Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas and New Year's Wishes (Vol. 2, No. 16)


Everyone loves "Chopin with Cherries" - even Lech Walesa! He came to California for a brief, unofficial visit, on behalf of his foundation, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Solidarity movement. There were lectures and receptions and an opportunity to present him with a copy of our anthology, inscribed "to a wonderful hero of our times." If he does not lose it on the way, scholars of political history will find the book in his library and wonder how on earth did it get there...

__________________________





For the holiday season, I was asked to write something "Christmasy" for the party of Little Landers Historical Society at Bolton Hall in Tujunga. I thought that a recent poem for a married couple celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary would fit it quite well, if there was a carol in the text. I chose to quote a carol that remains one of the most beloved Polish carols, cited by Fryderyk Chopin in his Scherzo in B-minor, op. 20.




Married Christmas

May your path be smooth,
and your sunlight mellow
~ an old blessing


He said
“You are the apple of my eye”
She said
“Let us have tea for two”

Steam rises from bronze liquid
freshly-baked szarlotka waits its turn
scent of cinnamon sweetens the air
the music box plays an ancient carol

Lulajże, Jezuniu, moja perełko,
Lulaj ulubione me pieścidełko

She does not have to finish –
one glance and he knows
after thirty-five years together
faithful like cranes on a Chinese etching

Their looking glass is hidden away
in a box of treasures they don’t need
to find blessings
among daily crumbs of affection



The carol's text incipit means: “Hush, hush, Baby Jesus, my little pearl, my lovely little darling…” – This ancient Polish carol is a simple lullaby, filled with tender love for the infant, held in the arms of his gentle mother. There are many lullabies among Polish carols; the focus of Polish Christmas is on the baby and his mother, on the familial love that binds them. The Lulajże Jezuniu carol is sung throughout the Christmas holiday season, from Christmas Eve to February 2nd, the Candlemas.

Last year, I was traveling close to Christmas, and the empty airports were full of fake cheer, recorded Christmas carols blaring from the loudspeakers and tinsel with childish decorations everywhere. The poem I wrote about that is similar in tone to the "Married Christmas" - extolling the virtue of the subtle affection, gentle understanding of a shared life, the true family virtue...


Rules for Happy Holy Days

Don’t play Christmas carols
at the airport. Amidst the roar
of jet engines, they will spread
a blanket of loneliness
over the weary, huddled masses,
trying not to cry out for home.

Don’t put Christmas light on a poplar.
With branches swathed in white
galaxies, under yellow leaves, the tree
will become foreign, like the skeleton
of an electric fish, deep in the ocean.

Clean the windows from the ashes
of last year’s fires. Glue the wings
of a torn paper angel. Brighten
your home with the fresh scent
of pine needles and rosemary.

Take a break from chopping almonds
to brush the cheek of your beloved
with the back of your hand,
just once, gently. Smile and say:
“You look so nice, dear,
you look so nice.”


This is the poetry of a moment in the kitchen, home cooking meals of the season and sharing a togetherness and affection that is quite beyond words, yet forms the very fabric of life.

Thanks to all poets and friends who have shared our Chopin with Cherries journey through the Chopin year. Happy New Year with Chopin, Music and Poetry!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tammy Tillotson on Chopin and Cherries

Time to return to Chopin with Cherries, the fruit of the season! After Mark Tardi's responses to my four questions back in October, we had a hiatus of two months, but finally have a contribution from another poet featured in the anthology, Tammy L. Tillotson.

Her poetry has appeared in Sweetbay Review 2008 and won an honorable mention in the Writer’s Eye 2008 and the 2009 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. She is the editor of the Writers Studio Young Authors Anthology, entitled Bull Bay Review. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University and her Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Hollins University.

Ms. Tillotson contributed three epistolary poems to Chopin with Cherries. These letters are ostensibly written by three different people, protagonists in Chopin's personal drama concerning his failed marriage plans to Maria Wodzińska. His personal documents contain a packet of letters to/from Maria Wodzińska, marked "moja bieda" ("my sorrow") - it was one of his great personal tragedies and Ms. Tillotson dramatizes it in her three poems:

  • A Letter from Countess Wodzińska to her Daughter Maria, Winter, 1835
  • A Letter from Maria Wodzińska to F. Chopin, September, 1836
  • A Letter from Fryderyk Chopin to Himself, September, 1836

INTERVIEW WITH TAMMY L. TILLOTSON

[Maja Trochimczyk]: What is your earliest or most intense memory associated with Chopin's music?

Tammy L. Tillotson: My earliest memory associated with Chopin’s music is connected to my suffering through piano lessons as a child. Since my mother wanted my sisters and I to learn to play an instrument, she arranged for a private teacher, who was also a family friend, to come to our house and teach my sisters and I one afternoon a week. My turn was always last as I was never very good and I dreaded the lesson, especially because it took me away from whatever book I would rather have been reading that afternoon.

Before my lesson would begin, the teacher would sometimes take a moment to play something himself. At first, I thought he did so because I was a difficult student and it helped him be more tolerant of my not-so-gentle touch. He was very patient with me, even while his ears were cringing and his bushy eyebrows were wrinkling up. He repeatedly, yet very kindly, often admonished, “Tammy, you must practice, practice, practice, and then, one day, you will play like this...” He would close his eyes and his fingers would dance across the keys, transporting him somewhere else entirely. Once, he stopped playing abruptly and I saw there were tears glistening in his eyes. In awe, I clapped and asked what he had just played. He answered, “Chopin.” Then he quickly closed the lid over the keys and announced, “Today’s lesson is over.”

MT: Why do you like Chopin's music and what does it mean to you?

TLT: It was during those brief moments of listening to my piano teacher play, that I felt, in his own way, he understood me. I felt the piano, for him, was like what writing and escaping into a book was for me.

I was some years older when I learned my piano teacher was of German/Polish descent. His closest relatives had been killed during the Holocaust, and he alone had survived because somehow he had been sent to another town a day ahead of his relatives. His wife once told me how he came from a family that had been very talented musically and how, when they were courting, he used to play Chopin, Bach, and countless others for her. She loved to hear him play though she thought he didn’t play as often anymore because the songs made him so very sad.

Because of these early experiences, I saw how people sacrifice a piece of themselves for beauty, art, and music to exist in the world...I suppose this is more vital to our making sense in a nonsensical world than we will ever truly realize or appreciate.

MT: What is your favorite piece by Chopin and what do you like about it?


TLT: “Romance-Largetto” – the inclusion of this particular Chopin piece is still what I love the absolute most about “The Truman Show.”

MT: Do you like cherries, if not what is your favorite fruit?

TLT: While I like cherries, they will never be my favorite fruit. If I am completely honest, this is partly because both my older sister and my younger sister can tie a cherry stem in a knot with their tongues. I am still a bit jealous, but I can humbly admit that it is not due to lack of effort on my part. Yet, I could always hull strawberries twice as fast as they could and especially in the summer, they still prefer to come to my house for daiquiris. I’d have to choose strawberries any day of the week over cherries!

MT: What are your current poetry projects?

TLT: Since Chopin with Cherries, I continue to write in-between keeping up with a busy three-year-old and a strong-willed kindergartener who remains convinced it is infinitely better to stay home with his brother than go to school!

Most recently, I’ve had poems included in Volume 26 of The Poet’s Domain and Sweetbay Review 2010. Several others are forthcoming. “Scare Crow” will appear January 1, 2011 in Beltway Poetry Quarterly’s special theme issue celebrating the legacy of Langston Hughes. “Overlooking the Blue Ridge Parkway” will appear in The University of Nebraska Gender Programs / Women's Center Becoming anthology. Also, a short poem and nonfiction memoir will be included in the Silver Boomer Books Flashlight Memories anthology.

MT: Now, that's a lot of work! You are one busy poet! You mentioned your sons, I'm just curious, do they like cherries? What is their favorite fruit?

TLT: Both my boys love blueberries and one of their favorite books is Blueberries for Sal. This summer I took them blueberry picking for the first time and pretty much they just sat down and ate berries! They were both a bit disappointed we didn't see any bears, though my youngest laughed and laughed, "Mommy, me full up with berries for the winter!" I owe Robert McCloskey the biggest bear hug ever.

