The Lira Ensemble…
is the nation's only professional performing arts company specializing in Polish music, song and dance
Its mission is to bring the best of Polish culture
into American life
Founded as the Lira Singers in 1965, the ensemble now makes about 50 appearances a year in the Chicago area, across the Midwest, occasionally around the nation, and has made six concert tours of Poland. Lira has produced nine major recordings that are sold nationwide.
Lira presents the full spectrum of Polish music and dance, both classical and folk, with informative and witty English language narrations that explain the traditions and history behind the works performed. Lira has long been trusted by Polish Americans as an expert “culture bearer.”
Lira is the arts outreach group of Chicagoland's Polish-American community and often represents Polish Americans and Polish and Polish American culture at city, state and national events. Lira has won high praise, as well as awards, for its series of concerts performed jointly with Mexican Americans and African Americans and its outreach concerts for the American Jewish community, as well as outreach to other ethnic groups
The company consists of a symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, singers and dancers who perform serious, folk and popular Polish dance and music in the original language and in English translation. When appropriate, Lira artists perform in authentic folk garb of various regions of Poland as well as historically correct costumes from several periods of Polish history.
THE WORK OF THE LIRA ENSEMBLE
Lira is based in Chicago as artist-in-resident at Loyola University Chicago, which makes a significant, on-going contribution to the promotion of Polish culture in the United States by donating free office, rehearsal and storage space to the Lira company.
Lucyna Migala, co-founder of Lira, serves as artistic director/general manager and narrates Lira performances, Mina Zikri is conductor of the Lira Ensemble. Iwona Puc is choreographer and director of the Lira Dancers. Malgorzata Borysiewicz conducts the Children’s Chorus.
The Lira company is a 501(c)3 federally recognized charity which receives donations from hundreds of individuals each year – from Polish Americans and other lovers of quality music and dance Lira regularly receives funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, major foundations and corporations in the Chicago area, as well as from prominent Polish-American organizations. Thanks to this support Lira is one of the most successful ethnic arts orgtanizations in the Midwest.
The Lira Ensemble helps acquaint Polish Americans with the richness of their thousand‑year‑old heritage of music and dance, and helps build pride in Polish Americans through professional performances of their music and dance.
· Lira makes it possible for other Americans to learn about and appreciate Polish culture and traditions.
· Lira strives to build bridges of understanding by presenting Polish music and dance for and with other ethnic groups, such as African Americans, Latinos and Jewish Americans.
· Lira also performs American music for Polish immigrants, helping them learn the music of their new homeland. During concert tours of Poland, Lira presents American music for Polish audiences.
· The Lira Ensemble is the outreach group of the Polish‑American community of the Chicago metropolitan area that numbers approximately 1,500,000. Lira is often asked to represent Polish Americans at city, state, and national events.
· Lira provides performance opportunities for Polish‑American artists and paid employment for Polish‑American composers and arrangers. However, employment is not limited to Polish Americans. The ensemble is proud that it is able to attract highly talented Americans of diverse backgrounds, including African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans.
· Lira regularly commissions compositions and new arrangements of existing works, thereby enlarging the treasury of Polish music. The company has at its disposal one of the largest collections of Polish vocal music outside Poland and serves as a resource for Polish music in America.
LIRA PERFORMANCES ARE NARRATED IN ENGLISH…
so that all audiences can fully enjoy Lira presentations. The narratives tell about the music and dance performed, explain Polish traditions and customs, and give insights into Polish history and the Polish-American immigrant experience. American music is included in performances to introduce immigrant audiences to various aspects of American culture and to truly reflect Polish‑American heritage.
LIRA IS UNIQUE SINCE IT PERFORMS ALL TYPES OF POLISH MUSIC & DANCE
Lira's repertoire includes Polish popular and folk songs and dances, traditional court dances, as well as serious music – Polish opera, ancient Polish music, sacred music, music of various historic periods, new music of Poland, works by Polish‑American composers, and Polish compositions rarely heard in the United States. The company also presents lectures and lecture/concerts about Polish music and culture, often at colleges and universities.
The company often shares its programs with guest artists such as a pianist, violinist, or folk band. Lira has performed joint concerts with major Chicago music institutions, including the Chicago Symphony Chorus, the Chorus of the Lyric Opera, and the Chicago Chamber Orchestra.
