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Polish culture and art
The style and personality of the Polish people have been shaped over a thousand years, resulting in an amalgamation of many heritages.


Poland's national culture was born of Latin and Byzantine influences, and influenced by various European occupations throughout the country's history.


Highly artistic people, the Poles have adapted and "borrowed" freely from many cultures, contributing to the versatile character of Polish art. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Polish people's focus on cultural development even took the place of political and economic activity.
Customs, manners, and traditional costumes reflect both eastern and western influences -- including rich eastern ornamental styles and Islamic influences. One of the most original and authentic branch of Polish folk art is paper cut-outs. Folk cut-outs are the most genuine example of Polish art; unique in Europe. The cut-outs were used to decorate the interiors of village huts especially for Christmas and Easter seasons. Wafer cut-outs (made with flour and water) were very popular in Polish homes at Christmas. This art is displayed in exhibitions, and illuminates the immense skills of village women who had never taken any professional training in art. These artisans learned their skills from their mothers and grandmothers.


The origins of Polish literature date back to the 14th century. In the 19th century, when Poland did not exist as an independent state, great Romantic literature flourished. Poets like Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Slowacki and Zygmunt Krasinski became spiritual leaders of a nation deprived of its sovereignty, prophesying its revival. In the south, Zakopane was the birthplace of the avant-garde works of Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz.

Tradition

Poles are seen as a nation of fun lovers who enjoy festivities, traditions and centuries-old customs. The most ancient rituals, especially those dating back to pagan times, have long lost their magical character, becoming a colorful vestige of the past and a form of amusement. Links with tradition are felt the strongest during the greatest religious feasts, such as Christmas, Easter, Corpus Christi processions and All Saints' Day. Pilgrimages to holy sites are very popular; these include the Monastery of Jasna Góra (http://www.jasnagora.pl/) in Czestochowa for Catholics; the tomb of Rabbi Elimelech in Lezajsk for Jews, the Grabarka Sanctuary for Orthodox Christians.

The two main national holidays are the anniversary of the restoration of independence in 1918, celebrated on 11 November, and the anniversary of the passing of Poland's first Constitution on 3 May 1791. These are official holidays with ceremonies, marches, concerts and other festivities.

Other holidays, quite different in character, include Women's Day (8 March; today much less popular than under Communism), Mother's Day (26 May), Granny's Day (21 January) and Children's Day (1 June), all less public and celebrated first and foremost at home.

A well-established Polish tradition is the celebration of Andrzejki (St. Andrew's Day) - the last festive day before Advent, with fortune telling to check what the New Year will bring. The best-known method is by pouring hot wax into cold water and "reading" its shapes.

Christmas is a very festive holiday in Poland. Many customs, ceremonies and beliefs centre on Christmas Eve, a special day in Polish homes. An important element contributing to its dignified atmosphere are the Christmas decorations, notably a beautifully adorned Christmas tree. Today it would be difficult to imagine Christmas without it, although it's one of the newest traditions: the first trees appeared in Poland in the 19th century, mainly in cities, introduced by Germans and Protestants of German origin. Gradually the custom gained popularity all across Poland. Before that, Polish houses used to be decorated with green branches of fir, spruce or pine.

Another element of the traditional Christmas decorations was sheaves of wheat and rye, hay and straw. They were supposed to bring good crops and remind everyone of the poverty in which Jesus was born. The custom has survived in the form of a small bunch of hay put under the tablecloth. In some houses this is accompanied today by money, a fish scale or bone put into a wallet - all to ensure affluence in the New Year. An extra set of plates and cutlery is laid on the table for an unexpected guest. Sometimes an empty plate is a reminder of those who have passed away.

Christmas Eve was believed to affect the entire New Year. For this reason, it had to be spent in harmony and peace, with everyone showing the utmost kindness to one another. Today it is still devoted to long preparations for Christmas Eve dinner, all the work having to be done before dusk. Then the whole family sits down to dine together, in the most important event on that day.

Traditionally, Christmas Eve dinner begins when the first star has appears in the sky. First, there is a prayer, sometimes with a passage from scripture about Jesus' birth being read out. Then the family wishes one another all the best for the New Year and, as a sign of reconciliation, love, friendship and peace, share oplatek Christmas wafers that symbolize holy bread. Orthodox Christians do the same before their Christmas Eve meal by sharing proskura or prosfera, which is unleavened bread.

The dinner consists only of meatless dishes. Traditionally, there should be twelve courses - reflecting the number of months in the year or, in different interpretation, Christ's apostles.

