Present day Petrinja is located in the river Kupa valley, more exactly on the location where river Petrinjčica empties into river Kupa. Medieval town of Petrinja was located around ten kilometres upstream the river Kupa. Ottoman Turks located their fortified position in old Petrinja and Croats captured it in 1595. During the following period Petrinja became one of the most important defence positions in the area between rivers Kupa and Una. Until 1881 Petrinja was part of the Military border region, a unique European defence system whose main purpose was to prevent further Ottoman Turks incursions. Petrinja became an urban centre of Banal military border with economically, educational and cultural functions. After the abolishment of the Military border the town continued developing as a centre of culture and Croatian national movement. During the late 19th and early 20th century the town set an example for other Croatian towns of similar size and it gave the impulse for the educational and cultural development of Banovina region and other neighbouring parts of Croatia.

In the cultural history of every town the music takes an important position and it was especially so in Petrinja. Since the early 18th century Catholic priests and Franciscan monks from nearby Hrastovica monastery developed church music. After the Franciscans left, teachers in Petrinja played organ in the parish church of St Lovro. First musical societies in the Croatian and Slavonian Military border region were established during the late 18th and early 19th century – regimental music, choirs and piano players. Music from famous operas was part of public musical appearances held in Petrinja, Bjelovar and Nova Gradiška around 1815. It included, among others, works of Austrian composers W. A. Mozart (1756-1791) and Joseph Weigl (1766-1846), French composer Nicolas Isouard (1775-1818) and Italian composer Luigi Gaspare L. Spontini (1774- 1851). Petrinja was the headquarters of the 2. banal regiment and its regimental band was founded during the second half of the 18th century. Communal music had its roots in the organization of communal militia (Bürger-Militz), founded in 1808. Still, before the foundation of the Music society in 1841, the activities of the communal music were negligible because the regimental band took the main role in all the important public occasions.

Musical societies formed in the civil Croatia and Military border during the first half of the 19th century were modelled after the similar societies previously formed in Vienna, Graz and Ljubljana. They were called Musik-Institut, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and mostly Musik-Verein. Such societies were organized in Križevci (1813), Varaždin and Zagreb (1827), Senj (1828), Osijek (1830) and in 1841 also in Petrinja. During the late 1830s and early 1840s patriotic citizens and Military border officers in Petrinja attempted to establish the musical society similar to the one organized in Zagreb. The Musical institute in Petrinja was finally established in 1841. Its book of regulations was taken over from the Zagreb Musical society and only on September 28, 1842 the Court’s military council approved the book of regulations for the Petrinja society. These regulations gave the possibility for the establishment of the special Musical school within the Society, and also departments for church music, theory of music, communal brass band and choir singing.

Independent amateur choir singing societies in Croatia were organized mostly after the 1860. Their appearance in Croatian provinces was motivated by the need of the patriotic groups and individuals to use the music for the Croatian national awakening and the developing of the Croatian national consciousness. First such societies were organized in Karlovac (1858), Zagreb (1862) and Križevci (1864). These were examples for similar activities in Petrinja and during 1864 efforts were made to establish a society that would gather all persons interested in the spreading of Croatian songs. The decision to establish a Croatian singing society was initiated by Josip Břiza, a teacher of Czech descent.

Břiza was member and later the head of the men’s singing quartet of the Petrinja Musical school. He thought that Petrinja should have its own singing society and decided to gather persons with musical and singing talents. He gave them private lessons in fourpart singing and tried to raise interest for popular songs. Those were first steps in the establishment of the Petrinja singing society. During the initial period the Society had a private character and rehearsals were held in the Petrinja secondary school (today 1st elementary school). First songs rehearsed by the Petrinja singers were a Tyrolean marching song translated to Croatian language, patriotic song Naprej zastave slave (Onward the banners of glory) by the Slovenian composer Davorin Jenko and the composition Byvali čechowe statni junaci of the Czech composer František Škroup. Teachers of music Ernest Joanelli and Johann Šplihal helped Břiza during the first years of the Musical society existence.