All Lira concerts are thematic, concerning Polish or Polish-American subjects - holidays, commemorations, celebrations, particular composers or periods of Polish history. Lira also spotlights various aspects of Polish culture, such as music of Polish Highlanders, Polish tangos, Polish gypsy music and also performs music of Polish-American composers
Some of the most important work of the Lira Ensemble is its outreach concerts with and for other American ethnic groups - Latinos, African-Americans, and American Jews.
Since 1990, the Lira company has produced a highly praised series of joint Mexican-American/Polish-American concerts, performed by the a Mexican-American performance group and the Lira Singers. The series includes joint celebrations of Cinco de Mayo and May 3rd/Polish Constitution Day. These performances, given in ethnically mixed or changing neighborhoods - not typically sites of fine arts events - are designed to build bridges of cross-cultural understanding, with narrations that stress the similarities in the Mexican and Polish immigrant experience. These performances are usually free, so that entire families may attend, and they do. Based on the Latino model, in 2000, Lira initiated an equally acclaimed series of African-American/Polish-American concerts with the NGOMA Group of African American singers and instrumentalists and the Lira Singers. In this series, both groups perform their music and exchange stories of immigration and migration. Lira's on-going outreach to American Jews includes concerts in synagogues and at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, and performances of Jewish-Polish music.
In 2001, the Lira Ensemble received the City of Chicago's prestigious Human Relations Award in recognition of the company's inter-ethnic arts outreach. In 2007, Lira’s artistic director and general manager, Lucyna Migala, received the Sor Juana Award of the National Museum of Mexican Art for these initiatives.
STAFF AND FOUNDERS
The Lira Ensemble was founded in 1965 as the Lira Singers, an amateur youth group, by Alice Stephens and her student, Lucyna Migala. A well‑known Chicago voice teacher and choral director, Alice Stephens served as musical director and conductor of the Lira Singers until her retirement in 1980. A Lithuanian American, she was devoted to the Lira Singers and helped popularize Polish music until her death in 1984.
LUCYNA MIGALA is artistic director, general manager, and narrator of the Lira Ensemble. Born in Poland, Miss Migala immigrated to the United States with her family as a small child. Her parents, Joseph and Estelle Migala, became popular Polish language radio personalities in Chicago and prominent Polish-American community activists. Miss Migala is a radio and television journalist who was a producer and reporter for NBC News before resigning to create an ethnic-concept radio station with her family. In addition to her work with Lira, she is vice president and program director of WCEV/1450am, one of Chicagoland's major multi‑ethnic stations.
Miss Migala has served as a national board member of the Polish Women's Alliance of America, as an officer of the Polish Arts Club of Chicago, and was co-founder and vice president of the Chicago Chapter of the Kosciuszko Foundation. She is founder and past chairman of the chapter's Chicago Chopin Piano Competition. Miss Migala served as a member of the board of directors of the Illinois Humanities Council; and the Illinois Arts Alliance; was a founding member of the Ethnic and Folk Arts Panel of the Illinois Arts Council; and served on the CityArts Panel of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. She was co-chair of Chicago’s Polish-Jewish Dialogue and board member of the Illinois Ethnic Coalition. Miss Migala holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and studied voice at the Chicago Conservatory College with Alice Stephens and with Kathleen Kaun of the Northwestern University School of Music. She studied dance with Evelyn Zwiefka of Chicago, at Northwestern University, and at the Stone Camryn School in Chicago. She has won many awards and distinctions in both the US and Poland, among them the Cavalier’s Cross of Merit from the president of Poland.
MINA ZIKRI is conductor of the Lira Ensemble. A violinist and teacher, he was born in Cairo, Egypt and came to the United States in 1999.
In 2010, he served as guest conductor for the Cairo Symphony Orchestra in Egypt in February and returned to conduct concerts with the Cairo Symphony in the 2011 season. Also in 2010, Mr. Zirki won a fellowship at the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival in Aspen, Colorado. Mina Zikri is a De Paul University graduate, where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree and a performer’s certificate in violin. In 2007, he was named one of twelve finalists out of 223 candidates from 40 countries in the Second Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition in Bamberg, Germany.