In practice, hardly anybody bothers to count them; the more food is on the table, the more auspicious the next year will be. You at least have to taste everything. This custom derives from the ancient tradition of respect for the fruits of the earth. After dinner, Christmas carols are sung. Many people end the day by attending the Midnight Mass known as Pasterka (the Shepherds' Mass).

Christmas Eve dinner past and present

Today Christmas Eve dinner is sumptuous and diversified. Typical dishes include barszcz beetroot soup with mushrooms or uszka (dumplings stuffed with mushrooms), mushroom soup, a cabbage dish (usually plain cabbage with mushrooms or pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms), sweet dumplings with poppy seeds, pastries, cakes, fruit, nuts, sweets and a compote drink made from stewed prunes, dried pears and apples. The main treat, though, is fish. The Polish cuisine is noted for a variety of fish dishes: soups, herring salads, fish with sauce, cream or jelly, fish in aspic, baked, fried or boiled fish.

 A traditional Christmas delicacy is carp or pike in grey sauce with vegetables, almonds, raisins, spices, wine or beer. The obligatory pastries and cakes include poppy-seed twists, honey gingerbreads and a dessert made of sweet poppy seeds with honey, raisins and nuts, served with crisp tarts once known as lamance or kruchalce. One of the oldest Christmas Eve dishes is kutia, which is made of poppy seeds and boiled wheat with honey. This tradition derives from ancient funerary rituals held on the winter solstice.


A popular event during the period after Christmas is the jaselka, a Nativity play staged by amateurs. In the country, you can still see carolers who go from house to house with a star or Nativity crib. Traditionally, they expect to be tipped for the visit; once the payment was in Christmas delicacies, but today these have been largely replaced by small change. The carolers are often dressed up and improvise scenes that loosely draw upon biblical motifs. Typically, the characters are King Herod, Angel, Devil, Death, sometimes Gypsy and a bear or goat.


The New Year's Day and its eve, known in Poland as Sylvester (St. Sylveste's Day), begins the carnival - a period of balls and parties. One traditional form of having fun was kulig (sleigh rides), for centuries favored by the Polish gentry and still extremely popular. A cavalcade of horse-pulled sleighs and sledges went from one manor house to another, entertained everywhere with hearty meals followed by dances. Today the rides are less spectacular, usually ending with a bonfire and sausages or the traditional bigos.

The last Thursday of the carnival is a day on which Poles stuff themselves with paczki (doughnuts) and deep-fried narrow strips of pastry known as chrust or faworki.


The carnival ends with revelry on Shrove Tuesday known as sledzik or sledziowka - the "herring feast", after the herrings eaten on that day as a herald of the coming Lent.


One pagan tradition still popular today is the drowning of the marzanna ("frost maiden"), held on the fourth Sunday of Lent. For our ancestors, the custom was associated with the everlasting rhythm of life. It expressed their joy at the coming of spring, which meant a rebirth of nature, promising crops and abundance, the marzanna was a representation of winter, a straw female effigy, dressed in white and adorned with coral beads and ribbons.

In Silesia, she was clad in a beautiful wedding dress with a wreath on her head. Villagers carried the marzanna from house to house, then stripped her and scattered the clothes over the fields. Eventually she was drowned in a river, pond, and lake or simply in a big puddle. Sometimes before throwing her into the water the effigy was set on fire.

As the marzanna was carried out of the village one way, on the opposite side the villagers carried in the maik - green branches adorned with ribbons, coral beads and flowers. Over centuries this ceremony evolved into a form of amusement. Today drowning the marzanna is mainly done by children on 21 March, which are the first day of spring and an unofficial truants' day.

The most colorful religious feast before Easter is Palm Sunday, celebrated in churches across the country to commemorate Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The main attribute associated with that day is the palms. Despite the name, they hardly resemble the real palm branches with which Jesus was greeted in the Holy City.

Typically, they are bouquets of common box, dried flowers and willow twigs. Some regions are noted for particularly impressive palms, several metres high and decorated with colored ribbons, dyed grasses, dried or artificial flowers. In the past it was believed that a palm blessed at a mass has special properties; for example, it can prevent disease. After the mass, people would hit one another with their palms, exchanging wishes of health, wealth and bumper crops.


On Holy Saturday people bring baskets of their Easter fare to church for a special blessing for all the different Easter foods. This typically Polish tradition dates back to the 14th century. Originally, only a baked lamb made of bread was blessed, but today the basket should contain at least seven kinds of food, each with its own symbolism. Bread, ensuring good fortune, is in Christianity first and foremost a symbol of Christ's body.

