Stefan Stuligrosz, born in 1920 in Poznań, graduate of St. Mary Magdalene Junior High School. Soprano singer in the Cathedral Choir of Fr. Wacław Gieburowski, founder of the ensemble which was greatly renowned in Poland and abroad between the world wars. In 1939, when World War II broke out, Stuligrosz gathered around himself the singers who remained in Poznań, held clandestine rehearsals, and performed with this choir in one of the city's two churches available for Poles. Fr. Gieburowski, on the eve of his forced displacement by the Nazis, entrusted to the twenty-year-old youth the care of his work in case he himself would not be able to return to Poznań (he died in Warsaw in 1943). In the spring of 1945 Stefan Stuligrosz began to create a new choir from scratch, and at the same time pursued a versatile education. Having finished Karol Marcinkowski High School, he took up musical science at Poznań University (M.A. from Prof. A. Chybiński in 1951), soloist singing in the singing class of Prof. M. Trąmpczyńska at the then High School (currently Academy) of Music, and also there symphony conducting under Prof. W. Bierdiajew (both M.A.'s in 1953, the latter - summa cum laude). At the Academy of Music he climbed up the ladder as an artist and teacher, from the position of assistant lecturer to professor; in the period 1967-1981 he was President of the Academy.
In the ranking of the most influential residents of the region of Wielkopolska of the 20th century, Stefan Stuligrosz is currently fourth best, and in 2002 he was ranked first. He is a holder of a great number of awards and highest orders and medals from Poland and abroad. They are, among others, Knight's Cross with a Star of the Order of Poland's Restitution, the Great Knight's Cross with a Silver Star of St. Pope Silvester granted by Pope John Paul II and . . . the Order of Smile. He has received three honorary doctorates: from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in the Vatican, and the Music Academy in Poznań.
Stuligrosz's Choir is characterised by a unique excellence of sound, perfected and ennobled throughout the 60-odd-year period of symbiosis with one master. Affiliated to the Poznań Philharmonic since 1951, it is an amateur ensemble which competes with ease with professional choirs. The boys are students of various schools, the men are either university students or work in different professions. They meet for rehearsals three times a week and perform 60-70 times a year in a variety of venues, in small churches, cathedrals and basilicas, on the stages in towns and huge cities, including the most famous halls of music, radio, television, and film studios. Abroad alone they have given around 3,000 concerts in almost all European countries as well as in the USA, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. The group of listeners of the Choir includes kings and presidents of states. Especially John Paul II appreciates greatly the music of "The Poznań Nightingales". The Choir's repertoire includes over 1,000 works, from medieval monody and Renaissance masters (e.g. G. P. da Palestrina) through vocal and instrumental masterpieces of Baroque (J. S. Bach, G. F. Haendel), Classicism (W. A. Mozart, J. Haydn, L. van Beethoven), and Romanticism (F. Schubert, F. Mendelssohn - Bartoldy), to 20th-century compositions, especially by Polish composers (K. Szymanowski, T. Szeligowski, W. Kilar, and K. Penderecki). Renowned Polish and foreign artists frequently perform with the Choir; these are such singers as Barbara Hendriks, Renata Scotto, Krystyna Szostek-Radkowa, Teresa Żylis-Gara, Ryszard Karczykowski and directors as Leonard Bernstein and Stanisław Wisłocki. Apart from the Poznań Philharmonic, the Choir cooperates also with the "Sinfonia Varsovia" orchestra. The Choir is a member of the "Pueri Cantores" World Federation of Church Choirs.
Close to 2,000 people have at one point or another spent some time in the "nest of the Poznań Nightingales". This Choir was born of the centuries-long music tradition of Poznań, especially of the depth of spiritual profundity, expertise, and artistic imagination of Fr. Dr W. Gieburowski. On those foundations Stefan Stuligrosz, through his talent, perseverance, knowledge, intuition, experience, and passion, set up his own work, a STULIGROSZEUM, as it were. It is an informal school of behaviour and shaping characters in which there are strict yet clear rules of conduct within a community, a system of values that is characterised by responsibility, friendship, openness to those who are nearby and those more distant, where great art and humility in contact with it is connected with a way of everyday life. It is the highest esteem for the tradition of national culture coupled with respect for its European and global heritage. The flock of the "Poznań Nightingales", scattered all over Poland and in dozens of countries in both hemispheres, proves all the time that the ideals and the experience of their childhood and their youth, as well as the charisma of the Conductor bear fruit, no matter who you are and where you live.
"The Nightingales" are closest to Stefan Stuligrosz's heart. He concentrates all his time and efforts on perfecting the choir's sound, expanding and honing its repertoire, building its artistic image and at the same time educating the young singers. He also finds time for work in a conservatory and many of his students have gone on to become renowned artists, mainly choir masters and orchestra conductors. From time to time, Professor Stuligrosz also conducts other choirs and plays the organ. He is also a composer whose portfolio includes over 600 choral works of sacred music and over 100 arrangements of Polish and foreign Christmas carols.
Kolendy ("kolędy" in Polish) and pastorałki are two types of Polish Christmas carols; kolendy are religious hymns celebrating the Nativity and pastoralki are the secular shepard's songs that also celebrate the birth of Christ but were never accepted as dogmatically accurate by the Church. Many of these songs, universally beloved for their sweet and hauntingly beautiful melodies, date back to before the 15th century and are still treasured by Poles today. If you are Polish or of Polish descent, certainly you have fond memories of singing kolendy in church during the Christmas season or perhaps listening to a family musician play them on guitar, violin or piano for your Christmas celebrations.
Kolendy, like the story of Christmas, never get old.