A Night of Traditional Polish Folk Music

Interact with Polish culture through its folk poetry and music.

By - Oct 8th, 2019 10:41 am
The Modern Minstrels

The Modern Minstrels

Polanki, the Polish Women’s Cultural Club of Milwaukee will offer a concert of Polish music, I Sing to Myself and Muses, next Sunday afternoon at All Saints Lutheran Church in Oak Creek. The Modern Minstrels, led by Kinga Vnuk will perform adaptations of music from the Polish Renaissance courts and folk music from Polish villages. In addition, the concert will recognize the poetry of a favorite Polish writer Jan Kochanowski through works set to music for the occasion by Vnuk.

“We call ourselves The Modern Minstrels because we took some liberties with the instrumentation and interpretation,” Vnuk explained. She will sing and play harp and recorder. By experimenting with the sound, the lower registers of the harp sound like a lute. Joining her will be singer and guitarist Roman Pikula, cellist Ingrid Tihtcheva and violinist, Tatiana Migliaccio.

The Renaissance music draws upon the Tablature of Jan of Lublin – music of various early composers arranged for organ. The organ notation has been arranged again for this quartet.

Folk melodies can be distinctly different from one region of Poland to another. Many of those selections will be recognized by those familiar with Polish culture.

A central part of the concert will introduce many to poet Jan Kochanowski (1530-1584) commonly regarded as one of the greatest Polish poets. “Kochanowski is taught in (Polish) schools and recited in homes but is not known to the American public. His poetry is so beautiful. I wish that more people would know of it.” Vnuk explains. “I thought that maybe songs are the perfect medium for it.” Vnuk has composed songs to translations of Kochanowski by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee faculty member, Dr. Michael Mikos, who has published an entire set of translations.

Some of the classical Laments by Kochanowski are accompanied by music to represent the Renaissance style. The poem “To the Mountains and Forests” incorporates a scale common in the music of the Polish highlands. Other selections adapt patterns of traditional folk music.

Vnuk’s favorite choice, “On the Linden Tree, ” she remembers being read to her when growing up in Poland. “Linden trees are everywhere in Poland. In early pre-Christianity, the tree was worshiped as a goddess, later linked to the Virgin Mary.” When she bought a home in Milwaukee, “I was delighted that it had a Linden tree.”

An extract from the poem suggests why it has been treasured and how the words might be adapted to music:

Guest, sit beneath my leaves and rest at ease!
The sun will not reach you here, I promise,
Here cool breezes always blow from the field,
Here nightingales and starlings sweetly keen,
From my fragrant flower, industrious bees
Take honey which graces nobleman’s feast.
With my soft whisper I know by what means
To lull you with ease into sweetest dreams.

This concert is designed to recall memories for those with Polish ties and to introduce others to Polish culture through the best of music, songs, and poetry of the country.

The Modern Minstrel concert begins at 3:00 p.m., Sunday, October 13 at All Saints Lutheran Church, 9131 S. Howell Ave., Oak Creek. Tickets are $10 at the door. Attendees are encouraged to reserve a place by calling 414-322-1728 or emailing

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