Eggs stand for re-birth, life's victory over death. Salt is a life-giving mineral, once believed to keep away all evil. Smoked meat ensures health, fertility and abundance. Cheese represents friendship between man and nature. Horseradish is a symbol of strength and physical fitness. Cake (usually an Easter pound cake, round wheat cake and mazurek) was the last item to appear in the Easter basket and it symbolizes skills and perfection. Tradition has it that the cake should be homemade. Nowadays some people also have chocolate and tropical fruits in their Easter baskets. This custom developed during the Communist period, when chocolate and imported fruit were rarities.

Easter eggs

Another Easter custom is the tradition of decorating eggs. The oldest Polish Easter egg comes from the 10th century and was found at an excavation site in Ostrów Interestingly, it was made in a technique very much like those used today.


Decorating Easter eggs has become an element of folk culture, with distinct regional differences. Traditionally, before they are dyed the eggs are painted over (using a funnel-like tool) with a pattern in molten wax, which, when dry, will not adsorb the dye and is later scraped away to leave a traced decoration on the painted egg. In some regions, white bulrush cores and colored wool or miniature paper cutouts are glued to the eggshell.

A Pomeranian variety is an egg in one color only, obtained by using natural dyes from leaves, tree bark, onion scales, cones, mallow flowers, camomile, reed, nut shells, nettle leaves, larch needles and many other plants. In Silesia, dyed eggs are decorated with elaborate patterns scraped off the dyed shell with a sharp stylus.


Decorating eggs was once women's handicraft. Dyed or painted eggs were first presented to family members and godchildren, and then, during the week following Easter, to friends. Offering an Easter egg to a boy or girl was seen as a token of affection.


As tradition requires, the blessed food products are eaten at a ceremonial breakfast after the Resurrection Mass on Easter Sunday. The whole family sits down to a table lavishly laid with hams, sausages, pates, roulades, roast pork loins, a variety of poultry dishes, eggs, pound cakes, mazureks, round wheat cakes, cheesecakes, etc., etc. Hot dishes include zur with white sausage or smoked bacon, horseradish soup with a hard-boiled egg and white sausage, or barszcz consomm - also served with an egg. The table is covered with a snow-white cloth and decorated with Easter eggs, spring flowers, catkins, green cress compositions and the essential Easter lamb made of cake or sugar.


Easter Monday, Smigus-dyngus, is a day on which boys sprinkle girls with water. The original meaning of this ancient custom, which remains extremely popular today, has faded into oblivion. Perhaps it was a rite of purification to ensure fertility. In many places not only women were sprinkled, but the earth and cows as well - for better crops and more milk.


There are also many local Easter customs. Krakow has its long-established Emaus, a folk festivity commemorating the two disciples' meeting the Risen Jesus on the road to Emaus. Hucksters put up their stalls laden with trinkets, pipes and sweets. Apprentices and farmhands from nearby villages would court girls by hitting them with willow twigs and fighting with sticks to show off. Crowds would gather at churches to see a procession of religious brotherhoods in full outfit, with drums, standards and holy pictures. Today, sadly, modern plastic gadgets are replacing traditional toys and crafts on the stalls, but despite that, Emaus is still great fun for both children and adults alike.

Religious holidays

Movable feasts - Easter and Corpus Christi
August 15th - Assumption of the Virgin Mary
November 1st - All Saints' Day (the commemoration of the dead)
December 25th and 26th - Christmas

Secular holidays

January 1st - New Year's Day
May 1st - May Day (Labour Day)
May 3rd - Constitution Day (a national holiday celebrating the May 3rd 1791 Constitution)
November 11th - Independence Day (a national holiday celebrating the restoration of independence in 1918).

Traditions Continuing Today


Music is a significant part of Polish culture. Poland's greatest composer was Frederic Chopin, whose work reflects the Polish national spirit and brings the romanticism of that era to modern day. Since 1927, the Chopin International Piano Competition has been held every five years in Warsaw, one of the most prestigious piano competitions in the world. Also in the 19th century were Stanislaw Moniuszko, who composed the first national opera, 'Halka', in 1847, and the violinist-composer Henryk Wieniawski. Christmas carols and plays are elaborate productions, featuring old-time pastoral piping instruments. Poland also provides fertile ground for stage performers and playwrights.

 "Avant-garde" theatre productions are said to be some of the best in Europe. During any given month in a mid-sized town, you will have several opportunities to attend concerts or stage productions. As such, Poles treat these events as special occasions and dress elegantly when attending the theatre or a concert.


Polish cuisine and social mores are another reflection of these various influences. Enjoying meals with family and friends is more an event that in some other Eastern European countries. Pleasing your guest is a high honor and requirement in Polish homes. Breakfasts are very solid with vegetables and cold cuts of meat. Dinner - usually eaten after returning from work -even more so; only supper is a little more modest.

That is with the condition that no guests have been invited. If so, the principle of "what's ours is yours" applies! Potatoes, a meal staple for centuries, is a major element of each meal. Meat also is a mainstay -- cold cuts and sausages mainly -- and is grilled more or less ceremoniously at the country home, in the garden, or on the front lawn.


Polish towns reflect the whole spectrum of European styles. Poland's eastern frontiers marked the boundary of the influences of Western architecture on the continent. Still today, you can see well-preserved Medieval, Gothic and Renaissance towns -- some renown as the most beautiful in Europe.


The most important day in a Polish person's life is his or her "name day," the day of observance for the patron saint after whom the person is named. Poles celebrate their name day at home, sometimes in restaurants, occasionally at work - but these days only after hours.


Reymontowka Extends Welcome with Fine Food and Festivities


culture of PolandGlobal Volunteers' Polish "home" is the 19th century House of Artistic Work - "Reymontowka" - in the Mazovia (Mazowsze) region. Originally built for the Rozanski family, Reymontowka later was the home of Nobel Prize-winning author Wladyslaw Reymont, and is today a conference and camp facility owned by the provincial government. The official purpose of the manor house is to advance the arts and culture of the country. Several such events are held each year - often during Global Volunteers' service programs.


"We were treated to a piano recital by a young man who is a friend of Marek. While most of the recital was Chopin, he started with the Beatles and included Elvis."
~ David Sprunk, Duluth, GA


Throughout the manor house and grounds are examples of wood carvings, weavings, pottery, paper cuts and embroidery that are characteristic of the region.


Polish folklore developed, first and foremost, among the peasantry- a people who seldom travelled very far. Many people were born, lived and died without ever leaving their home provinces. Rivers, mountains, lakes, forests and marshes isolated the communities from one another and for this reason each region developed its own unique traditions.


Despite the social isolation, culture and ideas did travel! Mariners sailed to other countries and mountaineers floated their rafts to the sea. Fishermen crossed lakes, shepherds travelled with their flocks and people travelled to trade.


Polish cultureFamines and wars forced to move. When they travelled, they carried their traditions with them and songs, dances and costumes spread from one region to another. Political boundaries changed, and with them the language and culture of the administrators. In all these ways Poland evolved its own distinct folklore while absorbing influences from neighbouring areas.
Romanian shepherds came to Poland following the chain of the Carpathian Mountains.

Russian, Ukrainian and White Russian peasants from the eastern territories of Polesia and Volhynia emigrated to Poland. There were strong cultural connections between the Czechs, Slovaks and Moravians living to the south of Poland, as well as with the German and Wendish people living to the west. Sailors plying the Baltic Sea brought back Scandinavian traditions while long standing religious and political affiliations connected the north-east of Poland with Lithuania and the other Baltic republics.


"I definitely feel that in a small, but important way we have brought Poland and the U.S.A. a little closer. Like a stone thrown into a pond the friends we've made here will spread the word that Americans they've met wished Poland nothing but good things." ~ Dave Sams, Bethpage, NY

 
Five national dances of Poland

Krakowiak

Krakowiak is a lively Polish folk dance from the city of Krakow and the region Malopolska. It is ranked as a Polish national dance. Its English common name is cracovienne (taken from French language). The dance's origin dates back to 16th or 17th century and its name to the 18th century. The name of Krakowiak refers to a city of Kraków - in fact, many Polish folk dances had been called the same way (e.g. Kujawiak from Kujawy region). Sometimes their names were also taken from the most characteristic figures used in the dance like chodzony from walking or dreptany from toddling.

The Krakowiak's metre is counted on 2/4 with characteristic, syncopated rhythm. At the end of 18th century the rhythm of Krakowiak appeared in symphonic music and in the next century - in scenic and instrumental music as it was becoming more and more popular all over the country.

