Slovenian American Times
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Slovenian Singing Society Zarja’s 103rd Fall Concert

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The Slovenians are well known for their love of singing. Indeed, it has been said that three Serbians make up an army, three Croatians a political party, and three Slovenians a singing society.

Zarja (pronounced Zarya and meaning the dawn) is the oldest secular Slovenian singing society in Cleveland and one of the oldest Slovenian singing groups outside of native Slovenia. In Cleveland, only the St. Vitus Singing Society Lira, a church choir, is a few years older.

It was in Spring of 1916 that 17 Slovenian male singers, mostly immigrants, began singing together in a group they named Zarja. After practicing a short time on St. Clair and E. 61 Street, Zarja’s fi rst committ ee was elected with the following members: Leonard Poljšak (Polšak), president; Heronim Stanič, secretary; Frank Košak, treasurer; Louis Gomizel, manager; and John Gombač, vocal and music director. In 1920, women were invited to join Zarja which then counted 22 female and 27 male singers. Polsak (1895-1970) was Zarja’s most prominent president and leader for over fi fty years, while his son Edwin, a mechanical engineer and inventor, was one of Zarja’s talented pianists (see Gobetz , Slovenian American Inventors and Innovators, 2016, pages 378–379).

The vocal and music directors were: John Gombač (1916-17); Popla Malen (1917-19); John Ivanush (Ivanuš, 1919-31); Joseph Krabec (1931-60); Mrs. Josephine Turkman (1960-80); Richard Tomsic (1981-86); and Doug Elersich (since 1986).

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