Szymanowski Society (1977 - 1992)

Sponsored performances of Szymanowski and local composers music throughout the Los Angeles area

by Gene Harubin Zygmont

The Szymanowski Society grew out of informal cultural gatherings at Chata Piasta, the home of Stephan Pasternacki, pianist and composer. At one such gathering, in July, 1976, Waclaw Gazinski, who was also a composer, suggested that an organization be formed for the purpose of promoting Polish arts. The idea was enthusiastically accepted and it was decided to try to arrange a concert featuring the work of Karol Szymanowski.

At the next meeting, during which the recordings of Szymanowski's Second Symphony and the choral work Stabat Mater were played, Bogidar Avramov, Director of the West Side Symphony was present and proposed a concert of both of these works. Scores for the Stabat Mater were available and Avramov induced a friend, Paul Salumanovich, Director of the Loyola Marymount University (LMU) chorus to perform this in concert. However, scores for the Second Symphony had to be leased from music publishers in Poland. Consequently, the Stabat Mater was performed at LMU on May 15, 1977 and another concert, featuring the Second Symphony, took place on June 12, 1977 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Both played to capacity audiences.

At this point, it seemed only natural to establish a formal organization devoted to Szymanowski, and on September 20,1977, the Szymanowski Society was established and Stefan Pasternacki became its first president. Ann Cierpik was Vice-President, Barbara Karpinska, Treasurer, Anna Briscoe, Secretary, Eleanor Domachowska, Secretary and Waclaw Gazinski, Music Director.

For the next several years, the Szymanowski Society sponsored concerts and musicales at such venues as the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Beverly Hills High School Auditorium and the Church Hall at the Our Lady of the Bright Mount Parish. Compositions of local composers, Roman Maciejowski and Walter Gazinski were played along with the music of Karol Szymanowski. The group also supported performances of Szymanowski throughout the Los Angeles area.

In 1981, due to ill health, Stefan Pasternacki resigned as president, and Suzanne Maricz took over the helm. A concert, featuring blind pianist, Edwin Kowalik, was presented at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on February 22, 1981. The Society also participated in the Szymanowski Symposium, held at the University of Southern California (USC) in October, 1982. The deaths of Stefan Pasternacki (October 15, 1981), and Ann Cierpik (June 30, 1985) dealt a severe blow to the group. Eventually, the group diminished and it was felt that it should be disbanded. During its active years, concerts sponsored by the Szymanowski society helped to introduce this long neglected Polish composer to concert goers and musicians throughout the Los Angeles area and certainly it can claim some credit for his current resurging popularity. Consequently, on June 14, 1992, the society was disbanded and remaining funds were distributed to the Szymanowski museum ATMA, in Zakopane, Poland and to non-profit, tax exempt organizations in Los Angeles.

From: Polish Americans in California, vol. II. National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs & Polish American Historical Association. California 1995.