The Augustinian Abbey of St Thomas
in Old Brno
MENDLOVO NÁMĚSTÍ 1
In 1865, aged eleven years' old, Janáček left his home village of Hukvaldy for Brno. Thanks to the fact that his father, Jiří Janáček, knew the composer Pavel Křížkovský, he was accepted to a foundation at the Augustinian monastery of St Thomas in Old Brno, which was an important intellectual centre in Moravia in the 19th century. Important figures worked here such as the composer Pavel Křížkovský, the founder of genetics Johann Gregor Mendel, the philosopher, poet and journalist František Matouš Klácel, the literary academic Tomáš Bratránek, and in particular, the enlightened abbot Cyril Napp. The "Bluebirds", as the choral scholars from Old Brno were called at the time because of their light-blue uniforms, were musically gifted boys from poor families who were given a thorough musical education linked with providing music at masses and at the monastery, as well as occasional concerts and operas in Brno. From 1871 Janáček replaced Pavel Křížkovský as the director of the organ loft at the monastery basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. When he was seventy the composer wrote The March of the Bluebirds for the wind sextet Youth in memory of his childhood years spent at the monastery.
The Bluebirds! All across Brno that's what they called us lads from the Thurn-Vallesessin foundation - due to the light-blue, white-trimmed uniforms. Abandoned and merely watched over, when we were homesick, we'd stand by the barred windows, birds flew over from the prelate's garden to peck at the crumbs we gave them, small blue birds just like us, only freer than our kind.
Leoš Janáček: A View of the Life and Works (1924)