Clothes used in Krakowiak:
Men - striped trousers, long coats of dark colors, belts with metal elements and characteristic caps called 'rogatki' with the peacock's feathers.
Women - long skirts with flowers ornament, white aprons, boleros with color ornaments, wreath of flowers, usually with color ribbons.

Krakowiak's rhythm was the musical base of several compositions of many famous Polish composers, e.g. F.Chopin's Krakowiak op. 14 for the piano and the orchestra (1828), I.J.Paderewski Fantastic Krakowiak, K.Szymanowski Krakowiak for the piano and many others.

 

Kujawiak

Kujawiak is a Polish national folk dance that had its origin in the region of Kujawy. Its present name Kujawiak appeared in 19th century.

From the very beginning Kujawiak was a dance, which was to show the dignity of dancers. It had been created as a simple, slow dance. Although its metre is 3, it was being danced slowly, what made it dignified.

Kujawiak was being danced in a circle of pairs, which were moving around it without any particular progression or tempo changing.

Kujawiak existed in two main forms: one was the regional folk dance, more lively and with lots of varieties of tempo, steps and figures, and the second one was a national dance - one of the five Polish national dances.

Clothes in Kujawiak:
Men - characteristic red shirts, blues coats and trousers, sometimes the cap is being worn.
Women - long, blue skirts, blue boleros and white aprons tided at the back.

 
Mazur

Mazur is a Polish folk dance, ranked to a group of five Polish national dances. It is being danced in 3 metre - lively and beautiful to watch. It is often described as a bit slower than Oberek and a bit faster than Kujawiak. The clothing is also the same as in Kujawiak.

Its origin takes place in Kujawy (the same as Kujawiak) and its name - in Mazovia - the region of central Poland around Warsaw, whose inhabitants were called Mazurs. Indeed the name of Mazur appeared for the first time in the music dictionary published in 1752 so it was created later than the dance itself, as it was known in 16th century. In 17th century, Mazur became popular in the whole country of Poland and also almost in all the neighbouring countries.

Mazur, the same as every folk dance in Poland, had its varieties and their pattern depended on the social status of people who used to dance it. Thus, there was an urban Mazur danced in towns and different one for the gentry and nobles.

The dance itself spread over right after Poland lost its independence - it came to the courts of Paris, London and other fashionable meeting places of Western Europe. Mazur then was the only thing that was reminding of Poland and Poles as a great nation. In fact, Mazur even became Polish anthem - the Dabrowski Mazurka created in 1797 as a Song of Polish Legions.

Mazur's rhythm was the main theme of many remarkable composers' masterpieces, e.g.: S.Moniuszko, F.Chopin, K.Szymanowski and many others.

 
Oberek

Oberek is the liveliest and the fastest Polish national dance. It is being danced in 3 metre with fast tempo and quite complicated steps and figures.

Oberek was originated in Mazovia region and its name appeared for the first time in 1679 as obertas (so-called from the Polish verb obracac sie, which means to spin).

Oberek, the same as Mazur and Kujawiak is regarded as a dance of Mazur rhythms as they are similar to each other and differ mainly with tempo (Oberek is the fastest one). The dance itself includes many changes and progression in the circle of pairs that follow around both clockwise and counterclockwise. The dancers must be well skilled, as Oberek is a dance of many difficult figures of clicks.

The name Oberek was used in classical music also for stylized dances. Many Polish composers used to create Obereks: K.Szymanowski, H.Wieniawski and, of course, F.Chopin, whose fastest Mazurs are indeed Obereks (e.g. Mazurek op. 56 no. 2).

On the contrary to Mazurs and Polonaises, foreign composers hadn't composed Obereks so often and the dance itself didn't become popular outside of Poland

 
Polonez

Polonez is a Polish national dance that which had its origin in 18th century. It had developed from the dance called chodzony (walking dance) as its figures consist of walking around the dance hall.

Danced in the metre of 3 - slowly and nobly, with the characteristic knees bowing before the first step. Heads were put up high and turned once to the partner, once to the people around and hands put in the air on the side (ladies) and on the hip (gentlemen).

Polonez (French: polonaise, the same in English) originally had been performed on the weddings of Polish gentry and lesser aristocracy with the bride I the first pair and the groom in the second one. At the beginning the music was sung but later, when Polonez came into the upper class' courts, it was accompanied with music of the best instrumentalists.

The clothing for Polonez depended on the region of Poland but both men and women clothes were very rich and marvelous.

Polonez is being danced nowadays at the beginning of many ceremonials, e.g. in schools and colleges as a first, common dance before the graduating ceremony.

