Zeljko Bilandzic's deep faith and expertise on the classical guitar have led him to use talents in churches in Saskatoon.

PRAIRIE MESSENGER PHOTO | KATE O'GORMAN

Zeljko Bilandzic's deep faith and expertise on the classical guitar have led him to use talents in churches in Saskatoon.

September 22, 2014
KATE O'GORMAN
PRAIRIE MESSENGER

SASKATOON – Saskatoon musician and composer Zeljko Bilandzic, a convert to Catholicism, recently released a new album entitled Longing for the Bride.

The compilation captures Bilandzic's talent as a classical guitarist playing the music of J.S. Bach, Albeniz, Tarrega, Josquin des Pres, Barrios, Villa Lobos as well as his own compositions.

Originally from Sarajevo, Bilandzic came to Canada as a survivor of the Bosnian war in 1997. During the Siege of Sarajevo, he was responsible for digging trenches. During the war he witnessed two of his friends and colleagues killed.

"It was a very difficult time" says Bilandzic, "and quite miraculous that I survived."

After establishing himself in Saskatoon, he began attending St. John Bosco Parish and was baptized in 2001. A couple of years later Bilandzic felt a call to focus more intentionally on his music and published his first CD, Christmas Music for the Classical Guitar, in 2008.

Finding the means to record and produce his two albums has not always been easy. However, "God has put the right people in my life at the right time to help me make it happen."

Bilandzic has been playing guitar since the age of 13. As a child he was inspired by well-known Sarajevan classical guitarist, Ivan Kalcina.

"My parents had a record of his that I used to listen to," explains Bilandzic. "It was quite astonishing what he was able to accomplish – it still is. [Kalcina] has always been a role model for me."

Bilandzic's deep faith and commitment to the Church has been influential in his music.

As a composer, he gravitates toward sacred music and has composed various choral, piano and guitar pieces for the Mass. Many of the tracks on his albums were recorded in the sanctuary of St. Mary's Church.

THREAD OF HOPE

Through all of Bilandzic's compositions there is a distinct thread of Christian hope. He says he feels a strong connection with the poor and marginalized and makes room for the possibility that his music is a gift from God to alleviate some of the suffering people experience.

"I believe we should witness to the greatness of God with everything that we have," says Bilandzic.

A skilled visual artist, he also produced the artwork for his album cover.

Bilandzic plays regularly at various venues in Saskatoon. As a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, he plays with the band accompanying the choir at the Sunday afternoon Mass.