“Croatian Heritage” presentation at Miners Hall Museum on November 12

Join us this Sunday, November 12 at 2 p.m. at

FRANKLIN, Kan. – Miners Hall Museum in Franklin, Kansas is hosting a special monthly program called “Croatian Heritage” in conjunction with their quarterly exhibit “Croatian Heritage in Southeast Kansas”. The program is this Sunday, November 12 at 2 p.m. and is being presented by George Barberich.

Barberich will cover a wide variety of topics such as Croatian immigrants, employment, Croatian music & instruments, and many other subjects. He will also perform a few songs on the Taburitza. It will be followed by a Q and A session.

Barberich’s grandparents came to the United States in the early 1900s. They were immigrants from the then Yugoslavia. They wanted to leave the communist rule which they were living under. They came to Kansas City, Kansas, which had a large concentration of Croatian immigrants in a region now known as Strawberry Hill that had a similar topography to Yugoslavia. Strawberries grew unmanaged there, thus the name. The region now overlooks Interstate 70 and the Kansas City, Missouri downtown skyline.

There is a very large internationally known art collection by Marianne Gresnik of the Croatian images of the people and that of Strawberry Hill. The houses that were built right next to each other and the bakeries making povitica (potica in Slovenian) and of course the adult libations are some of her famous works.

In 1966, there were a group of parents, including Barberich’s, interested in preserving the Croatian traditions of music and other cultures. Thus, St. John’s Tamburitza classes were formed under the direction of Don Lipovac. All of them began on Mandolins because of the low cost and they were tuned to that of Tamburitza. The lessons began and they were then modeled after the Duquesne University Tamburitzans. As resources became available the mandolins were eliminated and they were replaced with actual authentic Tamburitzas.

The music, dance, vocals, and authentic costumes were all duplicated.  Lipovac hand wrote all the sheet music. Periodically, teachers from Duquesne University come and worked with them to improve their skills as well as diversify as much as possible. As they advanced in age and skill levels, they traveled and performed across the country and recorded six LP albums. There were about 40 in the performing group. As some aged and became displaced, other younger musicians entered the program. There were about 450 who went through the program up through the performing group.

The Tamburitzas were used in the original audio recording for the movie Dr. Zhivago dating back to the 1950s.  Also known as “Laura’s Theme and Somewhere My Love”.

The five main instruments of the Tamburitza family are: (The r’s are rolled.)

  1. Prim (Pronounced Preem) (Small mandolin type instrument, high pitched)
  2. Brac (Pronounced Brach) (Deeper tone guitar or pear shape style)
  3. Bugarija (Pronounced Bugariya) (Deep tone rhythm instrument)
  4. Cello (Deep toned larger body style like a guitar)
  5. Upright Bass

When all these instruments play together, it provides a full orchestra sound. Much of the music was very complicated and played at speeds reaching 6 to 8 notes per second on the Prim and Brac.  All the music had to be memorized as there is no sheet music on any stage.

On display are two Brac’s and one Prim which Barberich owns and still plays to this day. When his family relocated to Girard, Kansas he kept the music tradition alive with such greats as John Zibert, Joe Nepote, John Yoger, Bob Stewart, and a host of others. They were all polka enthusiasts. The Tamburitza was not well known in Southeast Kansas. Most of the European heritage in southeast Kansas was Slovenian and Italian.

Barberich spent some time with Don Lipovac in Kansas City, Kansas and got adapted to playing the Button Box.  And as they say, the rest is history.

The National dance for the Croatian celebrations is known as a kolo.  It is a circle dance that is all choreographed with skill and precision.  It is typically performed at weddings and other social events. 

The quarterly exhibit, “Croatian Heritage in Southeast Kansas”, is on display October 2 thru December 23, 2023. The exhibit is hosted by Phyllis (Liposek) Bitner, Trustee at Miners Hall Museum, JoBeth Nastav, Administrative Director, and Adrienne Nastav, President of Strawberry Hill Museum and Cultural Center, Kansas City.

Doors open for Sunday’s program at 1:30 p.m. and the presentation begins at 2 p.m. Admission is free. We recommend calling the museum if you plan to join us so we can plan for adequate seating: 620-347-4220.

Donations are accepted and appreciated. After the program guests will be welcome to view the quarterly exhibit.

Miners Hall Museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing Southeast Kansas coal mining history and its diverse immigrant culture. The museum is located at 701 South Broadway Street in Franklin, Missouri. Learn more at www.MinersHallMuseum.com and www.Facebook.com/MinersHallMuseum.