Citizens of Petrinja supported the activities of the Society and in 1865 the private Society was transformed into a permanent singing society. Stjepan Pejaković visited Petrinja in October 1865 and distinguished citizens organized a feast for him in the house of Gjuro Bifflin, an innkeeper and merchant. In 1864 the first agreement on the organization of the Singing society was also held Bifflin’s house and on the occasion on Pejaković’s visit Břiza composed "Marching song of the Petrinja singing society".

During 1866 singing rehearsals were held in the new building of the high school, usually in the evening, thrice a week. During this period name Slavulj (Nightingale) became more often connected with Singing society. Břiza, a teacher of natural history
and physics, made a great personal effort to train Petrinja singers, most of whom were craftsmen and merchants along with several officers and clerks. During 1866 the Society had several public appearances. One was on April 26, on the occasion of the consecration of the Secondary school by Josip Lehpamer, the Petrinja parish priest. Brigadier general Đuro Pavelić, headmaster, teachers and pupils of the School and numerous citizens were also present at this event.


According to the available sources the activities of "Nightingale" after 1866 were successful. During winter concerts were held in the Reading club (building called "Golden Lion" and later "Croatian house") and during summer in the shooting range (later the famous holiday resort PIGIK). Until May 1868 Břiza remained the most important person for the activities of the Society. Political situation at that time was not very favourable and Petrinja was under he conservative Military border administration. For this reason the first regulations of the Society were written during 1866 and finally approved in 1869.

Society’s name "Nightingale" became generally accepted only after 1868. Břiza and members of the Society were inspired to take this name probably by Petar Preradović’s poem Jezik roda moga (My mother tounge) from 1861. Břiza set to music poems of Ivan Trnski and Petar Preradović. Jezika roda moga was not set to music, but it was well known among Petrinja singers. Its verses talk about the gentle and glorious voice of the nightingale and it is not surprising that the Music society took that name.

The first concert of the Croatian music society "Nightingale" outside Petrinja was held in Topusko during July 1868 and on September 1, 1869 the Society made an impressive appearance in Military Sisak, on the occasion of the printing of the first issue of the opposition newspaper Zatočnik (Captive). On that occasion twenty singers were present and their appearance was the biggest success of the "Nightingale" since its foundation. They received numerous professional commendations and "Nightingale" used the opportunity to animate the foundation of the singing society in New Sisak. It was named Danica (The morning star) and it started functioning during late 1869.

The ceremonial consecration of the "Nightingale" banner took place in Petrinja in 1872 and representatives of the most distinguished Croatian singing societies were present. Gjuro Eisenhut composed the song celebrating the banner of the Society and Ivan Zahar wrote the verses. Shortly after this celebration J. Břiz moved out of Petrinja and his position in the Society was taken over by Vaclav Skop (1872-1875). During that period the Society was present at the 2nd general assembly of Croatian teachers, held in Petrinja on August 25, 26 and 27, 1874. "Nightingale" was invited by the Singing society Kolo from Zagreb to take part in the celebration of the inauguration of the Zagreb University, held on October 19 and 20, 1874. This occasion was used to promote the foundation of the Croatian singing union. During 1875 "Nightingale" representatives took part in the ceremonial consecration of the banner of the Croatian singing society Danica in Sisak. "Nightingale" became the most active member of the Croatian singing union and made an invaluable contribution to the choir singing in Croatia, despite the short periods when its activities encountered various difficulties.

In 1878 Petrinja singing society "Nightingale" was renamed to Croatian singing society "Nightingale". A new name fulfilled desires of the Society’s president Ivan Petrušić and its numerous members, especially professor Mijo Biljan, Nikola Kos and Vilim Grgić, and others.

"Nightingale" was founded in 1864 and until the final abolishment of the Military border in 1881, followed by the inclusion of Petrinja in Civil Croatia, it became the most important and the largest cultural institution it that town. Differently from other singing societies, especially those in Civil Croatia, "Nightingale" did not only work on the development of choir and instrumental music, but also gave its contribution to the development of the musical education of Petrinja citizens. Thanks to the work of the leading members of the Society, it also developed strong Croatian national characteristics. Citizens of Petrinja, clergy and army officers took part in musical evenings organized by "Nightingale", but representatives of lower social groups, and especially peasants, also began attending these activities in growing numbers. Since the foundation of "Nightingale" several Croatian Serbs also took part in its activities along with its Croatian members. These Serbs considered themselves as true citizens of Petrinja and they were loyal subjects of the Habsburg Monarchy and their Croatian homeland. Beside them, numerous Czechs gave an invaluable contribution to the development of the Society and several Slovenians, Hungarians, Austrian Germans and Italians as well.