Mr. Zikri has been a standing member of Daniel Barenboim’s West Eastern Divan orchestra since 1999. He has also been a member of the Northbrook Symphony since 2003, and is a former member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He is founder and music director of the Oistrach Symphony Orchestra of Chicago and is a faculty member of the DePaul University Community Music Division. Mina Zikri has performed under the baton of respected conductors such as Valery Gergiev, Christoph Eschenbach, Nemee Jarvi, Lorin Maazel, Pierre Boulez, and others and venues such as Carnegi Hall (New York), Royal Albert Hall (London), and Victoria Hall (Geneva). As a chamber musician, he has performed with Yo Yo Ma, Pinchas Zukerman, Jamie Lorade, and Cho Liang Lin.
IWONA PUC is choreographer and dance director of the Lira Dancers. She was born in Poland and began her dance career in 1980 in the city of Rzeszow where she earned a master’s degree from Marie Curie Sklodowska University and received certification as Dance Instructor from the Provincial Cultural Center of Rzeszow. While studying in Rzeszow she served as assistant choreographer and dancer with the Wislok Theater of Polish Dance, toured many cities of Europe and Asia with this company and participated in many international dance festivals. She also created and led the Dance Ensembles of the Pedagogical Institute and the Construction Institute of Rzeszow.
In 1987, Ms. Puc immigrated to the United States. For 18 years, she served as choreographer for the “Rzeszowiacy” Dance and Theater Ensemble of the John Paul II Cultural Center in Chicago where she co-produced many concerts, musicals, and historical presentations. She is known in the Polish-American community of Chicago as a choreographer and dance instructor working with children, teens and adults. She has served as guest choreographer for Dance Ensemble of the Kolbe Polish School, the Chopin Song and Dance Ensemble of the Alliance of Polish Clubs in Chicago and the Dance Ensemble of the Emily Platter Polish School.
MALGORZATA BORYSIEWICZ is conductor of the Lira Children's Chorus. She was born and educated in Poland where she earned a master's degree from the Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw (now the Chopin University of Music) with a specialtyin vocal pedagogy as well as instrumental music. She serves as teacher and conductor of the Lira Children's Chorus and also serves as first oboist with the Lira Chamber Orchestra. Since she is multi-talented, Ms. Borysiewicz often performs as a solo oboist with the Chorus, adding variety to Children's Chorus performances.
THE LIRA SINGERS AND CHAMBER CHORUS
THE LIRA SINGERS, the female ensemble which is the core of the company, is made up of eight to fourteen women, and is one of the few professional, fine arts female vocal groups in the Midwest. The Singers perform in authentic, colorful folk garb from various regions of Poland, in period gowns, or in traditional concert dress, depending on the music performed. When presenting folk music, the Singers perform a bit of choreography.
THE LIRA CHAMBER CHORUS consists of the female ensemble plus eight to twelve male singers.
ALL SINGERS employed by Lira are classically trained; all hold music degrees, often graduate degrees in vocal performance. Many are teachers of music as well as professional singers; some are also members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Lira is an ensemble of soloists, and all vocal soloists are chosen from within the company.
THE LIRA SYMPHONY
THE LIRA SYMPHONY is made up of 40 to 60 instrumentalists who perform Polish and American repertoire and accompany the Singers and Dancers at major concerts. All hold advanced degrees in their instrument. Lira Orchestra members are some of the best instrumentalists in the Chicago area and also perform with major orchestras in the region, such as the Orchestra of the Lyric Opera and the Grant Park Symphony.
LIRA CHAMBER ENSEMBLES consist of musicians who hold first chair positions in the Symphony who perform with the Lira String Quartet, Lira Piano Quintet, Lira Woodwind Quartet and other chamber groups.
THE LIRA DANCERS
THE LIRA DANCERS is the nation's only professional dance company specializing in Polish folk and historic dance. Created in 1994 by Lucyna Migala and Anthony Dobrzanski – Lira’s choreographer emeritus - the Dancers perform dances from various regions of Poland in the authentic regional folk garb, as well as dances from the royal court and manor houses of Poland and dances from various periods of Polish history, all presented in historically correct period costume.