Polonaises were being composed by many remarkable artists, among who there are Bach, Beethoven and Schubert, but it was the Polish greatest composer - Fryderyk Chopin, who made it popular and unforgettable.


The greatest music festivals in Poland

Castle Party

Castle Party dark independent festival had its first edition in 1994, when a group of over 300 people came to Grodziec Castle to see 5 young bands (Moonlight, Daimonion, Fading Colours and two other groups). After a great concert they were participating in, it was almost sure that the following year was to bring second edition of the festival. Set up, of course, in Grodziec Castle, which dark climate and mystic old surroundings made it almost unreal.


The following years brought more bands (amongst them such stars like Closterkeller, Artrosis, Agressiva 69, Daimonion, De Volanges, etc.), more public, more climate and... a problem to the festival's organizers, who met the Grodziec Castle too small for such a great number of gothic music fans. The decided to move Castle Party festival into a larger place and chose Bolkow Castle courtyard.

Until this day Bolkow remains the most mystic Place in Europe when festival's running. Every year it gathers few thousand of people who participate in this great event. Also every year Bolkow Castle becomes a great scene for the most remarkable gothic and electro gothic music bands like Batalion d'Amour, God's Bow, XIII Stoleti, Ataraxia, Das Ich, Dance on Glass, Clan of Xymox, Arcana, Deine Lakaien and many others. It is also a great party of spectacular personalities - the public who wear magnificent clothes - especially women's great baroque black dresses and fantastic, black and white make-ups. This extraordinary festival is an essence of gothic climate and the greatest event for gothic music fans in all Europe.

 

International Chopin Festival in Duszniki Zdroj

The first edition of the festival took place in 1946 - exactly 120 years after Chopin's concert in Duszniki Zdroj. Chopin's excellent compositions had been presented by Zofia Rabcewiczowa and Henryk Sztompka.

Zofia Rabcewiczowa remitted all the money gained during the festival to the charity - a local orphanage. Since that year, the festival has been held yearly in Duszniki due to its cultural tradition and international range.

The festival, as one of the oldest in Europe, gathers the most remarkable worldwide artists who perform Chopin's music and also the previous years laureates. Amongst those great personalities there were Edward Auer, Wladimir Aszkenazy, Ryszard Bakst, Halina Czerny-Stefanska, Zbigniew Drzewiecki, Raul Koczalski, Ewa Bandrowska-Turska, Stanislaw Szpinalski, Barbara Hesse-Bukowska, Lidia Grychtolowna, Adam Harasiewicz, Fu Tsong, Jan Ekier, Bella Dawidowicz, Ikuko Endo, Regina Smendzianka, Piotr Paleczny, Garrick Ohlsson, Krystian Zimerman, Paul Badura-Skoda and Stefan Askenase.

The International Chopin Festival in Duszniki Zdroj gained a lot of fame for all the years of its existence. People who come here are passionate of Chopin's music, himself and this place, which - so calm and beautiful, makes their emotion go free around this magical place.

The festival itself is also a cultural organization, which is very helpful in keeping the classical music greatest level. Every year, just before the festival beginning, many young pianists from all over the world can participate in workshops organized for them and learn the greatest Chopin compositions' performances.

This idea's continuation worked while creating the International Chopin Centre in Duszniki Zdroj - the institution of meetings of young artists, competition participants, teachers and virtuosos from all over the world.

 
The Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow

The Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow is one of the most important and largest events of its kind in the world. The First Festival took place in 1988 and its program focused on a scholarly conference on the encounter between two cultures, Jewish and Polish. It was a modest occasion but it turned out to have enormous significance, considering the boldness of the subject matter, upon which the communist authorities of the day looked askance.

Shaped by outstanding figures in various fields of Jewish culture and art, the Festival became over time a place where Jews and non-Jews from all over the world could meet. They are linked by the shared values that they find in Kazimierz and Krakow, the space of the Festival. For over a week, Kazimierz resounds with synagogue song, klezmer music, and Hasidic, classical, and Jewish folk music. There are films, performances, presentations, and exhibitions to see and stories told by the Jews about their culture to listen to.

In its present form, the Festival not only introduces the living Jewish tradition to a wide audience, but also offers a share of the joy in creating that tradition. Workshops in Hasidic dance and song, klezmology, Hebrew calligraphy, Jewish paper cutting and cooking, conducted by people from both Ashkenazi and Sephardic culture, attract numerous learners.