MT: That's a lovely story and congratulations, again. This time, for being a wonderful mother. The portrait with blueberries is very cute. In time, someone will play Chopin to your sons, too...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Górecki, Chopin, and the Mountains

Gorecki in his studio, April 1998In the summer of 1997, I traveled to the mountain town of Zakopane, in Podhale (the Foothills) area of Tatra Mountains, to persuade Henryk Mikolaj Górecki to come to Los Angeles for a residency at the University of Southern California, called the Górecki Autumn. He conducted his Third Symphony, in a historical, legendary performance that lasted good 10 minutes longer than any other. . . I was his personal translator and accompanied him everywhere, like a substitute daughter (my middle name is hers, Ania).

We talked a lot (a short interview appeared in the Musical Quarterly in 1998), but for an in-depth musical conversation I had to go back to Poland. In April 1998, we shared a plate of his wife's beet soup, and hours of conversations about music. He played for me Chopin's Mazurka in A-minor op. 17 no. 4, his favorite one. He talked about musicological discoveries that excited him, though soon faded into obscurity in the academic world of changing theories and fashions. Here is a fragment of that interview I translated and published in 2003.

"Composing is a Terribly Personal Matter": Henryk Mikołaj Górecki in Conversation with Maja Trochimczyk (Katowice, April 1998), fragment of an interview by Maja Trochimczyk [1]

Maja Trochimczyk: Thank you for agreeing to talk to me today. I have a lot of questions to ask. Where shall we start?

Henryk Górecki: I would like to share with you my excitement about a true musical revolution. Grzegorz Michalski first told me about this discovery which was announced during a small musicology session in Warsaw. During the session, Jan Węcowski - I'm sure you know him - revealed a bit about the mystery that he is working on.[2] In his study he proves that Chopin used Polish religious church songs in his works. I called him up and talked to him on the phone. He confirmed that - and I quote - "Chopin arranges old Polish church songs." But this has never been mentioned before! Never, in no books! Of course, we know about his use of the Christmas carol, "Lulajże Jezuniu," but this is just the beginning. I have never seen anything like it and I have seen a lot of research on Chopin; I have a lot of books. Nobody mentions it. But if this is true, and it has to be true, because Węcowski is a serious fellow and knows what he's doing - then we have a true Chopin revolution.

Węcowski told me: "Do you know what a tragic character Chopin really was?" Of course, we know all the cliches, all the banalities about the revolutionary etude, the struggle, the uprising, the bayonets. . . This is a 90 percent martial matter. We have attached this image of a revolutionary patriot to Chopin. At the same time we have this image of Chopin as a "ladies' man" who sits at his instrument and reflects about the lost Poland and does nothing really. All these obertas, kujawiaks, are nice, but nothing more than nice. But if you could prove that he actually used church songs, that have texts that mean something, not only the folk mazurkas, but also the expressions of folk spirituality, then we see how Chopin returned to the foundations, to the roots from which all the music grows.

Similarly you have Szymanowski using the material from Skierkowski's collection.[3] You know, if it weren't for Skierkowski, if it weren't for the Kurpian music, this Szymanowski would be very poor. In the end he found the material that he had been searching for. And Skierkowski helped him a lot with that. He went beyond górale music which is somewhat one-dimensional. It is rich, do not misunderstand me, but it is one-dimensional. One or two melodies suffice to give the whole technical image of this music. In contrast, Kurpian music is built from melodies, melo-structures based on intervals. It is much more complicated and it is certainly not accidental that Szymanowski turned his ear, so to speak, towards this region.

But we have to know that church songs are 90 percent folk songs. These are folk songs that were created over centuries: at first there were old plainchant melodies, already adjusted to the needs of the people. The pastor sang his music and the people listening to him transformed the music in their way. They wrote new texts, etc. It is also interesting that Węcowski is going to publish a Dictionary of Polish Church Songs simultaneously with his study on Chopin. Most probably a lot of these songs were already forgotten. Therefore, for me it is completely different. Or, not completely different. It is the Chopin revolution.

MT: How so? Why is it so important?

HMG: It is a revolution because the whole mystery of Chopin's craftmanship, of Chopin's music - of this amazing genius is - now explained. You know that geniuses do not fall from the sky. The fact that you have hearing, that you have memory is good, but it is not enough. . . Something else is needed for me to be "myself."

MT: Personality?

HMG: Yes, Chopin - who learned how to move his fingers quickly over the keyboard - had a good memory: he knew almost all music, he was sensitive, attentive, erudite, but that was not all, that was not enough. He knew all the piano literature, but in order to be "Chopin" he had to do something special within himself, inside himself. These sounds were in his mind; one person would say that they were in his heart, someone else that they were in his head. Composers are like that. Somewhere within us the music sounds, we are surrounded by these sounds. But what would one do with all that music? This is an incredible truth, an incredible discovery. It is clear that it was filtered through his education, his knowledge but that there was the source for his melodies. There is no other melody like Chopin's.

MT: It is often said that Chopin's melody is derived from the opera, especially from Bellini.

HMG: But it has nothing to do with Bellini! Look: Chopin's harmony naturally develops from his melodies. Just look how different he is from his contemporaries: Hummel, Spohr, Field. There are lots of them, but he is different. But he did not fall down from heaven here, he did not come out of nowhere. He knew the music literature. He had to know it. He collected all these new things and distilled them into his harmonic language. Bach also collected and distilled the religious music of his time. Chopin alone collected Polish songs. After Chopin it was all over. After Chopin one could not go further along the same path, because he did it with such genius. There were many other composers in his time: Kalkbrenner, Field... Hummel will remain Hummel, Bellini will remain Bellini. . .

But Chopin's music was not about Bellini! This is a half-truth that someone heard somewhere and which keeps recurring. But they do not repeat that Chopin played and remembered Bach's fugues and preludes until the end of his life. Nobody talks about the fact that once, after a concert he gave his favorite student the score of Beethoven's Fidelio, not Bellini. He bought this score for his student, so, he knew what Fidelio was. He also knew what Bach's fugues were.

Now, consider this: Bach's head was also filled with his Protestant chorales and with his own church songs. You can see it everywhere, every note of Bach's music stems from this source, not from the music of other composers that surrounded him. And now let us look at Chopin: It is truly amazing to discovered that he did the same thing as Bach, that he turned to his own religious folk songs for sources of material, for inspiration. I am very grateful to Jan Węcowski for his work on Chopin's use of Polish church songs. I regard musicological studies of this kind highly, studies that I can take and use, studies that teach me something.


_______________________

NOTES TO THE INTERVIEW:

[1]. The interview recorded on two 90-minute cassette tapes in late April 1998 in Gorecki's studio in Katowice, Poland. It was transcribed by Adrianna Lis and Blanka Sobuś, translated by Maja Trochimczyk and published online as "Composing is a Terribly Personal Matter:" Henryk Mikołaj Górecki in Conversation with Maja Trochimczyk (Katowice, April 1998) in the last issue of the Polish Music Journal, vol. 6 no. 2.

[2]. Jan Węcowski's article, "Religious Folklore in Chopin's Music," was published in Polish Music Journal vol. 2, nos. 1-2 (1999), online.

[3]. Władysław Skierkowski, Puszcza Kurpiowska w pieśni [Songs from the Kurpie Forest], 2 vols. (Płock: Wyd. Tow. Naukowego Płockiego, 1928-1934).

_______________________________




In the light of a recent fashion to bring Chopin's music entirely to the level of its relationship to the Italian opera of the early 19th century, Górecki's comments are fascinating. The interview continues, moving on to ancient religious anthems (Bogurodzica), the golden section, and the topic of motherhood and mothers, prominent in the Third Symphony. Since I dedicated to this topic a whole article, Mater Dolorosa and Maternal Love in Górecki's Music, I see no reason to further discuss it here.

In the interview, Gorecki described his own approach to composing. He spent hours and years crafting pieces with deep connections to the history and spiritual roots of Polish music. When Kronos commissioned the Third String Quartet, the work materialized 12 years later. He could have written 20 quartets in this time, but he worked on one, the right one - a piece of music in which every note is in its place, every chord belongs. There are no random fillers, materials "just so" - everything has its meaning and its function in the overall design. It may be deceptively simple, but being crafted so well, it will survive centuries.

The news of Górecki's death on November 12, 2010 was announced at the Chopin & Paderewski 2010 conference at Loyola University Chicago. It interrupted our proceedings (see event photographs onPicasa Web Albums). It made us pause and reflect on greatness. In an impromptu commemoration, I spoke about being his guide and translator on his tour of Los Angeles, of the visit to my small home, to the San Gabriel Mountains. I mentioned his lesson for students: "do everything right, one think at a time, if you eat, eat, if you make music, do so with a passion..." Górecki hated multitasking, he said: "do not do two things at once. It is better not to do it at all, because when your attention is divided you are doing both things badly..." This is a Zen maxim, almost, I thought later: "eat, when hungry, sleep, when tired..."

_________________________________

I thought of no better way of honoring the great composer after his death than by writing him an elegy. After posting it on Facebook, I read it at a workshop of Westside Women Writers. Millicent Borges Accardi, Jean Paik Schoenberg, Kathi Stafford, Susan Rogers, and Georgia Jones-Davis mostly liked it. Susan said, "A very beautiful poem. You have honored your teacher well. Your poetry is the fruit of your harvest, the glimpses of grace and the light which glimmers on the horizon and follows us out." She talked about waves of crescendo, the musical flow of ideas. Others focused on the turning point, one line announcing his greatness: "How do I know? He taught me..."

Millicent brought her recording of the Third Symphony; the rich harmonies filled the air, brightened by golden afternoon sunlight, while we read our poems. Moved by the beauty of the moment, I realized I needed to change the poem a bit. My friends' reactions showed that they simply do not know as much about Górecki or his music as I do. So I added some details. Here it is. The original version appears in the December issue of "The Voice of the Village" - a local newspaper in Sunland. As Poet Laureate of my community, I shared the news of Górecki's passing in our Californian foothills.

_______________________________________




Mountains of Grief

"Euntes ibant et flebant..."
(Psalm 126:6, The Vulgate), for Henryk Mikołaj Górecki in memoriam




“Mom, don’t cry – Mamo, nie płacz –“

the soprano soars above
lush chords of the orchestra

Sorrow, endless sorrow

He grew up bitter,
alone at the keyboard,
waves of sound crashing all around him

His Mama, smothered with a pillow
on her hospital bed,
an orphaned child, sickly

With a leg damaged by illness,
limping gait – a great man comes,
truly great

How do I know? He taught me –

To do everything well,
with my whole heart, whole being,
dance despair into frenzy,
relish that last plate of barszcz

Laugh loudly, play the second fiddle
in góralska muzyka,
find Chopin's mazurka under my fingers

Look beyond the edge of grief,
toward the mountains,
shrouded by the clouds of unknowing

Sing lullabies of consolation,
weave music from strands of pain,
sudden glimpses of grace

Seek safety
in the cocoon of timelessness,
under gold stars on the blue cloak
of Mother Mary –
sixteen portraits on one wall
of his studio in Katowice

Give of myself fully –
an offering of daily bread,
beg for crumbs of mercy,
morsels of blessings

Carry the cross, my cross

Walk towards the glimmer of light
on the horizon,
bearing the fruit of my harvest



(C) 2010 by Maja Trochimczyk

____________________________

NOTES TO THE POEM:

  • Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (6 December 1933 – 12 November 2010), Polish composer of: Piano Sonata op. 1 (1956), Euntes Ibant et Flebant op. 32 (1972), Third Symphony “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” op. 36 (1976), and Kleines Requiem für Eine Polka, op. 66 (1993).

  • “Euntes ibant et flebant portantes semina sua – venientes autem venientes in exultatione…” “He went off, went off weeping, carrying the seed. He comes back, comes back singing.” Psalm 126: 6

  • “Mamo, nie płacz” – the first words of an inscription on the wall of a Gestapo prison in Zakopane by young Helena Błażusiak, used as text of the second movement of the Third Symphony.

  • “Barszcz” – traditional beet soup we shared in Katowice in 1998.

  • “Góralska muzyka” – folk ensemble of four strings playing music from the Tatra Mountains, Górecki’s chosen home. His last name means “of the mountains” and he settled in the village of Ząb in the Foothills area (Podhale) after spending most of his life in his native Silesia, in Katowice.

    ___________________________


  • Photographs of Górecki and his parents' portraits in his studio in Katowice; photo of San Gabriel Mountains from the road to Lake Arrowhead (December 1996) by Maja Trochimczyk. Photograph of Maja Trochimczyk and Górecki by Jadwiga, his wife.
  • Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Chopin Songs by Marta Wryk and Adam Kosmieja (Vol. 1, No. 13)



    The month of October in the Chopin Year "belongs" to Chopin. His death anniversary is on October 17. On October 10, 2010, the Modjeska Club (modjeskaclub@blogspot.com) hosted two wonderful young musicians from New York, students from the Manhattan School of Music, already engaged in a variety of professional activities. Mezzosoprano Marta Wryk and pianist Adam Kosmieja gave a Concert of Romantic Music celebrating the 200th birth anniversary of Fryderyk Chopin at the South Pasadena Library Community Room. The engaging and well-presented program included songs and piano works by Chopin and songs by Antonin Dvorak.

    Adam Kosmieja set the tone for the evening with a dramatic interpretation of Chopin's Etude in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 12, "Revolutionary." The fluid waves of arpeggios and anguished drama of internal voices evoked the feelings of turmoil and helplessness recorded in Chopin's famous Stuttgart Diary. The emotional intensity of the music came to life under the pianist's fingers with youthful zeal and freshness.

    Ms. Wryk divided the songs by Chopin into two sets, framing those of Dvorak and interspersed with Chopin's piano pieces. Chopin composed songs all his life; he wrote for his friends, family, and for salon entertainment. He gave them as special, personal gifts and souvenirs written into albums of his admirers, friends, and family members. He did not think these songs were good enough to be published and left instructions to destroy them along with all unpublished works after he died. Had these wishes been followed, the world would have suffered a tremendous loss. Despite Chopin's insistence, these musical gems were gathered and published after his death by his friend and confidante, Julian Fontana, who found and annotated 17 songs from Opus 74 (two more songs were added later).

    The first song on the program, Zyczenie (A Wish, or A Maiden's Wish), remains the best known and the most beloved among Chopin's songs, reaching the level of popularity that would have transformed it into a folk song, had it been easier to sing.

    Its delightful interpretation by Ms. Wryk was enhanced with her lovely gestures, as if catching the sunlight, spreading arms widely in exuberance, turning around... She was, in turn, coy, bashful, and joyous - and a joy to behold. A classic, Slavic beauty, in an elegant, purple, satin evening gown, she transported us to a romantic salon of Chopin's time. The engaging presentation of the music served to amplify the main asset of Ms. Wryk as a singer: her fantastic voice. Rich and flexible, her "instrument" easily filled the large hall, reaching out to each individual listener. Her intonation and phrasing were impeccable.

    Her emotional range was further revealed in the poignant interpretation of Smutna Rzeka (Sorrowful River), Gdzie lubi (Where he likes), Śliczny chłopiec (A Beautiful Lad), Hulanka (A Wild Party), and Wojak (A Soldier). Ms. Wryk also gave a beguiling interpretation of a set of energetic, amusing, and melancholy Gypsy Songs by Antonin Dvorak. She sang the Czech songs quite differently than the pieces by Chopin, revealing a flexibility of a true artist. The fluid melodies and seductive rhythms of Gypsy music were amplified by Adam Kosmieja's lively accompaniment, sparkling with wit and expression.

    Mr. Kosmieja's interpretative talents were apparent in two sets of Chopin's piano pieces: three Mazurkas from Op. 56 (written in 1843 and published in 1844) and the Polonaise in A-flat Major, Op. 53. More sophisticated and complex musically than Chopin's early works of this type, the Mazurkas Op. 56 showcased the pianist's virtuosity and expressive scope. Kosmieja skillfully highlighted the strong echoes of folklore in the second piece from the set, Mazurka in C Major. The melancholy final piece called for an ability to structure a larger form which was also apparent in the noble, "Heroic" Polonaise, truly inspired and inspirational. The Polonaise provided a rousing finale to the recital, and was followed by another rendition of Zyczenie as an encore welcomed by a standing ovation. The full program of the concert is listed below.

    On Monday, October 11, 2010, Ms. Wryk and Mr. Kosmieja attended a meeting of the American Jewish Committee, held in Beverly Hills. The guests were treated to a special mini-recital, consisting of just three pieces: two Chopin songs, Zyczenie (A Wish) and Melodia (A Melody), and the Revolutionary Etude.

    Having heard the first song, a setting of a love poem by Stefan Witwicki, many times, I was again delighted by its youthful sweetness. The mature, haunting rendition of Melodia impressed the listeners with its profundity of emotion. Zygmunt Krasinski's poem was amplified in Chopin's setting by an emphasis on the desolate loneliness of the "forgotten" heroes, whose struggles were in vain. This interpretation of Melodia proved beyond any doubt that Ms. Wryk is a great artist, destined for international success.



    PROGRAM

    Fryderyk Chopin - Etude in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 12, "Revolutionary"
    Adam Kośmieja - Piano

    Fryderyk Chopin - Selected Songs, Op. 74
    Marta Wryk – Mezzosoprano
    Adam Kośmieja – Piano

    o A Wish / Życzenie
    o Lithuanian Song / Piosnka litewska
    o Sorrowful River / Smutna rzeka

    Antonin Dvorak - Gypsy Songs, Op. 55
    Marta Wryk – Mezzosoprano, Adam Kośmieja – Piano

    o My Song of Love Rings Through the Dusk /
    Má píseň zas mi láskou zní

    o Hey, Ring Out, My Triangle /
    Aj! Kterak trojhranec můj přerozkošně zvoní

    o All Round About the Woods are Still /
    A les je tichý kolem kol

    o Songs My Mother Taught Me /
    Když mne stará matka zpívat, zpívat učívala

    o Come and Join the Danci /
    Struna naladěna, hochu, toč se v kole

    o The Gypsy Songman /
    Široké rukávy a široké gatě

    o Give a Hawk a Fine Cage /
    Dejte klec jestřábu ze zlata ryzého

    Fryderyk Chopin - Three Mazurkas, Op. 56
    Adam Kośmieja – Piano

    o Mazurka in B Major, Op. 56 No. 1
    o Mazurka in C Major, Op. 56 No. 2
    o Mazurka in C minor Op. 56 No. 3

    Fryderyk Chopin - Selected Songs, Op. 74
    Marta Wryk – Mezzosoprano
    Adam Kośmieja – Piano

    o Where he likes / Gdzie lubi
    o A Lovely Boy / Śliczny chłopiec
    o A Wild Party / Hulanka
    o A Soldier / Wojak

    Fryderyk Chopin - Polonaise in A-flat Major, Op. 53 ("Heroic")
    Adam Kośmieja – Piano


    PERFORMERS

    Born in Poznań, Polish mezzo-soprano Marta Wryk has been active as a recitalist and opera singer performing in Europe and the United States since 2004. Recently Ms Wryk won the first prize in the 15th International Voice Competition in Gorizia, Italy, where she was the youngest participant. Last year the young artist had her debut at the Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater where she performed Prince Orlowsky in Die Fledermaus. This year she appeared as Mirtillo in Handel`s Il Pastor Fido, also at the Manhattan School of Music, and she was praised for her clear sound and assured presence. This summer Ms. Wryk was covering Gondi in Maria di Rohan in prestigious Bel Canto at Caramoor Festival.

    While attending voice classes at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music In Warsaw, Ms Wryk appeared in many operas and operatic ensembles, in roles including Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, 3rd Lady in Der Zauberflöte, Idamante in Idomeneo Re Di Creta, and Ms. Quickly in Falstaff.

    Ms Wryk performed at the Caramoor Music Festival in New York, International Festival Art-Connection in Rotterdam, First International Baroque Festival in Warsaw and IVth Forum of Baroque Music in Warsaw. She also sung for Henryk Wieniawski Music Society in Poznan, Kammeropere Schloss Rheinsberg in Germany, Kosciuszko Foundation and De Lamar Mansion in New York. This spring brought Ms. Wryk to Albuquerque where she performed a recital with great American instrumentalists Kevin Kenner and William De Rosa and to Toronto where she performed arias from Carmen with Toronto Sinfonietta. Her future concert engagements include recitals in Symphony Space in New York,Chopin Foundation in Miami and in Teatro Comunale in Ferrara, Italy. In her still young career, she has been selected for master classes by such artists as: Franc Corsaro, Ileana Cotrubas, Tom Krause, Helena Łazarska, Alison Pearce, Simon Standage, Wiesław Ochmann and Jerzy Marchwiński.

    Ms. Wryk graduated with distinction from the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music In Warsaw. In 2004-2007 she was studying in the College of The Inter-Faculty Individual Studies in the Humanities at Warsaw University. She majored in musicology and was under the tutorial of legendary Polish musicologist Michał Bristiger. Currently she is studying Voice at the Manhattan School of Music under Maitland Peters.


    In addition to her musical performances, Ms. Wryk is also active as a musicologist, poet and writer. She has won numerous competitions for young poets and writers. Her poems and essays were printed in important Polish literature journals and magazines such as Zeszyty Literackie, Gazeta Wyborcza and Arkusz. Currently she is publishing her music reviews and articles in Przegląd Polski of Nowy Dziennik.

    During summers she also serves as a tutor for Polish Children’s Fund, teaching class about opera. In appreciation of her numerous achievements in both music and humanities, Ms. Wryk has been awarded scholarships from Polish Children’s Fund, the Ministry of Education, the Prime Minister of Poland, Business and Professional Women`s Club, Leszek Czarnecki Foundation and Polish and Slavic Federal Credit Union. Ms. Wryk is a also a recipient of the Manhattan School of Music Scholarship.


    Adam Kośmieja was born in Bydgoszcz, Poland, started playing piano at the age of six, and first performed with orchestra at the age of eleven. For 13 years, he studied with Dr.Ludmiła Kasyanenko, at The Arthur Rubinstein High School of Music in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He currently studies with Solomon Mikowsky at the Manhattan School of Music, New York. At the same time he is a student at the Feliks Nowowiejski Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz, Poland in Jerzy Sulikowski's class. A first-prize winner at the Chopin Piano Competition at Columbia University, New York (2010) he also received First Prize at Mieczysław Munz Piano Competition, New York (2009). He performed in the U.S., Poland, France, & Sweden.

    _____________________________

    PHOTO CREDITS:

    Vintage Chopin Postcard from Maja Trochimczyk Collection. Used by Permission. All Rights Reserved.

    Photographs by Anna Harley-Trochimczyk and Wieslaw Zuchowski. A complete album is found on Picasa Web Albums: http://picasaweb.google.com/Maja.Trochimczyk/ChopinSongsByWrykAndKosmieja#

    Photo 4: Maja Trochimczyk, Marta Wryk, Wanda Presburger, Adam Kosmieja.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Chopin's Death, Mortality and Halloween (Vol. 1, No. 12)

    October in America is filled with the excitement of Halloween. Now, that’s a strange celebration! People dress up as zombies. They scatter eyeballs, skeletons, and torn, bloody limbs around their houses. They convert their gardens into makeshift graveyards… All to scare death away. The spiritual roots of Halloween are in Druidic rituals of the Winter Solstice, a holiday of darkness, marking the shortest day and longest night of the year. What if the night won and the sun never came back?

    Monsters, ghouls, and horrible, terrifying, dangerous creatures of the dark are supposed to be roaming the world that night, saying “trick or treat” – “bribe me, or I’ll kill you.” In a highly commercialized current version of this celebration, a wild party-season culminating on October 31, we conquer our fear of death by dressing up like the dead and dressing our children like cute little ghouls and monsters, to cheat and trick death, pretending we are already dead. There is more to it, of course, beyond the candy giveaway and all-night, carnival parties. To me, this is a day dedicated to fear and rejection of death. We want to live forever. We mock and deny the power of death, by ridiculing it in the most atrocious way possible. People love Halloween. I’m deeply conflicted about it. As a mother, though, I made my share of costumes…

    I remember going to a cemetery on October 31, during my first year in Canada, two months after coming from Poland. It was a culture shock. There was nobody there, the place was abandoned. In the city, stores and yards were full of make-believe tomb-stones, with sculls scattered around and zombies’ hands sticking out of the ground, but nobody went to bring candles and flowers to real graves. In Poland, at this time of the year, we used to visit the grave-sites of our grandparents, great grandparents, or soldiers, or victims of the war. We used to bring candles to these gravesites and monuments. In the rain, in quickly falling darkness of a late autumn evening, cemeteries and war memorial sites were shrouded by the warm glow of thousands of candles. People wanted to remember their dead, their fore-bearers. They wanted to reflect on the past, think about their own mortality.

    The All Souls’ Day, October 31, is a melancholy, yet comforting remembrance of our ancestors and a time for reflection on our own place in the dance of generations. In Warsaw, where we had no family graves to visit, we went to the monuments of the fallen: the Unknown Soldier, the heroes of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. (A handful of underground Home Army soldiers held out for 63 days before being defeated by the Germans, while the Allies waited for the city to bleed to death). We walked through the alleys of Powazki, the oldest cemetery in town, visited the graves of famous Poles. We brought lots of candles; children ran around and made sure all the candles were burning. They had fun: played with fire, skipped over puddles, collected dry, colorful leaves. Adults walked with their umbrellas, and said “shh, shhh… be quiet, this is a cemetery, a place of peace and eternal rest.”

