By Theresa Parker
From November 2015 issue of Texas Polka News
Music Publishers of America (MPA) has released Then and Now, a CD based entirely on music from its Vitak-Elsnic (V-E) portfolio. The CD is the company’s first venture into recording V-E music, part of its objective of reintroducing the V-E brand to a new generation of music lovers.
It’s getting lots of attention with airtime on both Internet and traditional radio stations, steady sales, and even interest from the Grammy screening committee. The entire Then and Now album is being considered for best album in the American Roots category, which includes blues, bluegrass, folk, and regional roots (such as polka) music. The single track recording of Snow Waltz, featuring amazing vocals by Abby Broeniman, is being considered for best regional roots performance.
Something for Everyone
“This album has a little bit of something for everyone, including people not that familiar with polka music,” said MPA President Steve Harris. There are 14 songs on the CD, with some played as originally published by V-E decades ago, such as Helena Polka (1925), Crackerjack Polka (1949), and Holzauction Schottische (1926). Others, such as Red Raven Polka, Rain Rain Polka, and Schneider Polka, are completely new arrangements from Alex Meixner, Grammy-nominated performing and recording artist, music producer, and MPA Vice President.
“And there’s another twist,” Steve said. “We’ve added brand-new English lyrics to some songs that either never had them or that were originally in Czech or Polish.”
Steve penned the new lyrics to Snow Waltz, Rain Rain Polka, Tinker Polka, Julida Polka, Chicago Waltz, and A Night in May Waltz that are on the album.
Steve has written a novel in an earlier life, but this was his first foray into song writing. Where Czech or other lyrics already existed, he enjoyed researching the original meanings of the songs, which served as the muse for his lyrics.
The Vitak-Elsnic All-Star Band, led by Alex, was pulled together specifically for this project. “Each musician brought a unique style and skill set to the studio, and the end result turned out beautifully,” Alex said. In addition to Alex, Grammy-nominated Hank Guzevich of Polka Family, as well as recording veterans Michael Morris (Praha Brothers), Ed Klancnik, Don Hunjadi, Joe Tierney, Richard Watson, and Sam Broeniman round out the band. Alex, Hank, Michael, and Abby perform vocals. “Abby is simply awesome,” Steve stated. “She sings from the heart and really delivers.”
Abby has been featured on RFD-TV’s Mollie B Polka Party. She’s now attending college in Wisconsin and comes from a polka music family. Her grandfather, Ernie, is an outstanding tuba player, who has developed many tuba players, including his son, Sam, Abby’s dad. Sam performed with the U.S. Army Band and with his dad’s group, Dorf Kapelle. You can hear Sam on tuba on Then and Now.
As Seen on Mollie B
The Broenimans are snow birds who reside in Mission, Texas, during the winter. That’s where Mollie B first heard Abby sing on a Dorf Kapelle CD that was playing while riding for a day trip to Mexico with Steve and others. Mollie was wowed by Abby’s voice, and immediately signed her up to appear on the Mollie B TV show. Abby also has appeared on Mollie’s Christmas program on RFD-TV. And all that while still in high school!
In addition to the rave reviews on Abby’s Snow Waltz, another cut is gaining a following - Nina Bailando/Pretty Dancing Girl, which features Michael and Hank on vocals. Michael wrote the Spanish lyrics. Alex has been playing some of Then and Now tunes at his gigs, and reports Pretty Dancing Girl is by far the favorite.
“Then and Now celebrates the legacy of the Vitak-Elsnic Music Publishing Company. It’s definitely not a normal ‘Alex album’ – but it’s a really special album to me,” Alex said. “It allowed me to revisit some classic polka tunes and perform them in an old school, traditional Midwest style, as well as update a few of them into more contemporary arrangements. I hope you’ll enjoy checking out the album as much as the boys, Abby, and I enjoyed making it.”