Today the whole Band of Sings and Dance ‘Mazowsze’ counts 150 people, only professionals – after ballet schools, vocal schools, music studies. And although for those seven decades a few generations of artists have gone through ‘Mazowsze’, the band still delights with its freshness.

Pillars of ‘Mazowsze’ were its founders: Tadeusz Sygietyński and Mira Zimińska. Beside his talent as a composer and conductor, Sygietyński was undoubtedly an enthusiast of folk music. This talented musician, who had already been composing as an 11-year-old boy, and gave classes in Opera in Lvov a few years later, was taught, among the others, by such prominent composers as Zygmunt Noskowski or Arnold Schonberg. During his music studies he was also educated at the faculties of medicine and ethnography. After his studies he conducted, among the others, in theatres of Warsaw, Cracow and Lvov. Also in the Polish Radio.

The pre-war first performance of Mira Zimińska in the Warsaw little literary theatre ‘Miraż’ opened the actress a way to her career. She became popular thanks to her performances in an unusually prestigious theatre ‘Qui Pro Quo’, she showed her versatility in her role as Maz in the ‘Artists’, played in the Polish Theatre. Since then her career had been developing safely – till the beginning of the war.

Avalanche-like development

Mira Zimińska and Tadeusz Sygietyński met in 1933. They were an inseparable couple, although they did not get married earlier than in 1954. In the 30s of the last century they actively participated in artistic life of the Second Republic of Poland, caring about their careers. When Sygietyński was appointed a director of the future ‘Mazowsze’, he was given a choice of a few suggestions about the headquarter of the band. He chose the buildings of a sanitarium of the Association of Care about Mentally and Neurotic Ill in Karolina-Otrębusy.

Directors of ‘Mazowsze’ quickly began to organize the band. Sygietyński was travelling nearly across the whole country to find talented youth from villages. He was also looking for old folk songs, but he mainly reached for collections of Oskar Kolberg, who had investigated over 60 regions according to ethnography. Till now ‘Mazowsze’ has had stage elaborations of dances and folk songs from 42 regions – including original compositions by Tadeusz Sygietyński, which were inspired by folk songs. Also folk artists were included into ‘Mazowsze’ in order to show what their dances and songs are like and how they are passed over from generation to generation.

After two years of preparing the band of 100 dancers and singers, ‘Mazowsze’ gave its performance on 6 November 1950 in the Polish Theatre for party notables, comrades of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, workers and peasants distinguished in their party’s activity. During the concert one could see enthusiasm especially when songs were sung praising Stalin and Bierut present in the concert hall.

Polish folk songs in foreign languages

The first musical tour of the band took place in 1951 – all over the Soviet Union. Three years later ‘Mazowsze’ delighted the Paris audience, and in 1957 it gripped the heart of ‘Polish London’.

The band had been developing and gripping hearts of audience in an avalanche-like way till 1955, when its fundaments were disturbed by death of Tadeusz Sygietyński. For nearly two years the further fate of the band was uncertain, after death of Sygietyński, as the communist authorities were wondering whether the band should be left to his wife. What was helpful here were pre-war acquaintances of Zimińska. There were also a lot of people who promoted ‘Mazowsze’ until it got the rank of the national band: Elwira Kamińska, Michał Jarczyk, Krystyna Jusińska, Zofia Kliza, Zbigniew Kiliński, Eugeniusz Papliński, Mieczysław Piwkowski, particularly a dancer and a choreographer Witold Zapała and a dancer and singer Stanisław Jopek. Choreography of Zapała made ‘Mazowsze’ change into a dance and song band and the choreographer often used advice from experienced folk singers and dancers. He introduced songs from other regions of Poland, elaborated them, making them dynamic. Stanisław Jopek brought the solo singing in ‘Mazowsze’ to the highest level. The artist sang in dozen languages, which raised lots of loud applause of foreign audiences.

For the most important people of the world

Mieczysław Chróścielewski joined ‘Mazowsze’ after he had graduated from the Warsaw ballet school in 1971. At that time there were old customs there. Mira Zimińska was running the band in a strict way. She had her fans and assistants. If somebody got into her black books, he had to leave Karolin immediately.

What impressed me in ‘Mazowsze’ were beautiful girls who sang and danced here, and also the fact that ‘Mazowsze’ travelled all over the world. And I liked it. I do not mean only financial matters, although it was also important, but what attracted me was tourism – says Chróścielewski, who has not been dancing or singing for a quarter of the century, but deals with the archive of ‘Mazowsze’. – When I was going to Karolin for the first time, invited by Mr. Witold Zapała, ‘Mazowsze’ smelled with mystery. I was nicely surprised by how good level the ballet band had. We had classical dance for an hour every day. Besides a lot of people, who made their career in ‘Mazowsze’, later danced, for example, in the Grand Theatre, Baleto Mexico. Somebody also at Maurice Bejart. It was a great merit of Witold Zapała. And my dream was fulfilled: I have travelled with ‘Mazowsze’ for nearly a quarter a century for nearly all over the world. I were on music tours all the time. It happened that the band had two hundred concerts every year!

Heritage of our ancestors

Today the band ‘Mazowsze’ is not only over a hundred of artists, dancers, musicians, but also nearly the same number of technicians – tailors, costume designers, who care about over two thousand costumes presenting particular regions, carefully made from original materials, rarely produced today. The most valuable costumes belonging to ‘Mazowsze’, come from the end of XIX century. However, they are presented not on the stage, but on exhibitions of the headquarter of the band.

At present ‘Mazowsze’ is one of the biggest folk bands in the world. Undoubtedly, it is also in the second, third place in the world leading bands. At present its repertoire includes not only folk songs, but also patriotic songs and Polish carols, Lent songs, litany to Our Lady of Ostra Brama. It is years since ‘Mazowsze’ has been developing its repertoire also by classical music – it performs, among the others, ‘Coronation Mass’ and ‘Requiem’ by Mozart and it is not long time since it has been performing ‘Stabat Mater’ by Pergoles. Today ‘Mazowsze’ is a great heritage of our ancestors, our culture from a dozen regions – says the director and conductor of the band Jacek Boniecki. – Soon we are going to develop our repertoire by songs and dances from the areas of the Second Republic of Poland, as that area has been neglected by us so far. Undoubtedly, great Tadeusz Sygietyński created a concept of the band, whereas Mira Zimińska accepted it and continued. But today dances and songs are performed differently. So, the band is undergoing evolution considering choreography and music. We should be aware that choreography built half a century ago are slightly anachronistic today. They must be changed. Today we are looking for music of other regions which have not been elaborated yet, like Bieszczady, Warmia, Mazury. We are also going to include songs of Łemkowie into our repertoire. In Vilnus the director asked why we did not have songs from the areas of the Second Republic of Poland. That’s it! Developing the repertoire means getting to know music, preparing arrangement, choreography and what is going to be the most costly – making costumes of those regions. But the band is still developing and is still alive, although it might seem that for those seventy years we have already presented everything – Jacek Boniecki sums up.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 10/2018 (11 III 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: