Concert “Music of the Vistula”
The Vistula river, despite having preserved its untamed nature, has for centuries been the main communication artery of Poland. Can we imagine what melodies have been resounding until recently on its banks, all the way from the mountains to the sea? I cannot. Then came the idea of a concert that would help the imagination, gathering in one place and time the musicians who still sing and play traditional tunes from regions where our largest river flows.
Let’s begin from the sources. We will host Silesian Gorals (highlanders), musically the heirs of Vlach shepherds who once settled on the peak of Barania Góra – Zbyszek Wałach and his band Wałasi. They will bring the sounds of shepherd instruments, beautiful singing and the joy of collective music making.
Leaving this geographical area, we swiftly flow over to the Kielce region, home to our next guest Barbara Michalec. Together with apprentices (Maniucha Bikont, Michał Maziarz) she will present the rich variety of local melodies. The musicians will bring back the heritage of the late harmonia player Franciszek Grębski from Sulejow, whose home used to stand right on the Vistula’s bank. Musically, the broad sound of powiślaki and śpiwy will dominate.
The next stage of the concert revolves around the musical culture of raftsmen, who have been missing in the Vistula landscape for a long time, even though we may still see them on photographs from the 1960s. Raftsmen were mostly highlanders from Podhale region, who used to create their own guilds and local laws. Apart from transporting timber or grain, raftsmen carried their music down the river, and coming back home they would bring lowland melodies with them. Krzysztof Trebunia-Tutka and Śleboda band will show us how highlanders converted music from the plains and adapted it to their taste, mentioning also musical relations between the Gorals and Krakow residents. Of course, they will play it their way.
A jump into the deep water and we make fast at the Vistula near Maciejowice. Master Stefan Nowaczek, frequent guest of the festival, and the Niwińscy band will play and sing local Vistula-bound songs: powiślaki and zawiślaki, leading us closer to Warsaw.
The river flows, slow and wide. Kujawy, located down the Vistula, is a region amazingly full of various melodies and virtuosic singing. Clearly, it is the world’s center of the kujawiak. The MZK Toruń vocal group led by Ewa Grochowska, practicing old vocal styles, will sing various regional songs about different life moments, and the musicians of Kożuch band will provide an instrumental response.
Our final destination port is the Capital. Music from Warsaw and surroundings will be represented by Heniek Małolepszy and Warszawskie Przedmieście (Warsaw Suburb) orchestra. Program includes both village and city melodies, as well as the band’s favorite pieces. We will get a chance to hear how the rural folklore becomes urban folklore, and how it comes back to the village thanks to popular melodies.
Before we set sail, we need to prepare by hearing a story of one more microregion, rediscovered a few years ago, namely Nadwiślańskie Urzecze (also known as Łurzyce). This area spread on the flood plains of the Vistula, from the mouth of the Pilica river all the way to Siekierki and Saska Kępa (which now are districts of Warsaw). These lands, inhabited mostly by Olendrzy (people of Dutch ancestry) had their unique culture. The themes of Urzecze region, the Vistula, Olender people and raftsmen will be introduced by Maurycy Stanaszek who explores that extraordinary world.
I wish that after the Festival, the Vistula river remind us of music, becoming a symbolic “musical backbone” for Poland, and we will transform its tameless beauty to music making and singing. Maybe we can meet sometime, unexpectedly, on the Vistula beaches to dance the powiślak and other swirling melodies?
Janusz Prusinowski, concert curator
Musical consultation – Anna Szotkowska
PS. Due to the richness of Vistula-bound musical traditions, several regions and cities including Kaszuby, Kociewie, Kraków, Płock, Sandomierz, and Gdańsk – we will leave out undiscovered for now, hoping for an occasion to present them properly at the future Festival editions.