** boys choirs : Poland

Polish Boy Choir Costumes

Figure 1.--Polish boys' choirs performed until the 1980s in a variety of short pants uniforms. We're not sure which choir this was.

Many countries of Western and Central Europe, including Poland have a long tradition of church boys' choirs dating back to the medieval era. The choirs were associated with the Catholic Church. We have at this time pn limited historical information about the early history ofPolish choirs. The choirs after World War II played a small, but not unimportan part in the struggle between the Communist Government and Catholic Church. The existing Polish choirs all are of modern post-World War II origins. One choir began in 1939 but had to be abandoned until after the war. Three of the choirs are based in Poznan, we are not sure just why this is. The Polish choirs are quite highly respected and includes choirs of considerable artistic merit.

Historical Background

The early pre-Christian era of Polish history is poorly understood. The country at times has covered a huge expanse of central and eastern Europe. At other times it has disappeared from the map. Poland became Catholic several centuries after western European countries, in the 10th Century, in part related to its efforts to ward off the push eastward of German tribes. Poland has been occupied by Germans of all stripes (pagan, Christian, and NAZIs), the Mongols, and the Russians (Tsar and Stalin). Poland played a major role in stopping the Ottoman Turk drive into Europe. Poland was the first county to oppose the NAZIs and played a central role in the Cold War and the destruction of the Soviet Empire. Few countries can claim a more troubled history. Yet through all of that Poland survived as did the Catholic Church. Poland is probably the most Catholic country in Europe. The Church has played a pivotal war in the nation's history and is associated with Polish nationalism more than is the case of any other country--even Ireland.

Communism and Catholoism

HBC at this time does not have much information about the post-World War II history of the Polish choirs. We do not know to what extent they are associated with the Catholic Church. Many European boy choirs are associated with the Catholic and Protestant churches. The Communist Government which was imposed upon Poland by Stalin did everything possible to cut the Church off from access to children. The Communist Government did, however, promote cultural institutions. The Polish Nightingales were seen as an important cultural institution. We would be interested in more setails aboyt the Church and the Polish Communidst state nd their relationship to these choirs.

Figure 2.--This Polish boys' choir uniform short pants, jackets, and lacey jabots. We're not sure which choir this was.

Choral History

The Catholic Church in Poland has supported boy choirs as was the case in western Europe. I have no information, however, about the tradition of boy choirs in Poland. One source reports that to make up for the education that was given in the choir schools, the national Conservatory was founded; its primary purpose was to train instrumentalists for military music as well as singers for light opera which was, at that time, very much in demand--and often performed by poorly paid children. Modern Poland did not exist until after World War I. The countries which had divided Poland (Austria, Germany/Prussia, and Russia adopt various policies toward Poland, but gradually the trend of policies was to destroy Polish national identity. We have only limited information on choirs during this period. Cultural institutionds were permitted to vary degrees and one such intitution was boy choirs oganized by the Church. The popularity of these choirs was well estanlished by the time Poland became independent. After World War II, the prestigious Poznan Nigtengales survived the Stalinist atheism campaign and becae a revered national institution.

Choir Costumes

Polish choirs developed some of the most destinctive costumes of all the European choirs, making them easily recognizable. This may be due to the recent establishment of the Polish state making Poles especially interested in emphasizing their national identity.

Individual Choirs

There are several boy choirs in Poland. The best known is the Polish Nightengales, but that choir no longer exists. Poznan has an especially impotant tradition of boy choirs. We have found the names of several of these choirs. Some are not very well known. There may be more. Unfortunatley I have been able to find very little information on Polish boys choirs. Here our lack of Polish language capability has complicated our ablity to collect information. Some Polish choirs do not have internet sites and the nes that do have not posted much historical information on their sites. Hopefully our Polish readers will provide us some information about the different Polish choirs.

Figure 8.--Some Polish movies provide interesting insights into the Polish choirs. The uniform here looks like that of the Poznan Nightingales.


Poland has produced some movies set around choirs. IHBC has few details about these movies. They do show case the destinctive costumes worn by the boys. While HBC has little information on the movies, we believe that the costumes displayed in the movies are based on actual costumes at the Polish choirs. The red jackets, for example, worn by the Polish Nightengales are also worn by the boys in the film. These films appear to have used actual choristers in the films.



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Created: November 2, 1998
Last updated: 3:45 PM 8/29/2007