An old country Christmas with the Connecticut Virtuosi

Published on Sunday, 17 December 2017 22:20
Written by Erica Schmitt

Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN - Polish families from across the region welcomed the Christmas season Sunday with symphonic music, dancing and singing from their homeland.

The Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra hosted the Moniuszko Choir and the Polanie dance troupe at the Welte Auditorium at Central Connecticut State University. The occasion: the Stanislaus A. Blejwas Endowed Chair in Polish American Studies’ annual Polish Christmas Concert.

Held every December, the event is part of the Christmas tradition for many concertgoers.

“We come each year for the Polish carols,” Berlin residents John and Barbara Barczak said as they walked arm-in-arm into the theater.

Savoring a Christmas cookie in the lobby before the music began were friends Irma Fikus and Dorothy Cashman, from Wallingford. Both are Polish.

“I can still speak the language and I hope I never forget,” Fikus said.

They even listened to Polish carols on the ride to CCSU Sunday afternoon.

“They stay in your memory,” Fikus said of these songs, which she has listened to since she was a child in Poland.

“I may have forgotten what I ate this morning for breakfast, but I always remember the carols.”

The orchestra, conducted by Artistic Director Adrian Sylveen, opened the show with Tchaikovsky’s Polonaise from the opera “Eugene Onegin.”

That was followed by Miezyslaw Karlowicz’s hauntingly beautiful Rapsodia Litewska, Opus 11 (Lithuanian Rhapsody).

“I tend to sneak in pieces perhaps you’ve never heard before but you may find interesting and educational,” Sylveen told his audience. “It’s not all Christmas music, but I don’t really care.”

Alone backstage before the concert, the conductor contemplated world travel and musical inspiration.

“My passport says European Union but I guess we are all part of this union we create together,” Sylveen said. “My first mission here today is to bring people some joy. We’re trying to present different elements of Polish heritage, from classical to folk to carols. These are all beautiful elements of the culture that are worthy of recognition.”

Greeting guests at the entrance into the theater was his 9-year-old daughter, Sofia.

“I saw the rehearsal,” she said. “There were kids dancing, the chorus singing. My dad is the conductor and my mom is the main violinist. It’s an exciting thing for us.”

Posing for photographs with relatives and friends was Polanie dancer Andrew Kiszkiel.

“There are a lot of Polish people here,” Kiszkiel said. “Many speak Polish or their parents or grandparents do.”

Ania Chudy and her daughter Milena, from Wethersfield, came to watch their grandfather and great-grandfather perform.

“He’s singing in the choir,” Chudy said. “It’s our yearly tradition.”

Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, @schmittnbh or

Posted in New Britain Herald, , New Britain on Sunday, 17 December 2017 22:20. Updated: Sunday, 17 December 2017 22:22.