HISTORY OF THE ENSEMBLE

CROATIANS IN OTTAWA

Croatians in Ottawa

A work of art seems to be the earliest known Croatian contribution to Ottawa. During the First World War, a committee headed by Lord Beaverbrook commissioned a vast collection of documentary art to commemorate Canada's war efforts. A marble relief entitled The Canadian Phalanx was gifted to Canada in 1920 by the Croatian sculptor and author Ivan Meštrović. The sculpture remains under the Memorial Arch that links the East and West Memorial Buildings at 284 Wellington Street.

 

The first significant influx of Croatians to the National Capital Region began immediately after the Second World War. Many of them arrived here after spending a few years in crowded displaced persons camps in Austria, Italy or other parts of Europe. Immigration remained steady for the next 20 years, but dropped sharply after 1977, and then picked up again after the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Greater Serbian Aggressions in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s.

The 1986 census showed that 625 people claimed Croatian origins in the Ottawa-Hull Metropolitan Area, and 450 said Croatian was their mother tongue, while 200 selected Croatian as the language spoken at home. The most recent figures available from the 2016 census showed 4,130 people claimed Croatian origins in the Ottawa-Gatineau Census Metropolitan Area. 1,195 said Croatian was their mother tongue. 2,115 claimed proficiency in the Croatian language and 430 selected Croatian as the language spoken most often at home.

FROM IDEA TO REALITY

Idea to reality

In 1974, inspired by a performance by Croatian folklore ensemble Zrinski-Frankopan of Toronto at the Canadian Multicultural Festival in Ottawa, Ivan Žuger, founder of folklore ensemble Croatoan, conceived the idea of a local folklore group and began laying the groundwork for its establishment. In subsequent years, Ivan introduced folklore songs and dances to Ottawa's Croatian language school, and organized performances by visiting Canadian Croatian folklore groups led by his mentors Nikola Vrdoljak, Joe Lončarich, and Ilija Vranešić from Southern Ontario.

 

In 1976, he rekindled an interest in playing tamburitza instruments, thus making the Croatian Canadian Club of Ottawa (CCC) eligible to become a member of the Croatian Folklore Federation of Canada. In 1977, Ivan developed the successful bid to host, and subsequently led the coordination of the 4th Canadian-Croatian Folklore Festival in Ottawa in May 1978 at Lansdowne Park. As anticipated, the festival raised enthusiasm and appreciation of folklore art and created needed momentum for the organization and establishment of a folklore group. It was an exceptional event, still remembered for its warm hospitality and a magnificent show enjoyed by some 5,000 spectators at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

THE BIRTH
AND DEVELOPMENT
OF CROATOAN
The Birth and Development of Croatoan

On August 20, 1978, Ivan called a meeting of enthusiastic friends (Nicole Castonguay, Jagoda Čapkun, Dragica Juratovac, Helen Juratovac, and Jelena Kirinčić Mullen) to consider founding a folklore ensemble. The meeting adopted a motion to establish the folklore ensemble “Croatia”, (later renamed “Croatoan”) and formed its provisional Executive:

 

Helen Kirinčić -Mullen, Director;

Jagoda Čapkun, Treasurer;

Nicole Castonguay, Secretary;

Helen Juratovac, Assistant Secretary;

Ivan Žuger, Folklore Instructor.

 

They issued a call for registration and the first general meeting on October 29 and organized a folklore workshop led by Joe Lončarić on November 18, 1978. The response from the Croatian community in Ottawa was overwhelming. In total 83 individuals of various age groups registered for the folklore ensemble “Hrvatska” (Croatia), and voted to legitimize its founding provisional Executive as its governing body.

 

Following five months of training, the folklore ensemble Croatoan emerged at its first concert on April 28, 1979. Senior and junior performers combined their talents with the tamburitza orchestra in a memorable one hour show.

 

On January 20, 1979, in order to be eligible for Federal and Provincial grants, the ensemble was placed under joint administration with the CCC, as a folklore section. The unresolved issue of dual memberships (Croatoan/CCC) frustrated and deferred the election of Croatoan’s fully self-governing Executive. In the fall of 1987, the CCC conceded that Croatoan’s members should elect their own governing body independent of the CCC. The constitution of the Croatian Folklore Ensemble Croatoan was ratified in 1990 and Croatoan was incorporated as the National Capital Region Croatian Folklore Ensemble Croatoan in 1992.