During 1881, the first year of the inclusion of Petrinja in Civil Croatia, "Nightingale" singing choir was very successful with the new songs. The president of the Society during that period was Stjepan Vukovinski and he wrote the verses for those songs and leader of the choir Vinko Hendrych composed the music. One of these songs was the
second March of the "Nightingale" (the first one was composed by J. Břiza). These songs were played until the end of the 19th century, for example on the 20th anniversary of the Croatian singing society "Kolo" held in Zagreb in 1882, and on the 25th anniversary of the Croatian singing society "Zora" in Karlovac in 1884 and also during the joint concert of the singing societies held in Zagreb in September 1891, on the occasion of the anniversary exposition of the Croatian-Slavonian economic society. "Nightingale" sang the compositions of Ivan Zajc, Vatroslav Lisinski, Josip Eisenhuth and Vinko Hendrych and a song "Our beautiful homeland" (Lijepa naša domovina) was preformed twice. After that there was an initiative to adopt this song as the official Croatian national anthem. In autumn of 1891 a women’s choir was organized and during 1892 also a men and female choir with 24 female singers from Petrinja.

In 1895 Croatian musical union organized a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ivan Zajec’s work and representatives of "Nightingale" met with the famous Croatian composer and soon after that he became honorary member of the Petrinja singing society. During late 1897 Zajc composed a new march of the "Nightingale". It was its third march since its foundation.



During late 19th and early 20th century "Nightingale" organized a series of humanitarian concerts. Most of the songs played on those concerts were compositions of I. Zajc, F. S. Vilhar, V. Novak and J. Eisenhut and also songs composed by previous and current choir leaders (V. Hendrych, Slavoljub Lžičar, Josip Hajek, Karlo Pienta, Vinko Šubir, Ivan Havlua and others). "Nightingale" men’s choir made an impressive appearance during visit to Sarajevo in June 1900. Croatian singing society "Trebević" from Sarajevo organized a celebration and societies from Croatia were invited to join the event. Numerous Sarajevo citizens were present and also famous Croatian writers and scientists, for example Silvije Strahimir Kranjčević, Tugomir Alaupović, dr Ivo Pilar and dr Ante Trumbić. In September 1900 the "Nightingale" was present at the conference of the Croatian singing union in Varaždin and on the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Croatian singing society "Vila" from Varaždin. During 1901 and 1902 the Society increased its activities, mainly on the initiative of the historian dr Rudolf Horvat. "Nightingale" choir made impressive appearances during the central celebrations of the Croatian singing union in Osijek (1901) and Zagreb (1902). These activities continued during the period before the outbreak of World War I and during that time the Society was led by choir leaders Stjepan Križanić and Stjepan Ivičić. After the war and during the first years of the new Yugoslav state the Society was successfully led by Vladimir Stahuljak, who composed several songs, the most famous being "Petrinja flowers I" and "Petrinja flowers II".

The great celebration of the 50th anniversary of the "Nightingale" in 1914 was postponed due to the outbreak of the World War I. The great celebration of the 60th anniversary of the society was not held in 1924. It was moved to 1925 and became a part of the great celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the Croatian kingdom. Fourteen choirs attended the "Nightingale" anniversary and in the presence of Nikola Faller, the president of the Croatian singing union, a constitutive assembly of "Nightingale" branch in Sisak was held.

From 1918 on almost all "Nightingale" concerts included Croatian and Slovenian composers, but also composition of Serb composer Stevan Mokranjac and Ukrainian composer Bortnjanski and Brezovski. Chior leader Stjepan Križanić gave an emphasis on church music. During the Christmas folk songs arranged by Stjepan Ivčić and Andrija Zagorac were on the repertoire but also melodies from Rudolf Matz’s "Christmas tale". S. Križanić also trained "Nightingale" singers to sing the lamentations of the prophet Jeremy and they were preformed in the period preceding the Easter.