    The Chopin tombstone at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris and the memorial tablet at the column in the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw, where his heart is enshrined are surrounded by fresh bouquets of flowers year-round. The gifts of flowers, pictures, or piano keys are especially profuse on his death anniversary, October 17, 2010. Admirers of his music post photographs on various Facebook groups. There is a wonderful sequence with interviews carrying gifts to the shrine of their beloved composer in Ophra Yerushalmi's documentary, Chopin's Afterlife.

    A life cut short in his 39th year, a creative talent destroyed by an incurable illness, the most romantic “consumption”—all these elements featured prominently in the poetic and artistic responses to his music. Liszt’s narrative of the last days and hours of the dying pianist established this literary trope of mortality/morbidity. Many other essayists and writers, including Stanisław Przybyszewski (1868-1927), sought to identify the spiritual quality of art created at the threshold of death. Przybyszewski and Polish composer Zygmunt Nowskowski (1846-1909) elaborated on the topic of the “typically Slavic” feeling of the unspecific, yet overwhelming, “sorrow” (“żal” or “żałość”) and nostalgia permeating Chopin’s music.

    In Chopin iconography, angels of death appeared quite often. I found a couple of vintage postcards of the most famous theme from this thread, Chopin's last hour, without a crowd of well-wishers and mourners surrounding the dying musician, but with angels waiting to snatch the soul of the consumptive virtuoso. There's a white angel and a dark one, bringing to mind a line from Rilke...

    I have not written any poems about Chopin's death, nor about Halloween, but I have written about remembering the dead and angels, entitling a section of my book Miriam's Iris, or Angels in the Garden "Thanatos" - the angel of death. my father, Aleksy Trochimczyk (b. 25 September 1927, d. 11 May 2001). After my parents were shot by robbers in their own home in April 2000, he was in the hospital for the first five months and on blood transfusions and dialysis for the next eight. Then, he died. His last words to me were a joke about his predicament: due to the severity of his injuries, his bone marrow stopped producing blood cells and he lived on transfusions, received every two weeks. He said: “I have become a vampire, I live off other people’s blood.” We laughed, sharing a silly joke. A week later he was dead. My wreath for his funeral was made of white roses and lilies, the color of fresh snow that blankets the earth in winter’s rest:

    Thanatos 5

    white sun and white clouds
    over white valley

    white lilies and roses
    in a wreath
    on my father’s tomb

    white yucca flames
    burn the hills like candles
    of the funeral
    in sparse, white air

    brides are shrouded
    in the white fog of nothing
    they dissolve
    into the holiness

    of their vows

    widows’ black
    is a solid protection
    from the whiteness

    of death
    that kills colors
    of life’s rainbow
    slowly fading into the white
    skeleton of pain


    © 2001 by Maja Trochimczyk



    This poem, published in Miriam's Iris, or Angels in the Garden, (Moonrise Press, 2008) came to me on the plane, when I was looking out the window over the vast expanse of whiteness below, suspended in the timelessness of the sky. Clouds look like snow; they are both made of water.

    “Thanatos” of the title is the angel of death from ancient Greek mythology. (He is a twin of “Eros” – the angel of desire.) He came quietly to help people fall asleep and go to their rest. In the ancient Greek tradition, their spirits went to Elysian Fields for an eternity of melancholy serenity, gradually forgetting the world of the living. It was not quite the blazing light of glorious Christian Heaven, but a sweet and welcoming place of eternal tranquility. First, they had to pay Charon to be ferried across the dark River Styx, then they drank the water of forgetfulness from the River Lethe, also called “Ameles Potamos” (River of Unmindfulness). That’s why they were buried with coins. Even in 1987, my Eastern-Orthodox, Belorussian (not Greek) grandmother, was buried with coins on her eyelids. This ancient ritual survived the change of religions, the fall of empires.

    Ameles Potamos

    ~ to Taoli-Ambika Talwar

    Your sky is from another planet
    a parallel universe of dangerous beauty
    seducing us with pink’n’orange sweetness
    before it, too, dissolves in the infinity
    of Elysian fields on the other side of the river
    we have to cross after drinking from Lethe,
    waters of forgetfulness and freedom

    The sky darkens into crimson,
    blood clouds thicken, illuminated
    by flickering light points and clusters
    of a thousand candles in cemeteries
    remembering death on All Souls’ Day


    - (C) 2009 by Maja Trochimczyk

    This poem belongs in a string of Facebook poetic conversations. Taoli-Ambika posted a great photo and a poem about invisible Octobers, Lois P. Jones responded with a poem, Susan Rogers wrote "Longing for October" and J. Michael Walker responded with a poem. This is my response – with allusions to Greek mythology and Catholic rituals. I abhor chain letters threatening me with doom, if I don't forward some weird blessing or prayer (25 years of bad luck? I gave in to pressure on that one.) Yet, this chain of poetry was certainly worthwhile. I felt so grateful for having such talented, inspiring friends.

    I'm also grateful for having been raised listening to Chopin. Internalizing the beauty and passion of this music shaped me as a poet and a person. I too, bring him a gift of flowers for his twin tombstones. Many poets in Chopin with Cherries have written about his illness and death. I'll revisit this topic later.

    _____________________________________________

    Illustrations: Vintage postcards from my personal collection.


    1. Postcard of a model of Chopin’s hand by Augusto Clepenger, France, ca. 1910.

    2. Postcard Chopin’s Last Chords, based on a painting by A. Setkowicz, Ostatnie akordy Chopina / Chopinovy Dozvuky / Chopin’s Letzte Akkorde .Kraków, ca. 1900.

    3. Postcard with a caption in Polish: “Portrait of Chopin on his death bed, according to a watercolor by T. Kwiatkowski.” Published in Lwów: Nakł. Spółki Wydawniczej “Postęp,” n.d., ca. 1910.

    4. Postcard The Last Chords of Chopin, based on a painting by Fr. Klimes, Les derniers accords de Chopin. Published by BKWI (Bruder Kohn) in Vienna, Austria, c. 1900-1910.

    5. Photograph of flowering yucca (also known as God's candle) in June, Tujunga Canyon, California. By Maja Trochimczyk

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Mark Tardi about Chopin (Vol. 1, No. 11)

    One of the poets published in the anthology, Chopin with Cherries, Mark Tardi, sent me his answers to a set of four questions I intended to ask of all the poets who wrote about Chopin. The questions and answers are below.

    1. What is your earliest or most intense memory associated with Chopin's music?

    Both my earliest and most intense memory of Chopin stems from an episode of Woody Woodpecker I watched when I was 7 years old. It was the early version of Woody, where he was scarier and far less cute than the later version, and Woody basically terrorized Andy Panda during a piano recital. Andy was heroically determined to play Chopin's famous polonaise while Woody tried everything he could to derail his efforts: jump on his hands; pull the piano away from him; hack up the piano with an ax, and eventually set it on fire. I remember that Andy struck the final chords of the polonaise just as the flaming piano collapsed into cinders.

    I loved everything about the cartoon: the passion, determination, music, chaos. Years later as a high school student I was working at a supermarket and a friend gave me a compilation of somebody named Chopin. I went home and played the CD and when I heard the polonaise I said out loud "That's the guy from Woody Woodpecker!" Of course it turns out he had something of a career long before then.


    2. Why do you like Chopin's music and what does it mean to you?


    The short answer would be that I connect with his emotional register. There are no giveaway silences in Chopin. And his unparalleled commitment to coax out every hum of possibility in the piano, the singular vulnerability, is one of the most beautiful and intimate gestures in the history of music.


    3. What is your favorite piece by Chopin and what do you like about it?


    Though it's difficult to single out, his nocturnes are deeply important to me -- and so many of them are incredible. But if pressed, probably I'd say Nocturne in E Minor, Op. 72, No. 1. The relentless desolation, breathless insistence, the tragic advance and recede envelopes me to the core. The variable emotional texture of the piece, so much nuance and turn, and the little nods to Schubert . . . it all leaves me devastated and grateful.


    4. Do you like cherries, if not what is your favorite fruit?


    I do like cherries, but I'm not sure I'd call them my favorite fruit. My favorite fruit would either be white peaches or blood oranges.