 

Despite some challenges, thanks to the tireless dedication of many members and wide community support, the Croatian folklore ensemble Croatoan remained a vibrant performing group. In 1979, the ensemble gave 16 major public performances, and increased it to 20 in 1980. The first public performance by “the Croatian Folklore Ensemble” was noted in the Ottawa Citizen, Friday, February 23, 1979, page 4.

THE BIRTH

AND DEVELOPMENT

OF CROATOAN

The Birth and Development of Croatoan

On August 20, 1978, Ivan called a meeting of enthusiastic friends (Nicole Castonguay, Jagoda Čapkun, Dragica Juratovac, Helen Juratovac, and Jelena Kirinčić Mullen) to consider founding a folklore ensemble. The meeting adopted a motion to establish the folklore ensemble “Croatia”, (later renamed “Croatoan”) and formed its provisional Executive:

 

Helen Kirinčić -Mullen, Director;

Jagoda Čapkun, Treasurer;

Nicole Castonguay, Secretary;

Helen Juratovac, Assistant Secretary;

Ivan Žuger, Folklore Instructor.

 

They issued a call for registration and the first general meeting on October 29 and organized a folklore workshop led by Joe Lončarić on November 18, 1978. The response from the Croatian community in Ottawa was overwhelming. In total 83 individuals of various age groups registered for the folklore ensemble “Hrvatska” (Croatia), and voted to legitimize its founding provisional Executive as its governing body.

 

Following five months of training, the folklore ensemble Croatoan emerged at its first concert on April 28, 1979. Senior and junior performers combined their talents with the tamburitza orchestra in a memorable one hour show.

 

On January 20, 1979, in order to be eligible for Federal and Provincial grants, the ensemble was placed under joint administration with the CCC, as a folklore section. The unresolved issue of dual memberships (Croatoan/CCC) frustrated and deferred the election of Croatoan’s fully self-governing Executive. In the fall of 1987, the CCC conceded that Croatoan’s members should elect their own governing body independent of the CCC. The constitution of the Croatian Folklore Ensemble Croatoan was ratified in 1990 and Croatoan was incorporated as the National Capital Region Croatian Folklore Ensemble Croatoan in 1992.

 

Despite some challenges, thanks to the tireless dedication of many members and wide community support, the Croatian folklore ensemble Croatoan remained a vibrant performing group. In 1979, the ensemble gave 16 major public performances, and increased it to 20 in 1980. The first public performance by “the Croatian Folklore Ensemble” was noted in the Ottawa Citizen, Friday, February 23, 1979, page 4.

THE MODERN CROATOAN

The Modern Croatoan

Our performers have promoted Croatian culture at events in and around the region since 1978. They have entertained at numerous seniors' residences, malls, community festivals, as well as larger festivals such as Canada Day, the Canadian Tulip Festival, Winterlude, Carnival of Cultures, Homelands, Brockville Folk Festival, and the Drummondville Folk Festival. In January 2009 and again in 2016, Croatoan travelled to Los Angeles, and then in November 2009 to New York City, to perform as guests of Croatian groups in those cities.

 

Croatoan has participated in and supported every Canadian-Croatian Folklore Festival since our first appearance in London in 1979. In 1993, Croatoan hosted the 19th Canadian-Croatian Folklore Festival. In 2013, Croatoan hosted the 39th Canadian-Croatian Folklore Festival.

 

The Ensembles’ caliber and recognition is highly dependent on the expertise and dedication of its teachers who sacrifice a great deal of their time and energy. Croatoan would not be as renowned or respected without them. Our success is also dependent on all of the parents, spouses and volunteers who offer assistance, encouragement and their time. Croatoan could not have gained the recognition and success it enjoys today without their behind the scenes efforts.

 

Over the years the ensemble has attracted new members and expanded its repertoire, costume collection and instrument library. The quality of artistic expression has been enhanced through seminars and workshops led by professionals such Mojmir Golemac, Ivan Ivančan (mladi), Željko Jergan, and Siniša Leopold. Students have gone on to become choreographers. Today, the Croatian Folklore Ensemble Croatoan consists of many levels of dance and tamburiza orchestras and over 60 students.

 

The Ensemble’s success and future rests on the young children of Croatian decent in the nation’s capital, their parents and all those non-Croatians who endeavor to learn the thrilling harmony that is Croatian folklore. It is our mission to preserve, protect and promote our rich cultural heritage.

 

The Show Goes on with Croatoan!