Sounds of heart-warming polonaise under River Shchara

Ancient dances and cordial melodies on Slonim’s main stage
The Polonaise-2012 Festival has been held for the eighth time in the town on the banks of the River Shchara, featuring 417 artistes: 27 art groups from Belarus and Polish Bialystok.

As is traditional, the event was launched with a ceremonial church service, followed by participants gathering near the fire tower. There, in the 1920-30s, the town orchestra played Oginski’s legendary polonaise — Farewell to the Homeland — every day, from 8am to 8pm. After laying flowers at the monument to fallen soldiers, a festive parade took place through the main streets of Slonim, headed by a brass band. At that moment, the whole town seemed to be one big musical ground…

The Chair of the Slonim Department of the Union of Poles in Belarus, Leonarda Revkovskaya, envisaged just such a scene on initiating the festival in 2005. She explains, “I was sure that the festival would be popular, as so much is associated with Michal Oginski in the town. A canal and street are named after him and, each morning, the local radio station begins by broadcasting his famous polonaise. Only ten groups took part in the very first festival and I will be ever grateful to them for their support. Now, the local authorities actively help us, so I’m sure that the festival has a great future.”

The high point of the event was a competition of polonaise performances, kicked off by the Kryshtalnaya Krynitsa choir, from the city Berezovka (Lida District). Every seat in the District House of Culture was filled, as a famous melody by Michal Kleofas Oginski resounded through the room. Another, played by two button accordions, brought rousing applause, and the audience also loved the Echo of Ostrovets choir, which performed two ancient polonaises. According to its soloist, Natalia Tokarchuk, this is their third time at the Slonim festival, singing in Belarusian, Russian and Polish.

Svityazyanka choir, from Novogrudok, also sings in various languages. Artistic leader Marina Yurchik seemed a little nervous before appearing on the stage, saying, “Our group often performs in our town and at concerts elsewhere but this festival is very special. Only polonaises of the most famous composers are heard here. I hope that Svityazyanka won’t disappoint the audience.”

Meanwhile, elegant ballroom dancers also received a storm of applause. The musicians played masterly polonaises, including a masterpiece by Oginski — on button accordions, violins and dulcimers. Young Karolina Bogdan, from Slonim, fascinated the audience with music by Chopin, played on the piano.

The festival continued in the town park, making everyone feel in a joyous mood. An illustrated album, entitled Welcome of the Motherland, was brought by Katarzyna Pawlowska from Bialystok, detailing the Slonim festival. It was a great surprise for all participants, created by this passionate fan of the polonaise.
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