THE LIRA CHILDREN'S CHORUS
THE LIRA CHILDREN’S CHORUS ‑ "Dzieci" was created in 1987 as a community chorus of boys and girls, ages 7 through 14. "Dzieci" is the Polish word for "children", pronounced "JAY-chee." Chorus members receive vocal training and performance opportunities, singing Polish and American repertoire. Most Chorus members are from families recently emigrated from Poland.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS 2010
MARIA CIESLA-President, Polish Museum of America
FRANK A. CIZON, VICE CHAIRMAN-Former CEO, Talman Home Federal Savings and Loan Association, Former President, Chicago Council on Urban Affairs
DEREK CRAWFORD-State and Local Government District Director, Kraft
BERNARD J. DOBROSKI-Dean Emeritus, Northwestern University School of Music
CAMILLE KOPIELSKI, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD-Educator and Arts Activist
GERALDINE GEDROIC LICHTERMAN-President, Kenard Corporation
ARTHUR MALINOWSKI-Professor Emeritus, Labor Relations, Loyola University Chicago Founder, Labor Relations Institute, University of Gdansk, Poland
LEWIS F. MATUSZEWICH-Attorney at Law
JEANINE OKONEK-Arts Activist
MATT L. RODRIGUEZ, TREASURER-Former Superintendent, Chicago Police Department; Police Management Consultant
BERNARD R. TRESNOWSKI-Former President and CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
FRANCES WIET, SECRETARY OF THE BOARD-Arts Activist
LUCYNA MIGALA-Artistic Director and General Manager, The Lira Ensemble
Vice-President and Program Director, WCEV Radio
Ex-Offico Member of the Board
LEADERSHIP BOARD 2010
MOST REVEREND THAD J. JAKUBOWSKI-Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, Emeritus
WAYNE MAGDZIARZ-Vice President and COO, Loyola University Chicago
WALLACE OZOG-President, Polish Roman Catholic Union of North America
MOST REVEREND THOMAS PAPROCKI-Bishop of Springfield in Illinois
VIRGINIA SIKORA-National President, Polish Women’s Alliance of America
FRANK SPULA-National President, Polish National Alliance of North America
ERNEST R. WISH, CHAIRMAN, LEADERSHIP BOARD-Former Director, Chicago Department of Revenue
Managing Partner (ret.), Coopers and Lybrand, LLP
MAYNARD WISHNER-Honorary Chairman, Jewish Community Relations Council
Former National President, American Jewish Committee
ADVISORY BOARD 2010
GRAZYNA AUGUSCIK-Jazz Vocalist, Composer, Arranger
MARGARET T. BURROUGHS-Founder, Director Emeritus, and Development Consultant, DuSable Museum of African American History
Commissioner, Chicago Park District
ELIZABETH CIEZKOWSKI-Travel Agent, Falcon Travel
ADA DZIEWANOWSKA-Polish Dance and Folklore Specialist
Choreographer and Artistic Director, Syrena Polish Folk Dance Ensemble of Milwaukee
CAMILLE EINODER-Educator and Arts Activist
L. JESSICA JAGIELNIK-Arts Activist
JAN LORYS-Director, Polish Museum of America
ROBERT L. MARTH-Computer Consultant
ESTELLE MIGALA-Polish-American Community Activist; Retired Polish-American Broadcaster
BARBARA MIRECKI-Consultant; former Assistant Curator, Art Institute of Chicago
ELOISE NIWA-Lecturer, DePaul University School of Music
Keyboard Artist, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
DAVID PITUCH-Lecturer, Northwestern University School of Music
International Saxophone Soloist; Former Lecturer, Chopin Academy of Music, Warsaw
KAREN POPOWSKI-Executive Director (Retired), Polish American Association
MIRA PUACZ-President, Polonia Book Store, Chicago
RICHARD RODZINSKI-Executive Director, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
ARTISTIC ADVISORS 2010
HENRYK GÓRECKI OF KATOWICE, POLAND-Composer (d. 2010)
KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI OF KRAKOW, POLAND-Composer and Conductor
DANIEL POLLACK OF LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIAConcert Pianist
MARTA PTASZYNSKA OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS and WARSAW, POLAND-Composer and Percussionist
STEFAN STULIGROSZ OF POZNAN, POLAND-Composer/Conductor of the Boy and Men's Chorus of the Poznan Philharmonic