I have decided that since I am heavily into folk music to open an online music store that features American-made folk instruments (Teton guitars and ukuleles, Flinthill banjos and mandolins) and Italian-made Stagi concertinas. I play Teton, Flinthill and Stagi instruments and like how they both sound and feel; so I decided to sell them. I hopefully will soon be approved to carry Zither Heaven instruments (ukuleles, banjoleles, harps, dulcimers, psalteries, etc. I visited their factory today here in Rochester and liked what I saw. They also make many unique folk instruments for children, much better than the instruments you find in a typical music store. Play the video and listen to their harp, for example:
October 20, 2014
I had a pretty busy weekend. Saturday, I went to Letchworth State Park with family, then later to the Polish Founders Day Banquet and Ball at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Rochester. It was a very nice affair, so I am glad I went. The highpoint of the evening was seeing Gene Golomb receive the Knights Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (Krzyż Kawalerski Orderu Zasługi Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej) on behalf of the Polish President.
Then on Sunday morning, I drove to Buffalo to attend Mass at St. Stan's to see my buddy Eddie Zawadzki and his mom who was doing a book signing after a long hiatus. It's always wonderful to visit Fr. Ted and my old church, and it was great to see Eddie back on tour.
Awhile back, I noticed that Archimage (a shop just dowm the street form me on Monroe Ave in Rochester) stocks a limited selection of beautiful folk instruments made by a company known as Zither Heaven. It turns out that Zither Heaven are crafted here in Rochester. I visited their shop today to discuss selling their products in my new online store, and I am now awaiting their approval. So, I hopefully will soon be approved to carry Zither Heaven instruments (ukuleles, banjoleles, harps, dulcimers, psalteries, etc. I especially like Zither Heaven's many unique folk instruments for children, much better than the instruments you find for kids in a typical music store.
I am excited about the Teton guitars I am selling in my online store. This one is the STS205CENT; just a great American-made guitar. If you are looking for a beautiful musical instrument, consider buying this one:
UPDATE: I closed my olnline store in 2019. Sorry.
Zither Heaven 22-string harp
November - December, 2014
I must admit I am not very familiar with Advent hymns. This is probably so because I don't remember singing or hearing them as a boy. Our boys choir began singing kolędy right after Thanksgiving in preparation for Midnight Mass and continued singing them after Christmas until February 2; consequently I never learned Advent-specific hymns. (The video below is a wonderful example of a Polish Advent hymn.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN'!
Traditionally, kolędy are not sung until Christmas Eve, and Poles continue to sing kolędy until Candlemas Day in early February. For what it's worth, currently in mid-December I am getting about 1,400 worldwide visitors daily to this website, (including from Poland). Most are seeking to listen to or learn to play Polish Christmas carols. If history repeats itself, I can expect 2,500+ visitors on Christmas Eve, then 1,700 on Christmas Day, then a return to the normal level of 1,000 visitors per day - but with almost no visits to pages related to kolędy. After that, the next big draws will be Easter/Dyngus Day and the Polish festival in Cheektowaga.
Although some would say it is too early to begin singing kolędy early in December, I feel there is a need for it. As a musician, I am already practicing and recording kolędy in September and October so they will be available online well before Christmas. Other musicians I know are doing the same. I even get requests for assistance from guitarists in Poland who are preparing to play kolędy in concerts scheduled BEFORE December 24. Also I get requests to play kolędy at Polska Chata and the Wigilia Dinner put on by the Polish Heritage Society of Rochester. (This year it will be held on December 13.)
I have done quite a few Christmas videos over the past few weeks, some featuring a few of my newly acquired musical instruments: the dulcimer and the psaltery. The video that seems to be the most popular however is this one of me playing a medley of kolędy on guitar. I am amazed that it was shared well over 200 times on the day I posted it on Facebook. I always enjoyed playing kolędy, and I have fond memories of my father and my sister playing kolędy during the Christmas season when I was little. I hope families without musicians in residence will play my video to fill the gap.
Another video I posted recently on YouTube is this one featuring Saint John Paul saying the Rosary in Polish. I greatly appreciate some of the comments by some of my friends:
Brad Rybczynski: This is so wonderful. Thank you for posting. I am going to listen and pray tomorrow. What a fantastic way to be able to expand my vocabulary, remember our Pope, and honor the Blessed Mother.