    _____________________

    Mark Tardi is the author of Euclid Shudders, a finalist for the 2002 National Poetry Series that was published by Litmus Press. He also wrote two chapbooks Airport music (Bronze Skull, 2005) and Part First-----Chopin’s Feet (g o n g, 2005). Recent work of his can be found in Chicago Review, Van Gogh’s Ear, and the anthology The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Millennium. He is on the editorial board of Aufgabe, an international literary journal, where he is coordinating a project devoted to the work and influence of Polish poet Miron Białoszewski on contemporary poetry. He was the 2008/2009 Senior Fulbright Lecturer in American Literature & Culture at the University of Łódź, and his Airport Music is forthcoming from Burning Deck Press.

    His contribution to our collection was prefaced with a quote from Witold Gombrowicz's Diary: "I much prefer the Chopin that reaches me in the street from an open window to the Chopin served in great style from the concert stage."

    ________________________________

    NOTE: Illustrations from vintage 19th-century postcards. Maja Trochimczyk Collection.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Chopin Songs in South Pasadena, 10/10/10 at 6 p.m.

    The wonderful and colorful Polish Festival Los Angeles (September 25-26, 2010) had its share of Chopin's music and poetry, thanks to Karolina Naziemiec who invited us, poets Mira Mataric, Susan Rogers, and Lois P. Jones, and over 10 amazing pianists, from age four, to professionals with the highest academic credits. We will post some photos and comments here soon. Time to look ahead, though, at an event that's scheduled for next weekend.

    Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club in Los Angeles invites all music lovers to a free Concert of Romantic Music by Polish musicians based in New York, mezzosoprano Marta Wryk and pianist Adam Kośmieja. They will perform a recital of romantic songs, celebrating the 200th birth anniversary of Fryderyk Chopin, including songs and piano works by Chopin and songs by Antonin Dvorak. The concert will take place at the elegant South Pasadena Library Community Room (1115 El Centro St. South Pasadena, CA 91030) at 6:00 p.m., on Sunday, October 10, 2010.

    PROGRAM

  • Antonin Dvorak - Gypsy Songs, Op.55
  • My Song of Love Rings Through the Dusk / Má píseň zas mi láskou zní
  • Hey, Ring Out, My Triangle / Aj! Kterak trojhranec můj přerozkošně zvoní
  • All Round About the Woods are Still / A les je tichý kolem kol
  • Songs My Mother Taught Me / Když mne stará matka zpívat, zpívat učívala
  • Come and Join the Danci / Struna naladěna, hochu, toč se v kole
  • The Gypsy Songman / Široké rukávy a široké gatě
  • Give a Hawk a Fine Cage / Dejte klec jestřábu ze zlata ryzého

  • Fryderyk Chopin - Music for Piano
  • Mazurka in B Major, Op. 56 No. 1
  • Mazurka in C Major, Op. 56 no. 2
  • Etude in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 12, "Revolutionary"

  • Fryderyk Chopin - Selected Songs, Op. 74
  • A Wish / Życzenie
  • Where he likes / Gdzie lubi
  • A Lithuanian Song / Piosnka litewska
  • A Lovely Boy / Śliczny chłopiec
  • A Sorrowful River / Smutna rzeka
  • A Soldier / Wojak
  • A Wild Party / Hulanka
  • My Darling / Moja Pieszczotka
  • Melody / Melodia



    PERFORMERS

    Born in Poznań, Polish mezzo-soprano Marta Wryk has been active as a recitalist and opera singer performing in Europe and the United States since 2004. Recently Ms Wryk won the first prize in the 15th International Voice Competition in Gorizia, Italy, where she was the youngest participant. Last year the young artist had her debut at the Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater where she performed Prince Orlowsky in Die Fledermaus. This year she appeared as Mirtillo in Handel`s Il Pastor Fido, also at the Manhattan School of Music, and she was praised for her clear sound and assured presence. This summer Ms. Wryk was covering Gondi in Maria di Rohan in prestigious Bel Canto at Caramoor Festival.

    While attending voice classes at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music In Warsaw, Ms Wryk appeared in many operas and operatic ensembles, in roles including Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, 3rd Lady in Der Zauberflöte, Idamante in Idomeneo Re Di Creta, and Ms. Quickly in Falstaff.

    Ms Wryk performed at the Caramoor Music Festival in New York, International Festival Art-Connection in Rotterdam, First International Baroque Festival in Warsaw and IVth Forum of Baroque Music in Warsaw. She also sung for Henryk Wieniawski Music Society in Poznan, Kammeropere Schloss Rheinsberg in Germany, Kosciuszko Foundation and De Lamar Mansion in New York. This spring brought Ms. Wryk to Albuquerque where she performed a recital with great American instrumentalists Kevin Kenner and William De Rosa and to Toronto where she performed arias from Carmen with Toronto Sinfonietta. Her future concert engagements include recitals in Symphony Space in New York,Chopin Foundation in Miami and in Teatro Comunale in Ferrara, Italy. In her still young career, she has been selected for master classes by such artists as: Franc Corsaro, Ileana Cotrubas, Tom Krause, Helena Łazarska, Alison Pearce, Simon Standage, Wiesław Ochmann and Jerzy Marchwiński.


    Ms. Wryk graduated with distinction from the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music In Warsaw. In 2004-2007 she was studying in the College of The Inter-Faculty Individual Studies in the Humanities at Warsaw University. She majored in musicology and was under the tutorial of legendary Polish musicologist Michał Bristiger. Currently she is studying Voice at the Manhattan School of Music under Maitland Peters.

    In addition to her musical performances, Ms. Wryk is also active as a musicologist, poet and writer. She has won numerous competitions for young poets and writers. Her poems and essays were printed in important Polish literature journals and magazines such as Zeszyty Literackie, Gazeta Wyborcza and Arkusz. Currently she is publishing her music reviews and articles in Przegląd Polski of Nowy Dziennik.

    During summers she also serves as a tutor for Polish Children’s Fund, teaching class about opera. In appreciation of her numerous achievements in both music and humanities, Ms. Wryk has been awarded scholarships from Polish Children’s Fund, the Ministry of Education, the Prime Minister of Poland, Business and Professional Women`s Club, Leszek Czarnecki Foundation and Polish and Slavic Federal Credit Union. Ms. Wryk is a also a recipient of the Manhattan School of Music Scholarship.

    Adam Kośmieja was born in Bydgoszcz, Poland, started playing piano at the age of six, and first performed with orchestra at the age of eleven. For 13 years, he studied with Dr.Ludmiła Kasyanenko, at The Arthur Rubinstein High School of Music in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He currently studies with Solomon Mikowsky at the Manhattan School of Music, New York. At the same time he is a student at the Feliks Nowowiejski Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz, Poland in Jerzy Sulikowski's class. A first-prize winner at the Chopin Piano Competition at Columbia University, New York (2010) he also received First Prize at Mieczysław Munz Piano Competition, New York (2009). He performed in the U.S., Poland, France, & Sweden.

    I hope that all poets and lovers of Chopin's music will join us for this wonderful celebration of his 200th Birth Anniversary in South Pasadena. For more information about the organizers, Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club in Los Angeles, visit the organization's Website or my ModjeskaClub Blog.

    OTHER EVENTS

    October 14-21, 2010: The 11&1/2 Polish Film Festival Los Angeles is around the corner, and the festival organizers look forward to celebrating with you the achievements of Polish filmmakers from October 14 to 21, 2010. The exact program will be posted on the Festival's website, Polish Film Festival 11 1/2.
  • Monday, September 20, 2010

    Chopin in Venice and at the Polish Fest LA

    The third installment in the ongoing series of events dedicated to poetry inspired by Chopin's music took place on September 12, 2010, at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice, California. It was yet another version of poetry and music, changed by the presence of different poetic voices and an entirely new selection of music: transcriptions for flute of Chopin music and his rarely played Variations on Rossini.

    The next Chopin with Cherries event is scheduled for September 25, 2010 at 1 p.m., at the Polish Fest LA, at Our Lady of the Bright Mount Catholic Church on Adams St. Los Angeles. There will be a brief Chopin lecture, followed by a concert by two pianists, with four poets reciting their work: Lois P. Jones, Mira N. Mataric, Susan Rogers, and Maja Trochimczyk. For more information about Polish Fest LA visit its website.