In 1935 a 70th anniversary of the Society and a 100th anniversary of the Croatian national anthem was preformed and "Nightingale" band music was founded. It had uniforms and played a weekly concert in the central park in Petrinja. During 1937 a new book of regulation was adopted and a new (the third) banner was consecrated. On August 15, 1937 a morning concert was held in Petrinja. Seven singing clubs were invited and conductor of the Croatian singing society "Jug" from Zagreb was Jakov Gotovac. It was his first appearance as a conductor and later he became a famous composer and retained close ties with "Nightingale".

After 1945 the members of "Nighingale" were not allowed to continue their activities and from 1948 they were included in the singing section of the Workers’ cultural and artistic society "Artur Turkulin". Nevertheless impressive results were achieved from 1948 to 1991, mainly due to the work of the former members of "Nightingale" – Eduard Gener (secretary and president of the "Artur Turkulin" society), Mate Bučar (choir leader), Miljenko Novaković (singer) and others. Thanks to their efforts in 1964 the "Artur Turkulin" society organized the celebration of the 100th anniversary of choir singing in Petrinja. From 1968 to 1972 five festivals of Croatian choirs were held in Petrinja. In 1972 "Artur Turkulin" singers took part in the International musical contest in Arezzo in Italy and in 1974 in the International singing competition in Montreux in Switzerland. From 1979 to 1991 choirs of the Society markedly improved in quality and their concerts gained positive reception of musical experts. "Artur Turkulin" singers took part in annual meeting of Croatian choirs in Zadar and made appearances in Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Serb occupation of Petrinja (1991-1995) harmed the activities of "Nightingale". Croatian population left the town and moved to the unoccupied parts of Croatia. Men’s vocal troupe (founded in 1988) "Petrinja’s nightingales" continued its activities in exile and it was led by Želimir Đeninović, the president of the Croatian singing society "Nightinglae".


Liberation of Petrinja in 1995 enabled the "Nightingale" to return to its town. In 1996 Josip degl’ Ivellia became the conductor and until 2004 the Society achieved the greatest success in its long and famous history. During 1996 "Nightingale" organized women’s musical group "Petrus" along the men’s choir. The Society made numerous appearances in Croatia (Petrinja, Zagreb, Sisak, Bjelovar, Virovitica, Split and Dubrovnik) and abroad. Notable foreign appearances were those in Italy (June 10-14, 1996) and during the visit to Italy pope John Paul II granted an audience for the members of "Nightingale". The Society also appeared in Osnabrück in Germany (1996), on the Second European ecumenical convention in Graz (1997) and in Prague (2000).

Nevertheless, the greatest success is production of new CDs. They contain melodies of the famous, yet almost forgotten Croatian composers, preformed by the "Nightingale" singers and conducted by Josip degl’ Ivellia. The first CD was produced during October 1997 and it contains spiritual compositions of Krsto Odak with Old Slavic texts.

This music was preformed by "Nightingale" society, oratorio choir "Hosana" of the Church of St Peter in Zagreb and Girls' choir of the Church of St Peter in Zagreb. In 1998 a CD with spiritual music of Alba Vidaković was produced and in 2000 another containing Croatian Christmas carols harmonized by Franjo Dugan. In November 2001 Men's vocal choir "Petrinja's nightingales", under the leadership of J. degl'Ivellia, choir "Hosana" and Franciscan junior choir "Cor unum" produced a CD with composition of Bonaventura Duda under the title "Soul of Christ, consecrate me". The first independent CD with compositions of Vladimir, Mladen and Juraj Stahuljak and sung by "Nightingale" was produced during 2001 and in 2003 a double CD was produced, containing the melodies of Emil Cossetta. In spring of 2004 the Society produced a CD with compositions devoted to the holy Mary of the Crucified Christ Petković. Commemorating the 140th anniversary of the "Nighitngale" activity a CD "Petrinja's music postcard" was produced.

The year 2004 is a truly impressive 140th anniversary of the Croatian musical society "Nightingale". The celebration of this anniversary is held under the auspices of the president of the Republic of Croatia Stjepan Mesić. The Society received numerous awards and also the award of the Town of Petrinja for great contribution and merits for the development and advancement of culture and art in Petrinja.

Dr. sc. Ivica Golec

Translated by
Nikica Barić

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