By Frank J. Dmuchowski
Over 1100+ Polonians and friends were treated to a beautiful performance of Polish carols, song and dance on November 25, 2012 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts by the Loyola University of Chicago based Lira Ensemble. In addition to the performance which I will discuss below, The Lira Ensemble is an outstanding example of what can be done under the leadership of a general manager who understands how to receive funding from various foundations and other organizations.
The event was co-sponsored by the Michigan Division of the Polish American Congress. It was partially funded the Consulate General of Poland in Chicago, and such prestigious foundations as the Alphawood Foundation of Chicago, The Richard Dreihaus Foundation, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, , the Mc Arthur Foundation, The Lira Society of the Polish Women’s Alliance etc. The Lira Ensemble besides providing exceptional entertainment is an outstanding example of a business and cultural outreach model that could be adopted by some of our talented groups in Michigan.
There were five major components of the program: Lira Symphony, Lira Dancers, Lira Singers and the 13 year Polish-American child piano prodigy Daniel Szefer who exceptionally played several pieces by Chopin. Mina Zikri, who is affiliated with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was the conductor. All of this was coordinated and presented by Kraków born Pani Lucyna Migała. Pani Migała is the co-founder, artistic director and general manager of the Lira Ensemble.
Pani Migała delightfully introduced a piece or a grouping of pieces in order to give the audience some background information so as to enhance the enjoyment of the presentation. All of this was done within the context of a well thought out program guide.
This program guide besides providing information on the immediate program also mentioned the many sponsors of the Lira Ensemble – which included over 300 individuals as well as over 25 business and foundations sponsors.
The program was a perfect blend of classical music, Polish carols, various other Polish folk songs and even an aria from Moniuszko’s opera Straszny Dwór The pace was excellent for what appeared to be an audience overwhelmingly 1st and 2nd generation Polish American.
The performers were a multicultural blend of many individuals. Poles and Polish Americans primarily made up the Lira singers and dancers. In the Lira symphony you had a beautiful multicultural blend of individuals of Polish descent, Asian, African-American, Latino, European and others. The common element was that they all had a love for Polish music and culture.
For myself, personally, I particularly enjoyed the singing of Bóg Się Rodzi, the Kaszubian songs which were sung in the original Kaszubian. Finally, the playing of Chopin’s Scherzo in No. 1 in B Minor by Daniel Szefer. This music was composed by Chopin in 1831 and reflected his homesickness and frustration and anger with the failed November Uprising of 1830-31 (Powstanie Listopadowe) and the continued brutal occupation of the Congress Kingdom of Poland by Russia. The unique challenge with this piece is to be able to effectively play the beautiful Polish kolędy Lulajże Jezuniu which is embedded within the fury of the rest of scherzo without losing the feeling for either the calm or the fury. Daniel played this piece with the right touch. It was a joy to listen to this as well his playing of the Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude and the Grande Polonaise Brillante. I am looking to follow Daniel’s career as he becomes old enough to participate in the Chopin competition in Warsaw. Daniel has performed in a number of venues throughout the United States. He was the youngest finalist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Youth Auditions.
Let me close with the comment that there were so many aspects of the performance and the performers that deserved specifically noted praise and mention. I apologize for not mentioning more of them. To all I would like to express my personal thanks for such a wonderful evening.
Why the Lira Ensemble Works So Well
There are many significant factors which have contributed to the success of The Lira Ensemble. Let me mention some of the more prominent that comes to mind from my interview with Pani Migała, the program guide and personal observations:
First: to Pani Lucyna Migała who wears many hats from artistic director to general manager. Also she is very approachable to the media and individuals in general.
Second: the selection of artists who are not only talented, multi-ethnic but also have a love, and interest in the music and culture of Poland. Almost all of the artists have at least a bachelor’s degree in music of theatre. As they move on in their careers they will bring others to seeing the beauty of our Polish music and culture.
On this point I would like to mention their outstanding artistic advisors which included Henry Górecki d. 2010, Krzysztof Penderecki, Daniel Pollack, Maria Ptaszynska and Stefan Stuligrosz.
Third: soliciting of funding from multiple sources –individuals, businesses, foundations- both within and outside of the Polish community. It is wonderful that there are such significant supporters as the McArthur Foundation and the Polish Consulate in Chicago. When looking over the list of the corporate and foundations sponsors I could only wonder at the effort that went into getting such a prestigious group of supporters.
Fourth: introducing Polish music and culture not simply to those of Polish descent but to many other ethnic groups – Latino, Black, Jewish etc in “single as well as joint concerts” In the process they also introduced the music of other cultures to Polonians. For this activity alone The Lira Ensemble has received much recognition in Chicago for “bringing different groups and cultures together”. They are “true ambassadors of good will”.
Fifth: mentioning the names of all of the performers and other individuals and organizations who contribute to success of The Lira Ensemble—financially or otherwise.
Sixth: performing in significant venues such as the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts.
Seventh: advertising not only in the traditional Polish media such as the Tygodnik Polski but also reaching Polish Americans and others through media such as the Detroit News and the Metro Times. In other words understanding who your audience is and then targeting your advertising and marketing to where your potential audience actually looks for information.
Eighth: establishing a significant affiliation with a university or college or other prestigious organizations. In the case of The Lira Ensemble it was with Loyola University of Chicago.
Ninth: a tremendous amount of focused thought, energy and commitment. In addition to just plain rolling up your sleeves and hard work.
This section is a little long but hopefully it will have additional insights and perspectives that may be of interest to our local groups and organizations – even though it may be a partial repetition of their current thought.
The Lira Ensemble gave the 1100+ Polonians and friends an unforgettable evening. They also serve as role and business model for those Polonian groups and organizations in the Detroit area who would like to emulate their success. Success, not only in terms of service to Polonia but also in acting as meaningful bridges to other cultures and ethnic groups that make up Detroit.
For those who are interested in more information on the Lira Ensemble in general and the tools that they used to become so successful please call !-773-508-7040 or visit www.liraensemble.org and get in touch with Pani Lucyna Migała.