Jakub Antoniego: Dziękujemy za udostępnienie tego pięknego modlitwa różańcowa z św Jana Pawła II. (Thank you, Robert Johnson, for sharing this beautiful Rosary Prayer with Saint John Paul II.)
RETURN TO POLAND: It's a little early yet, but I have to say I am seriously thinking about joining John Gora on his next trip to Poland, MAY 28 to June 9, 2015. I have always said I would never do a group trip -- not that there is any thing wrong with it -- but because I think I can see and do more personally relevant things on my own. In this case, I will consider going with John, whom I know is a wonderful guide and host (I took a polka cruise with him last year), mainly because the trip passes through or near the town (Nowe Jankowice) where my babcia Stopińska grew up. I have already visited the ancestral villages of my other three grandparents and would like to visit the fourth and last before I start getting old. ;-)
January 8, 2015 - TRIP UPDATE:
I have decided not to take the group trip. I recently discovered that although my grandmother was indeed baptized in the village of Nowe Jankowice, other ancestors resided in several nearby villages.
As a result, my current thinking is that I would like to have a more intimate view of the area, as opposed to just passing through and snapping a picture or two from the bus. My goal as you may know is not to see Poland as a typical tourist, rather to visit the villages where my ancestors lived, worshipped and were buried. Here is a breakdown of the area villages where the Stopińskis lived:
Ewa Stopińska, my grandmother, was born in Nowe Jankowice in1864. She came to America with her father, Wawrzyniec, and her older brother, Marcin. (I know they lived on Townsend Street in Buffalo, New York.) Several of Ewa's siblings died before she and her father emigrated, but two, sisters, who were both more than twenty years older than my grandmother, stayed in Poland.
Wawrzyniec Stopiński, my great grandfather, was born in Synwałd. He married Anna Mróz in the village of Synwałd; they later moved to nearby Nowe Jankowice. For me this is nothing new, but now I learned the names of Wawrzyniec's parents:
Szymon Stopiński (1782-1841) married Agnieszka Szymańska (1783-1851). The lived in Święte, but later moved to Nogat in 1835. Is Święte the Stopiński ancestral home? I am still researching that matter.
RIGHT: Each of these village is near the beautiful town of Łasin. The map on the right is less than ideal, but if you look carefully, you can see the village of Święte directly east of Łasin, then go north to Nw. Jankowice, then further north to Szynwałd at the top of the map; Nogat is west of Szynwałd. Ideally, I would like to visit east of these villages by bike. Either Łasin, or the important and historic city of Grudziądz could be my homebase.
LEFT: Check out this beautiful video of Łasin, but I warn you, it's long. Better pour yourself a cup of coffee before viewing.
So, if I were to take this trip, I would fly to Gdańsk, then rent a car and drive directly to Łasin where I would rent a bike, then tour the countryside at my leisure. By the way, in case you are wondering, I have already scouted out each of these villages using Yahoo Maps Street View and believe biking on these very rural roads would be safe - safer in fact than some of the roads I travel on in the States. Of course I would visit the historical sites at Grudziądz, Malbork, and Gdańsk on the way back. Regretfully, this plan does not allow for a visit to southern Poland to see friends and family. That bugs me.
I have decided to go with John Gora for the group tour, but on the first day I won't tour Kraków with the group. I was there just two years ago and I prefer to use my first full day back in Poland visiting family and friends in Zator/Podolsze (west of Kraków). [Leg 1]; I will then meet up with the group at our Kraków hotel and tour with them until they leave Poland on June 9. [Leg 2]; They are flying out of Gdańsk, and so will I, but not with them. I will stay behind, rent a car, then drive to Grudziądz or Łasin to begin my tour of the Stopiński family villages. After a few days, I will return home to Rochester via Toronto. Then I'll begin to but together several videos documenting my experience.
