.