    At Beyond Baroque, the music was provided by Rick Wilson, who played two antique flutes as well as improvised music for poets who wished to recite their work with flute accompaniment. Rick performed on a crystal glass flute by Claude Laurent (Paris, 1834, in the photo) and on an ivory flute by J. & W. Wainwright (London, ca. 1830). Both instruments are from his collection of over 130 antique flutes: www.oldflutes.com.

    PROGRAM

    • The "Minute Waltz" - Waltz, Op. 64, No. 1 (transposed from D-flat to D) – Rick Wilson
    • Marilyn Robertson – We speak Chopin
    • Lois P. Jones – This Waltz is not for Dancing
      (Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor, Posthumous)
    • Russell Salamon – Waltz in A Minor
    • Russell Salamon – Eternal Nocturne
    • Rick Lupert – Chopin in an Old Church
    • Maja Trochimczyk – A Study with Cherries

    • Variations on a Theme by Rossini ("Non piu mesta"
      – La Cenerentola) in E Major, Op. B.9 (1824) – Rick Wilson
    • Maja Trochimczyk – Harvesting Chopin
    • Kathi Stafford – Mazurka, Formed of Rain
    • Kathi Stafford – Second Movement
    • Georgia Jones-Davis – Chopin’s Sorrow
    • Radomir Vojtech Luza – Frozen Flowers
    • Radomir Vojtech Luza – Beyond Utopia
    • Waltz in B Minor, Op.69, No. 2 (flute transcription) – Rick Wilson

    • Fantaisie on a Melody of Chopin, Op. 29 by Jules Demersseman, Theme and Variation – Rick Wilson
    • Erika Wilk – Winter in Majorca
    • Erika Wilk – Everlasting Love
    • Maja Trochimczyk – How to Make a Mazurka
    • Ruth Nolan – Concerto No. 1, in E Minor, on Highway 111, in Palm Springs
    • Mira N. Mataric – Chopin and I
    • Mira N. Mataric – Dance with Me
    • Kath Abela Wilson – How I Fell in Love with Chopin

    • Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2 (flute transcription) – Rick Wilson
    • R. Romea Luminarias – There Is No Other Love
    • Lia Brooks – During Nocturne (read by Lois P. Jones)
    • Susan Rogers – Alicia Plays Chopin

    • Życzenie/The Wish Op. 74, No. 1 (song in flute transcription) – Rick Wilson

    A photographic report from the event by Kathabela Wilson may be found on Picasa Web Albums. She commented about "a fantastic concept realized again. Each Chopin with Cherries performance is different, and a wonderful realization...I love these programs that present such poetic and musical strengths and beauties."

    BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

    LIA BROOKS has great difficulty thinking about anything else but poetry. When she isn’t writing you’ll usually find her with a nose in a book or somewhere outside walking, either in the woods or by the sea. Her work has been published in Penumbra, South, Shadow Train, First Time, California Quarterly, Loch Raven Review and various other print and online magazines and anthologies in the U.K. and the U.S. She was short-listed for the New Leaf Short Poetry Prize in 2007 and her work has been part of two ekphrastic events in collaboration with painters in California and Indiana. She is also a painter and resides in Southampton, England.


    LOIS P. JONES has been published in American Poetry Journal, Rose & Thorn, Tiferet, Quill & Parchment, The California Quarterly, Kyoto Journal, and other print and on-line journals in the U.S. and abroad. She is co-founder of Word Walker Press and a documentarist of Argentina’s wine industry. She has featured in London, Prague, Los Angeles, Seattle as well as Tacoma Washington’s Distinguished Writers Series. You can hear her as host on 90.7 KPFK’s Poet’s Cafe (Pacifica Radio) and see her as co-producer of Moonday’s monthly poetry reading in Pacific Palisades, California. She is the Associate Poetry Editor of Kyoto Journal and a 2009 Pushcart Nominee. In 2010 her poem “Ouija” won Poem of the Year for IBPC judged by Dana Goodyear.

    GEORGIA JONES-DAVIS wakes up in the morning thinking about poetry as much as breakfast. That she began, whilst a student, to compose poetry at the same time that she started to listen to the music of Chopin is no coincidence, she insists. She spent over twenty years rough-housing it in journalism, working as a reporter, book review editor and literary reviewer for The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, New York Newsday and The Chicago Tribune, etc. Georgia is squarely focused on poetry now and still listening to Chopin. Her work has appeared in West Wind, The Bicycle Review, Brevities, Voices From the Valley, The Los Angeles Times and the California Quarterly. She is a co-director of Valley Contemporary Poets (VCP) and at work on her first book of poems.

    R. ROMEA LUMINARIAS (Rey Luminarias) studied architecture and poetry in Manila, Hong Kong, China, Seattle and Los Angeles, California. His works have appeared in various publications, including issues of the Caracoa Literay Journal and the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly. His poems have been included in an anthology, Philippine Protest Poetry. A member of Poets West, Rey Luminarias is also a painter and paper sculptor. He teaches architecture, painting, marimba music, and creative writing. Rey’s collection of large-print meditative writings and an illustrated book of poems and riddles are forthcoming this year.

    RICK LUPERT has been involved with poetry in Los Angeles since 1990. He served for two years as a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets, a 30-year San Fernando Valley based literary organization. His poetry has appeared in places such as The Los Angeles Times, Chiron Review, Stirring, The Blue Jew Yorker, PoeticDiversity.org, Caffeine Magazine, Blue Satellite and others. He edited A Poet’s Haggadah: Passover through the Eyes of Poets anthology and is the author of 12 poetry collections. He has hosted the weekly Cobalt Café reading series in Canoga Park since 1994 and is regularly featured at venues throughout Southern California. Rick created and maintains the Poetry Super Highway, an online resource and publication for poets. (www.PoetrySuperHighway.com).

    RADOMIR VOJTECH LUZA is a friend to peasants and poets, senators and saints. His poetry is breaking ground at warp speed and possessing enough images and details to stand in museums for hundreds of years and millions of minutes. Radomir has published poetry in literary journals, anthologies and websites; he hosted po-rap (his own music form) readings all over the country. He has fifteen poetry and prose books to his credit, including Damaged Goods, as well as two chapbooks, Personal Goods and More Personal Goods, published by Poets on Site. His poetry recently appeared in Phantom Seed, Sage Trail, The Bicycle Review and poeticdiversity. His featured poetry gigs took place in New York City, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Washington DC, Atlanta, Los Angeles, St. Louis, among other cities.

    MIRA (MIRJANA) N. MATARIC is a Californian poet and writer from Serbia. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in languages and world literature at the University of Belgrade and, after immigrating to the U.S. in 1981, pursued a Master’s in Special Education from Emporia University, KS. Her poetry, short stories, translations (Serbian/ English), essays and travelogues have appeared in literary magazines and journals for decades. Mira has published 30 books in English and Serbian, including her own poetry and prose, as well as many translations. Her writings offer a vibrant, picturesque, true depiction of life and people in times of strife and joy, always filled with wisdom, beauty and love of life. She received numerous awards for poetry in the U.S. and Serbia, as well as three Presidential Citations for her volunteer work in advancing literature and teaching creative writing. www.miramataric.net

    RUTH NOLAN, M.A., is founder of Phantom Seed, a California desert literary magazine. She was born in San Bernardino, grew up in the high desert town of Apple Valley, and worked as a helicopter hotshot firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management during her college years. She currently lives in Palm Desert, where she is Associate Professor of English at College of the Desert. She is editor of a new anthology, No Place for a Puritan: the literature of California’s Deserts, forthcoming from Heyday Books in fall, 2009. She is recipient of a 2008-09 Joshua Tree National Park affiliate writer’s residency, and has published several collections of poetry, including Wild Wash Road, and Dry Waterfall l. Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including, recently, Pacific Review. She serves on the advisory committee for the Inlandia Institute, based in Riverside, CA.

    MARILYN N. ROBERTSON lives in Northeast Los Angeles. She has studied with Suzanne Lummis and been a featured reader at the “Viva Poetry” series leading up to Lummis Day in NELA, at the Light the Sky poetry series at the Eagle Rock Plaza, and at the Pat Pincus Memorial Poetry Readings in Brentwood. Her poetry appears in the forthcoming book, The Poetry Mystique published by Duende Books. She is a graduate of Occidental College in English Literature, with Masters’ and doctoral degrees in education from USC. She was a president of the California School Library Association. During her 34 years with the Los Angeles Unified School District, she served students as one of the district librarians specializing in storytelling and children’s literature.