Also, I just learned that Ed Biegaj will be joining us on the tour. Dubbed "The Polish Caruso", Eddie has one of the best voices you will ever hear on the polka circuit and has long been considered one of North America's most talented polka musicians. In fact just last year he was inducted into the the International Polka Association's Hall of Fame (Living Category). I have recorded Eddie's performances on several occasions. CLICK HERE to hear him sing Czyja to dziewczyna with the Rich Bobinski Orchestra at the 2014 Riverhead Polish Town Street Fair & Polka Festival. Such a powerful voice! With both John and Eddie leading the tour, I am sure we will hear lots of great music.
Is this exciting or what!
While Poland was experiencing mild winter weather, much of the USA and Canada found itself in a deep freeze. Record snowfall and subzero temperatures however could not damper our desire to celebrate our Polish heritage this month. I personally attended two kuligs, one at Chestnut Ridge Park (south of Buffalo, New York) and the other in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Here are two of my videos, but there are more on my KULIG PAGE.
The immigrant's journey goes full circle.
The video on the right features a Kujawiak I wrote in honor of my paternal grandparents, both of whom passed away many years before I was born. I suppose my quest to visit each if the villages where my grandparents were born has a lot to do with never having known them and never having been given the gift of hearing firsthand any of their stories about Poland. My family's journey to America began in 1857 and finally closes full circle this year.
The weather this month continues to be un seasonably cold so I have been mainly spending my time indoors playing music and building my online music store. I am now able to sell the full line of Hohner accordions, by the way. Years ago, I owned a Hohner accordion and loved it. Foolishly I let it go to someone who wanted to buy it and was willing to make me a very good offer. Maybe now that I am a dealer, I will be able to replace it.
Just before St. Patrick's Day, I had the urge to play Irish music, so I learned both Londonderry Air and The Irish Washterwoman; the former because I always loved the melody and the latter because I wanted to see if I could play something fast on my Stagi Hayden Duet Concertina. Musicians into Irish jigs and reels usually favor the diatonic Anglo concertina, but I think I did okay on my duet. Later I decided to learn to play an oberek or a mazurek. Here are the results:
Here is something I am following closely: on Palm Sunday, parishioners of St. Stanislaus B&M Parish were stunned to learned that Fr. Ted Bocianowski will soon be transferred to a parish near Batavia, N.Y. and will no longer be their pastor. The parish is to be run by the Pauline Fathers who currently are the administrators of Corpus Christi Parish a few blocks away. St. Stanislaus, the Mother Church of Polonia, deserves the full protection of the diocese. One can only hope this dramatic decision is in the best interest of this historic church. Thank you, Father Ted, for your dedication and hard work. Z Panem Bogiem.
2015 Dyngus Day photos and videos are posted HERE. It was a long day, but I had a great time. Unfortunately, I never made it to Rochester's Dyngus Day celebration at Polska Chata, however, friends tell me it was well attended and all had a great time.
I just found this photo of Lutnia, a choral group from the old East Side of Buffalo. I am told my Uncle Wiktor, the organist at St. Stanislaus Church, was one of its founders. (I'm not sure where he is in the photo, but I think he is the one in the top row, far right, with unbuttoned jacket.
Also in Rochester this month, Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian Americans united in a show of solidarity to raise funds for humanitarian aid for Ukraine during a special benefit concert by the internationally acclaimed Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus at the Hochstein School of Music.
Photo from left to right: Wasyl (Bill) Kornylo, chairman of the Ukrainian National Credit Association and organizer of the event: Skirmante Juodeikyte-Philippone of the Jav Lietuviu Bendruomene/Lithuanian American Community, Inc; Steve Flor, national director, Polish American Congress of WNY; and Honorary Consul Rimas A. Chesonis, Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Lithuania.
Towarzystwo Śpiewu Lutnia
Do tych które najwięcej zwalczało trudności i przeszkód niewątpliwie należy towarzystwo śpiewu "Lutnia" złożone 10 listopada 1898 a formalnie zorganizowane 20 listopada 1898 przez obywateli:S. B. Murawski, W. Johnson, Ap. Leppert, Szczepan Wojtkowski, Leonard Kowalski.
- Source: Album Pamiątkowe: a guide to Buffalo’s Polonia from 1906
To view many more old photos of Buffalo's Polish East Side, CLICK HERE.