FAITHFUL TO GOD AND THE BEAUTY OF LITURGY
- The patron of music teaches us that singing and sacral music should harmonize with our life. Mary, we ask you, through the intercession of St. Cecilia, to help us remember that liturgy is a gate to Heaven – said Fr. prof. Kazimierz Szymonik in a reflection during the Jasna Góra Appeal Prayer on the eve of memorial day of St.Cecilia
The jubilee of 50 years of artistic work of Fr. prof. Kazimierz Szymonik – a choir master, a lecturer for many years and a pro-rector of the Music University of Fryderyk Chopin and the University of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński in Warsaw, as well as the Seminary in Częstochowa, who has been related to the International Festival of Sacral Music ‘Gaude Mater’ for 20 years, as a member of his Artistic-Program Council – fulfilled wholly one of the days of XV Festival of Music in Częstochowa, organized by the Association of Friends of ‘Gaude Mater’. After the Holy Mass in the seminary chapel, celebrated in the intention of the dignified Jubilat and the concert ‘Mulierum Schola Gregoriana Clamaverunt lusti’ under the direction of Michał Sławecki in the auditorium of John Paul II of the Seminary in Częstochowa, there was a meeting with Fr. prof. Kazimierz Szymonik, which was led by Fr. Piotr Zaborski, a pastor of creative communities of the archdiocese of Częstochowa and the director of Radio Fiat.
During the meeting there were reminiscences of the family home, youthful years, appearing vocation, pastoral work and pedagogical-artistic work, including an adventure with Sacrosong and participation in preparations and music accompaniment of successive papal pilgrimages. In the end of the meeting Fr. prof. Szymonik received a medal from the Association of Friends of ‘Gaude Mater’ and a picture painted by an artist from Częstochowa, presenting the arch-cathedral of Saint Family in Częstochowa.
From a cradle to a seminary
- I remember how my dad was carrying my younger brother and sister in his arms – I was the oldest of eleven children – and he was singing when one of them was crying. I do not know if I often cried but surely my dad’s singing were the first tunes of music which I heard – said Fr. prof. Szymonik, while recalling his earliest years which had started forming his personality. In reminiscences of the Jubilat, years spent in the seminary had a key role, especially those which were related to music. – A teacher used to come to the seminary and individually taught music, of which also I took an advantage. He also set up an orchestra. We played on any kinds of instruments – many of us played the mandolin, violin, viola. We even gave two, three concerts… It was a very nice experience – Fr. Szymonik was sharing his memories. He also recalled two priests thanks to whom he is who he is today: Fr. prof. Władysław Konieczka – a prosecutor and a teacher of singing in the seminary, extremely loving chorale and Fr. Kazimierz Szwarlik – a pastor of the parish in Będzin, the third parish in order, where Fr. Szymonik was sent to (today the Nationwide Festival of Carols and Pastorals in Będzin has the name of Fr. Kazimierz Szwarlik).
By car for a consent
- If somebody asked me if I was really fond of this kind of music and if I wanted to be whom I am today, I will honestly say: I did not think about it at all. – Fr. Konieczko elected me for this role, who recognized in me not so much my skills but some abilities and just after the seminary he said that I should study music – says priest professor. However, the newly ordained priest went…….to work in the parish. First, he spent two years in Poraj, later in Czajków, in ‘a parish in exile’, where he felt wonderful and where he spent other three years. Fr. Konieczko, however, was still for the idea that Fr. Szymonik should undertake studies. – When I was in Czajków, he took care of my organs lessons and my preparations for the entrance exam – he says. – Finally I even passed the entrance exam for the Catholic Theology Academy in Warsaw, but I did not have one thing: a consent of the Curia, and I got…..nomination for the parish of St. John the Baptist in Będzin, where Fr. Szwarlik was the parish priest. When he learnt from Fr. Konieczko that his new vicar had passed an exam for the Catholic Theology Academy, he was very surprised that the priest who was going to study, arrived to work in the parish. – I got nomination, work, so I do not even think about studies, I must work – Fr. Szymonik said then. The events which took place soon were reminisced by the priest during the jubilee meeting in this way: - Fr. Szwarlik started wondering at that time, whether it was possible to match studies in Warsaw with the work in the parish and about for how long I would have to be away and he calculated that it might be possible. At that time, he wrote a letter in which he asked me to go for the studies, because he thinks that I would be able to match the studies with the pastoral work. He sent the letter to the Curia, and on the following day….he received a negative answer. So, he got angry, got into the car and in an hour he brought me a positive answer….
