Individual Polish Choirs: Szczecin Nightingales/Szczecin Slowiki

Figure 1.-- This is an album cover of the Szczecin Nightingales made in 1990. They boys wore this costume from 1983 to 1990.

The Szczecin Boys' Choir "Nightingales" was founded in December 1960 by Marian Foska, Aleksander Mleczak and Jan Szyrocki. There was little much more that I could gather from its manager and conductor due to the language barrier, for surprisingly, this choir had decided to come on a month-long trip half-way around the world with little more than a photograph-poster. What I did find out was that back there in Poland, each boy is trained three times a week in group or in solo to achieve a very focussed sound - that which the conductor was apparently very proud of as she spoke in her native Polish. I repeatedly asked her what attempts were made to distinguish this choral sound from the many other boys' choirs in the world. She seemed not to understand me. I would have wanted to find out further how she handled the boy's breaking voice, how she disciplined each voice etc... but she was evidently tired and I was losing her interest fast. Indeed, the Polish Nightingales, as one observer prefers to call them, have a very focussed sound that is forward and cheerful. The trebles are balanced by a small continuous ensemble of late teens, creating a nice and effective but understated finesse. This was the reason one choir expert persisted in asking Ms Bozena Derwich, conductor and artistic director of the Polish Nightingales - for her philosophy behind the Nightingales' sound. Failing to get any--the I here offer his own version of it, with all due respect to Ms Derwich's artistry. This choir was not consistent in its greatness. The first songs started off rather shakily. I could see anxious faces and even that Ms Derwich herself was uncomfortable with the audience that had gathered here in CHIJMES tonight. This is understandable as they are not a professional choir in the sence of attending a boarding school and devoting substantial time to practice. Eerything got better after the interval, Ms Derwich started to smile and that put both the audience and the choir at ease. It was as if, I was more worried that our Polish guests were not having a great time singing for us. Throughout the first half, there was little communication with the audience though the songs were chanted with relative ease and accomplishment. After all, this is a choir that has won awards in major international festivals - 2nd Prize and a Silver Medal at the IV International Children's Choral Festival (USA) and the Golden Harp Award in the Grand Prix of the XV Competition of Polish Pupil's Groups of old music in the Polish Schola Cantorum '93. I like the programming nonetheless, sacred as it was. There were many rare works which turned out to be gems. Particularly, the works of Josef Swider and Marek Jasinski revealed many a choral device and texture that were, to say the least, interesting. The boys did a commendable job in the difficult and prolonged Hymn of Praise but it was marred by vocal tightness in the high range, especially in the word "joy" which was repeated throughout. One observer would have concluded that the Nightingales were not capable of a true forte (and at that - a wide enough dynamic range) if I had not left my conclusions to the second half. With a much lighter programme, and the atmosphere generally more relaxed after the intermission, the boys were smiling and I was beginning to enjoy myself. Tomasz Flasza's The Little Child was in particular very well done. Polonez, by Swider, again revealed his remarkable understanding of choral arrangement. Gradually, true choral greatness began to reveal itself in the late second half of the concert - the distinct sound that I was looking for emerged coyly against all odds. How shall I describe it? Dark warmth balanced by cheery brightness and a remarkably lustrous finesse? Before I could put a finger on it, the concert hall broke out in applause for these beautiful boys from faraway Poland. Nevertheless, the several emblems of a remarkable choir are all here tonight: clear clean articulation, tight intrinsic ensemble work, spot-on execution and consistently accurate intonation throughout. I would love to hear this choir again. A Polish reader in 2007 tells us that the Szczecin Nightingaels have changed their uniform.


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Created: 3:50 PM 8/29/2007
Last updated: 3:50 PM 8/29/2007