Mazowsze was established by a decree issued by the Ministry of Culture and Art on 8 November 1948, ordering Professor Tadeusz Sygietyński to form a folk group. The group was intended to protect traditional folk repertoire, consisting of songs and dances of Mazovia as well as regional artistic tradition. However, the idea for the group was formed earlier.
Tadeusz Sygietyński, outstanding composer and lover of folk culture, together with Mira Zimińska-Sygietyńska, pre-war actress, promised themselves in the ruins of Warsaw that if they survived the war, they would found a group. While for a film and cabaret actress folk might seem quite distant, Sygietyński’s early dreams came true. Zimińska decided to abandon an acting career and took up organizational issues. Sygietyński composed using original folk songs. They visited country houses: Zimińska in the search of original costumes; Sygietyński – of talented young people. The group’s base was located in Karolin – an early 20th century estate close to Warsaw.
By the end of 1948 the first groups of young people from nearby villages and towns started to come to Karolin estate. Sygietyńscy had to be concerned not only about living standards for the students, but also their education. Studying, trials and training began. After two years, on 6 November 1950, the premiere took place at the Polski (Polish) Theatre in Warsaw. In the beginning, the repertoire consisted of folk songs and dances from central Poland.
After the Warsaw premiere, between their next concerts and future plans, the most important decisions had been made. Already in 1951 Mazowsze started a world tour, starting with the most obvious direction at that time – the Soviet Union. After three years, the group was allowed to visit the West. In 1954 the group performed in Paris and six years later – in the USA.
Sygietyński’s death in 1956 called into question the future plans of Mazowsze. Various options, including disbanding of the group, were considered.
“But for Mira, there would be neither Sygieteński, nor Mazowsze” – wrote Marian Hemar, poet and friend of the group. She took over the group after Sygieteński’s death and made Mazowsze what it is today. It was Zimińska-Sygieteńska who extended the programme to 40 ethnographical regions over the years and worked out unknown religious, patriotic and other songs. This made Mazowsze world famous. The group gave over 6 thousand concerts for more than 18 million people in Poland and in 51 countries abroad. Mira Zimińska-Sygietyńska directed the group for over 40 years, dedicating to it all her talent, experience and life. Mazowsze became another (after cabaret) passion of her life, as she mentioned in one of her books. Until her death (26 January 1997) she remained full of energy for work and humour. She did not want to retire (she had 2430 days of unused holidays).
On 1 January 2006 Stanisław Jopek dies – the first soloist of the group and one of its unquestioned leaders. His voice was known in every house. He was famous thanks to Mazowsze songs, in particular Furman (Carter), for which he was called, jokingly, the First Carter of Poland, but also Chopin and Moniuszko songs as well as Polish Christmas carols.
Outside of Poland, apart from technical and formal perfection – Jopek was recognized for his perfect performance of the songs of different counties, in which Mazowsze performed (he sang in 36 languages!).
Even today Mazowsze is recognized for its youth, vigour, professionalism and colour. The repertoire now includes works from 42 ethnographical regions. At one concert one can admire nearly half of them. Costumes are not only of different origins, but also varied in terms of colours, decorations and materials. Most of the choreographies are created by Witold Zapała, former ballet soloist, now an outstanding choreographer.
Ambassador of Polish Culture
Mazowsze is one of the world’s biggest art groups, referring to national dances, songs and traditions. Taking into account its very extensive repertoire, Mazowsze is universally regarded as a national group. For thousands of people in the world, Mazowsze concerts were their first contact with Polish culture. “If this is a face of Poland, then long live Poland!” (Gazette de Lausanne, Switzerland). For the large Polish community abroad, the concerts are an opportunity to go back to Poland mentally. Jerzy Waldorff, outstanding music critic, called Mazowsze “a jewel in the crown of Poland”. For more than 50 years, the group has had the honour to be an Ambassador of Polish Culture.
“The New York Times”, USA
“There is nothing quite like Mazowsze. The Polish folk ensemble began its American tour – the fourth since its founding in 1948 – with a typically rich and heartwarming performance on Saturday night at the Brooklyn Centre for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College. […] The material that the singers and dancers present – 28 numbers here – is lilting and vigorous, and filled with humor. But most of all, the Mazowsze performers look genuinely pleased and proud to be doing what they do. Their delight in themselves and the audience is infectious. […]
One of the loveliest pieces was ”Wine Gathering in the Lubusky Region,” a stately, gracious garland dance for men bearing vines and women with flowers.
“La Prenca” – Barcelona, Spain:
“They create a truth of beauty, singing and dancing with special grace and agility. Dynamism and liveliness of the performance is impressive, there is no place for monotony or for boredom. As to the visual aspect, authenticity, richness and variability of costumes create a vision which can make one dizzy. Each song and each dance got enthusiastic applause. Folk art seems to speak clearly to the audience, unify and remove all borders, open the heart for understanding and feeling”.
Selected concert offer
- Barwy Polski – full-time concert consisting of Polish songs, national and folk dances.
- Nikt, tylko Ty – special concert dedicated to Mira Zimińska-Sygietyńska.
- Muzyczka im grała – special concert dedicated to Tadeusz Sygieteński
- Warszawa – Nasza miłość – special concert dedicated to Warsaw.
- Concert of the most beautiful folk songs.
- Szlakiem Mazowsza –concert of world songs.
- Concerts of religious (Christmas carols, passion, Easter and Marian songs) and patriotic songs.
- Concerts consisting of Chopin and Moniuszko songs.
- W rytmie poloneza / Poloneza czas zacząć – educational concert.
Concerts in the new group’s base in Matecznik Mazowsze – the Folklore Centre in Karolin can be combined with a visit to the museum of costumes and musical instruments and souvenirs from various tours of the group and with dance, song or craft workshops.