Without a willingness – to the command
Priest Professor was emotionally reminiscing the death of Fr. Konieczko during the feast of 50 years of existence of the diocese of Częstochowa. – it might have been October 1975, the time of 50 years of existence of our diocese and he with organists were at the divine service celebrated by bishop Stefan Bareła in the Chapel of Our Lady. They were singing VIII Gregorian Mass. After ‘Kyrie’ he said to prof. Antoni Szuniewicz, a cathedral organist who was helping him: ‘Please, conduct the singins, because I started feeling bad’. And he went to sacristy. One of the Pauline Fathers, who took him to the sacristy, told him to lie down on a settee and called for an ambulance. When a doctor made a medical examination on Fr. Konieczko, the priest asked him: ‘Is it heart attack?’. ‘No, worse, priest – said the doctor – aorta burst’. Then Fr. Konieczko said: ‘Thy will be done’ – and he died, close to Our Lady in sacristy. And, therefore, I reminisce him during every Holy Mass and I think that I have a good helper in Heaven and a patron of my music actions. It was the beginning: without my willingness, to his command – he concludes.
Musical miracles of the cathedral
When Fr. Kazimierz Szymonik was graduating from his musicological studies at the Catholic Theology Academy, everyone was predicting his career in the seminary. But bishop Stefan Bareła decided differently, sending him to pastoral work in another parish during his studies – in the cathedral. – I think that it was a miraculous decision – reminisces Fr. Szymonik. – When I was graduating from my studies in 1976, I could work in the cathedral still for five years, and there real musical miracles took place.
- When I arrived in the cathedral - he continues – after a year I organized a choir among the youngest, that is, children after the First Holy Communion. They were singing on Sunday at 9 a.m. In the cathedral there were two organists at that time: Mr. Antoni Szuniewicz and Mr. Cyryl Kostecki who worked with children’s choir. Mrs. Iwona Czarny helped him. Hearing in the middle of the church how these children were singing beautifully, I was really emotionally moved and had tears in my eyes. This choir educated, among the others, Zbyszek Pinderak who is a soloist of the Vienna Opera now. It was a very good choir. At 10 a.m. a youthful choir of four voices was singing, which was conducted by Fr.Kazimierz Trzoczyński. It was the best choir in the diocese. At 11 a.m. prof. Szuniewicz used to sing with adults’ choir which he had conducted since the war. At the evening Holy Mass, nearly on every Sunday, the choir ‘Nova et Vetera’ sang. In one church, which was nearly always full, there were two organists and four excellent bands, and from time to time the choir of Sisters of Nazareth sang.
In 1978 the cathedral in Częstochowa was also a place of the last 10th edition of Sacrosong, at which - a month before his being elected a pope – cardinal Karol Wojtyła arrived. – I was with the ‘Nove et Vetera’ an organizer of this Sacrosong. We sang at the Holy Mass which the future pope was celebrating, the first performance of the Mass for soloists, choir and orchestra of Ewa Kwiecień (a nickname of Grażyna Pstrokońska – Nawratil) – says Fr. prof. Szymonik.’Nova et Vetera’ gained the most important reward at that time – Grand Prix which was 10 thousand zlotys, but it did not collect the reward….because it had to pay the orchestra.
I was also educated by the children’s choir of Fr. prof. Szymonik, learning love to the beauty of liturgical music from it. After a few years I became a student of a music secondary school and after finishing it – as a university student – I became a chorister in a choir of the Catholic Theology Academy of the priest professor, about whose artistic fates I could write many articles. – Excellent days, excellent experiences, excellent enthusiasm of people to which I would like encourage other generations – said Fr. prof. Kazimierz Szymonik during the jubilee meeting. As long as there are such priests, as long as there are such educators, there will always be many generations sensitive to the beauty.