Every year, the Festival puts on over 100 events featuring dozens of performers and thousands of participants from all over the world. During the most recent Festival, 13,000 people attended "Shalom on Szeroka Street," the grand finale concert. The number of Festival guests grows from year to year, and television coverage brings the Festival to viewers across Poland and Europe and around the world. To all of them, we address the main idea of the Festival: dialogue as a pathway to mutual respect and understanding.

Each year, the Festival's celebration of life commemorates the past, traces of which can still be found in Kazimierz, Krakow, and Poland.

The Festival is a span of the symbolic bridge where Poles and Jews meet to strengthen the process of understanding and reconciliation. The Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow is, after all, a symbol of tolerance, pluralism, and the faith that we have a chance, through the celebration of Jewish culture and the celebration of life, to build mutual relations based on truth and respect.

www.jewishfestival.pl



Sopot Festival

The first Sopot Festival took place in the summer of 1961. The first day had been dedicated to Polish song; the second one - to the world song and the third one had been a concert of many artists.

Wladyslaw Szpilman, a remarkable pianist and composer of many different types of music and the music director of Polish Radio, originated the Sopot Festival. The first three editions of the festival had taken place in the hall of the dockyard in Gdansk and then the festival was moved to the Forest Opera in Sopot and soon became the greatest Polish music festival.

During the festival's 39-year existence, its name, rules and organizer used to change a lot. In the 1960's and at the beginning of the 1970's it was a typical music competition organized by the Ministry of Culture and Art and the 'Pagart' Polish Artistic Agency.

In the late 1970's the same organizers, in co-operation with the Radio and Television Committee, were organizing the Intervision Festival in Sopot, which was in that times regarded as the most prestigious one in Eastern Europe. The Forest Opera in Sopot was a scene where the most remarkable Eastern Europe stars performed their concerts like Helena Vondrackova, All Pugaczowa, Frank Schabel or Maryla Rodowicz.

Since 1994 it's the Polish Television, who is the only organizer of Sopot Music Festival. Owing to the direct transmissions in TVP 1, many millions of spectators are able to watch the greatest Polish festival in TV live and participate in this magnificent event.

During last years many remarkable worldwide stars honored the festival with their appearance. Amongst them: Vanessa Mae, Annie Lennox, Vaya Con Dios, Boney M, Kim Wilde, Marilion, Jonny Cash, Paul Young, La Bouche, The Corrs, Chris Rea, Tanita Tikaram, Ace of Base, ERA, Lionel Ritchie, Whitney Houston, Bryan Adams, Lou Bega, UB40, Zucchero, Garou, Ricky Martin and many others were the greatest.

After the Polish TV became the festival's organizer, all the concerts are made in the great television events pattern and are being watched by over 12 million people.

 

International Festival 'Wratislavia Cantans'

International Festival 'Wratislavia Cantans' is a great musical event that was set up by a remarkable conductor Andrzej Markowski almost 40 years ago. Over the next 20 years the festival was extending its formula, including chamber concerts, recitals and the visual art presentations. On the 30th anniversary of the festival, the festival's authorities decided to transform it into an independent event, so in 1996 a State Institution of Culture under the name of International Festival 'Wratislavia Cantans' came into existence with the General Director Lidia Geringer d'Oedenberg. The new authorities entrusted the planning of 34th festival's edition to the third conductor in 'Wratislavia Cantans' history - Ewa Michnik, who was also a General and Artistic Director of the Wroclaw State Opera until 2002.

The following two years (1992-1994) brought to the festival another excellent Director Mariusz Smolij, an Artistic Director of Wroclaw Philharmonic, Music Director and conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the conductor of Symphony Orchestra in Lafayette, USA.

Since 1996, the institution not only was to organize one of the greatest festivals in Poland, but also to gain the financial sources for the creation and realization of ambitious artistic plans, which are being document on films, CD-records and in numerous books and photographic albums.

The recording of 'Jutrznia' of Krzysztof Penderecki had been nominated in 1999 to a Frederyk Award - the most prestigious prize of Polish phonographic industry, 'Rossini Gala' with Ewa Podles won the award in 2000 and 'Credo' of Krzysztof Penderecki was presented in 2000 in Cannes, at the phonographic fair 'Midem', where it's composer was granted a title of the most remarkable of living composers.

International Festival 'Wratislavia Cantans' purpose was to be an open festival, where numerous nations culture would be presented. The festival includes then oratorio-cantata concerts, symphonic and chamber music concerts, opera and ballet performances, concerts of sacred music of different religions and denominations, vocal and instrumental recitals, exhibitions and many other attractions. Every year over two thousand of artists participate in concerts, which take place in the most splendid historical interiors of Wroclaw several other Lower Silesia cities' buildings.