    SUSAN ROGERS considers poetry a vehicle for light and a tool for the exchange of positive energy. She is a practitioner of Sukyo Mahikari—a spiritual practice that promotes positive thoughts, words and action. Her poems are a part of the 2010 Valentine Peace Project and were part of the 2009 event “Celebrating Women: Body, Mind and Spirit.” They have also been performed at several museums and art galleries in Southern California. Her work can be found in the 2009 haiku anthology, Shell Gathering, numerous chapbooks from Poets on Site and can be heard online as part of the audio tour for the Pacific Asia Museum. www.sukyomahikari.org.

    RUSSELL SALAMON has been writing poetry since 1963 when at Fenn College in Cleveland, Ohio he discovered his purpose to create art in words. He has written a poetic novel about the Sixties, Descent into Cleveland, (Words and Pictures Press, 1994). Two books of poems Woodsmoke and Green Tea (deepclevelandpress 2006) and Ascent from Cleveland: Wild Heart Steel Phoenix, (Bottom Dog Press with Fredonia Press 2008) are still in print. Breeze Hunting, a chapbook (Inevitable Press 2001) exists. Author of many poems, most recently the Black Axioms Series of love poems. He is one of the editors of California Quarterly, having just selected for Volume 36, Number 1.

    KATHI STAFFORD’s poetry has appeared in various literary journals such as Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Offerings, and Hard Row to Hoe. She is poetry editor for Southern California Review. Additionally, she is a Pushcart Prize nominee for 2009. She is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC.

    MAJA TROCHIMCZYK is a poet, music historian, photographer, translator and non-profit director, born in Poland, educated in Warsaw and at McGill University in Canada (Ph.D., 1994), and living in California (www.trochimczyk.net). She published four books of music studies (After Chopin; The Music of Louis Andriessen; Polish Dance in Southern California, and A Romantic Century in Polish Music), two books of poetry illustrated with her photographs (Rose Always and Miriam’s Iris, 2008), and hundreds of articles on music and culture. Over 70 poems appeared in such journals as Loch Raven Review, Magnapoets, poeticdiversity, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, Quill & Parchment, Ekprasis, poeticdiversity, as well as anthologies by Poets on Site and others. Dr. Trochimczyk currently serves as Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga and President of Modjeska Club (2010-2012).

    ERIKA WILK is a poet, born in Bavaria, raised in Salzburg, Austria, and for the past fifty years a California girl. She is a member of two poetry groups based in Pasadena, Emerging Urban Poets and Poets on Site. Her poetry has been published in the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly and several chapbooks by Poets on Site, written to paintings by Milford Zornes, Henry Fukuhara, etc.

    KATH ABELA WILSON is the creator and leader of Poets on Site, a poetry performance group where poets collaborate with dancers, musicians, and artists to perform on site of their inspirations, including museums and galleries. She edited 16 chapbooks of Poets of Site including hundreds of poems. Her poetry appeared in The California Quarterly, Prism, Tinywords, Asahi, Astro Poetica, Haiku News, Ribbons, Red Lights, Shakespeare's Monkey Revue, Pirate Pig Press, Star*Line, astarte, lunarosity, Totem, Phantom Seed, and in various anthologies. She sings in the alto section in the Caltech Glee Club and fell in love with Chopin as a young girl. Without a piano, she learned to play some of his pieces on a paper keyboard, for her weekly lessons. She often travels the world with her Caltech math professor husband Rick Wilson and they collect musical instruments, flutes and percussion.

    RICK WILSON bought his first flute in an antique shop in Amsterdam in 1977 and has since become a serious player, student, and collector of historical flutes. Twelve instruments from his collection of over 130 antique flutes were on display at the Fiske Museum of Musical Instruments in Claremont, CA in 1993. He studied the one-keyed Baroque flute with Stephen Preston in London in 1978--79 and has participated a number of times in the Baroque Performance Institute of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he worked with Christopher Krueger. He continued studies of 19th century multi-keyed flutes with Stephen Preston and Jan Boland at the Wildacres Flute Retreat in the 1990s, and has worked on traditional flute techniques with Chris Norman at the Boxwood Festival. He played in Los Angeles since 1981 with the Huntington Ensemble, was part of the Hollywood Early Music Players, and has also performed with the Los Angeles Baroque Orchestra, Con Gioia, and numerous other local groups. Rick Wilson is a Professor of Mathematics at California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    Poetic Chopin at Beyond Baroque, 9/12/10 (Vol. 1 No. 8)


    Time to hear Chopin and poetry again! The next reading from Chopin with Cherries is scheduled for Sunday, September 12, 2010, 3 p.m. at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, 681 Venice Boulevard, Venice, CA 90291-4805. Admission, benefiting Beyond Baroque, is $7.00 for general public and $5.00 for Beyond Baroque members. For driving directions and more information about BB, visit the website: www.beyondbaroque.org.

    The following poets are scheduled to read their contributions to the anthology:
    • Marlene Hitt,
    • Georgia Jones-Davis,
    • Lois P. Jones,
    • Marie Lecrivain,
    • R. Romea Luminarias,
    • Radomir Vojtech Luza,
    • Rick Lupert,
    • Mira Mataric,
    • Ruth Nolan,
    • Marilyn Robertson,
    • Susan Rogers,
    • Kathi Stafford,
    • Taoli Ambika Talwar,
    • Kathabela Wilson, and
    • Erika Wilk.

    Everyone knows that Chopin wrote almost exclusively for the piano, but our event will feature another instrument that was favored by his father, Nicolas Chopin: the flute. Moreover, we will hear actual 19th century flutes, a French one, made of crystal glass, and an English one, made of ivory. These rare instruments belong to a private flute collection of Rick Wilson.

    He will use a seven-key crystal glass flute by Claude Laurent (Paris, 1834) to play the following two sets of variations:

    1. Variations on a Theme of Rossini ("Non piu mesta" from La Cenerentola)
    Op. B.9, by Fryderyk Chopin (1824)

    2. Fantaisie on a Melody of Chopin, Op. 29 by Jules Demersseman (1833-1866); Theme (Un poco lento andante) - Variation (Piu lente)


    Rick Wilson wrote the following about Jules Demersseman:

    "The composer of the Fantaisie, Jules Demersseman (1833-1866), was born in The Netherlands but began study at the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 12. He was considered the best flutist in Paris and actually was appointed as the flute professor at the Conservatoire briefly ca.1860 before being forced out because he would not adopt or teach the new Boehm-system flutes."

    Another group of Chopin's pieces consists of 19th century transcriptions of his piano compositions for the flute:

    3. The "Minute Waltz" - Waltz, Op.64 no. 1 (transposed from D-flat to D)
    4. Waltz, Op.69 no. 2
    5. Nocturne, Op.9 no. 2
    6. Zyczenie (A Wish), song by Chopin arranged for flute solo

    Rick Wilson will use an eight-key ivory flute by J. & W. Wainwright, London,
    ca. 1830, for these pieces (the flute is the third from the top in the photograph, from www.oldflutes.com).


    These rare instruments, crystal glass and ivory, will add to the unique character of our history-making event. Dr. Wilson, a noted expert on historical flutes, explains:

    "In the first half of the 19th century, the vast majority of flutes were made of wood. But ivory flutes, though expensive and made in far fewer numbers, were not rare. Glass flutes were only made between 1806 and 1857, by Claude Laurent and his successor, in Paris. These were not mere novelties, but state-of-the-art flutes of their time. Laurent flutes were owned e.g. by Napoleon and his brothers, James Madison (4th president), and Franz I of Austria. Over 100 are known to survive today, but perhaps 75% are in museums and cannot be heard."

    Those who will spend the afternoon of September 12 at Beyond Baroque, Venice, will be able to hear these flutes and enjoy the romantic music and contemporary poetry inspired by the timeless oeuvre of Fryderyk Chopin.

    ____________________

    Photo from "Chopin with Cherries: Poetry and Music at the Ruskin" held on May 8, 2010, at the Ruskin Art Club in Los Angeles. Left to Right, standing: Millicent Borges Accardi, Georgia Jones-Davis, Donna Emerson, Wojciech Kocyan, Erika Wilk, Laura Mays Hoopes, Mira Mataric, Maja Trochimczyk. Seated: Kath Abela Wilson, Kathi Stafford, Marian Kaplun Shapiro, Beata Pozniak Daniels with her son, Ryland Daniels, Taoli-Ambika Talwar, and Susan Rogers. More photos from this event may be found on Picasa Web Albums, at
    Chopin with Cherries II Photo Album.