In 2000, the 'Wratislavia Cantans' institution was chosen to be a main realizer of Polish music presentation under the name of 'Europatia Poland 2001', which will take place in Benelux and the northern France.

 
The Rawa Blues Festival

The Beginning
The idea of the Rawa Blues Festival was introduced in 1980 by Irek Dudek - great musician and blues promoter. The first festival was organized in the Katowice Theater and gathered some twenty blues from all over Poland and 500 blues fans. Fourteen years ago Festival moved into Polish biggest and most famous concert arena "Spodek" and actually became one of the biggest blues festivals in Central Europe. In the past years thousands of blues fans have enjoyed themselves while listening biggest Polish, American and European blues musicians playing 100% live.

International Blues Festival
The Festival was regularly televised and screened throughout the national TV Network. Among the highlights of past festivals were: Luther Allison. Junior Wells, Koko Taylor, Carey Bell, John Cephas and Phil Wiggins, C. J. Chenier, Rory Block, Little Charlie & The Nightcats, not to mention Shakin' Dudi and other greatest Polish blues legends such as Tadeusz Nalepa, Slawek Wierzcholski and many others.

2005 > 25. Rawa
This year, 25th Rawa Blues Festival will be the tribute to classic blues (Guitar Shorty) but also drawing the attention to its nearer or farther prospect (James Blood Ulmer & Vernon Reid). We hope that, as usual, it will be a good occasion for meetings and great experiences for performers, artists and listeners - unforgettable music holiday.


The most prestigious Polish music awards

Eska Music Awards

Eska Music Awards festival is a great festival of Radio ESKA, which takes place every year in Lodz. Every year there are awards given to the artists of the greatest popularity amongst Radio ESKA listeners.
The Eska Music Awards commission gives the nomination to few artists of different sections of music and listeners vote to their favorites. The ones with the biggest umber of votes obtain the prize.
The Eska party becomes more and more popular every year. The first awards, granted in 2002, were given to Brainstorm and Blue bands.
In 2003, there were 5 winners
Band of the year: Myslowitz
Male artist of the year: Krzysztof Krawczyk
Female artist of the year: Kasia Kowalska
Song of the year: 'Baska' of Wilki
Event of the year: a Russian girls band TATU

Last year the statue of Eska Music Awards Festival was given the present shape. Its author is talented Pawel Guba with the co-operation of Michal Korol. The festival itself also changed its formula and became a great concert of Polish and worldwide music stars.

Eska Music Awards 2004 traditionally took place in Lodz and were transmitted by TV4 television. Its finalists are:
Female Artist of the year from Poland: Ewelina Flinta
Male artist of the year from Poland: Marcin Rozynek
Band of a year from Poland: Jeden Osiem L
Hit of the year from Poland: 'Jak zapomniec' of Jeden Osiem L
Album of the year from Poland: 'Mezokracja' of Mezo
Hit of the year from the world: Groove Coverage
Album of the year from the world: The Rasmus
Event of the year: Michal Wisniewski
Special Prize: 3 Doors Down

By the end of the year 2004 the festivals organizer - Radio ESKA signed a contract with the authorities of city Lodz, according to which the festival is to take place in Lodz for the following 3 years.


Polish Phonographic Academy Award 'Fryderyk'

Polish Phonographic Academy Award 'Fryderyk' has been granted since 1995. Since 1999 it is an award granted by Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry. The Phonographic Academy unites over 700 Polish artists, music journalists and professionals of the Polish phonographic industry.
'Fryderyk' award is being granted after a voting which takes place twice.

The first round is a chose of five nominations in every category from all the candidates sent by different phonographic companies. Then, in the second round, every member of the Academy votes again but now for only one nomination of every category. Both votings are secret and anonymous. The wards are granted every year in March and the winners obtain a 'Fryderyk' statuette made by Dorota Dziekiewicz-Pilich. Its name refers to the name of the most remarkable Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin.
'Fryderyk' award gained the reputation of the most prestigious Polish music award.

Some of the 'Fryderyk' winners are: Grzegorz Ciechowski, KAYAH, MYSLOVITZ, Kazik Staszewski, Grzegorz Turnau, National Philharmonic Symphonic Orchestra, Sinfonia Varsovia, Jerzy Maksymiuk and Tomasz Stanko.
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