Polish Hymn Tunes
  • Dear Friends,

    Can anyone recommend a few particularly lovely Polish hymn tunes? I'm looking for something gentler, like SLANE or ST. COLUMBA can be. There's an entire Polish hymnal available here, courtesy of the Polish-American liturgical center, complete with midi files, but this humble Siciliana doesn't know where to start. Between that and YouTube, I am awash in material!

    Any meter, really, is fine, although common meter would be particular delightful :-)

    Any thoughts?
  • I am also trying to figure out if "Będę śpiewał Tobie mocy moja" (recommended to me in person) is a traditional hymn, for which I can only find pop settings, or, if it is indeed Polish Christian pop music. I have googled extensively, but even with the help of Google Translation tools to look at Polish websites, I'm still not sure. Does anybody know? I suspect it is a pop tune....
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204

    I have been serving a Polish parish since July of last year, and I can tell you that the hymn tradition takes a bit of getting used to. The parish celebrates the Mass in the Polish language every Sunday, and being a humble Scotsman, it has taken some time to get the hang of the hymns.

    The person in charge of the PALC (Fr. Stanislaw Flis) is our weekend associate for the Polish language Masses, by the way.

    It is my impression that the majority of the popular Polish hymns sung at Our Lady of Mount Carmel (my parish) are in what I call the "folk melody" tradition, and unlike their Western counterparts, are transmitted by oral tradition, hence the lack of consistent accompaniments. These melodies are usually very simple with slower-moving conventional harmonies, and often a particular melody will have variants based on the village or region they come from. I have been relying heavily on my basic keyboard theory skills to play these hymns, because more often than not all that will be available will be a melody line with one additional harmony line (alto) from which I can determine modality/tonality. I am fortunate in that previous music directors had made arrangement of some of the kolędy and pastoralki (Christmas carols) with 4-part harmonies. These are actually a great place to start to familiarize yourself with the basic folk hymn style, and for me it was also a great way to "cut my teeth" on Polish.

    As we've moved into Lent, I've stumbled upon what appear to be much older tunes, especially several of the hymns associated with Gorzkie Żale (the "bitter lamentations.") This devotion had its start at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw in the 1700's and its my suspicion that the tunes associated with it are just as old. I'm fortunate that I stumbled upon a multi-volume set of books in a storage closet that contain full accompaniments for many of the hymns and responses connected with many of the devotions, and even seasonal hymns for Adwent, Wielki Post and Pieśni na Wielkanoc. These volumes also contain accompaniments for hymns and Masses in Latin. They are entitled "Chorał Opolski" ( I think I've remembered the title) and is in 4 volumes. It appears to have been published in Poland.

    In taking a quick look at the Śpiewnik Stulecia (published in 1990 by the Orchard Lake Schools), the tune does not appear in the index. My guess, given that the only version you've found on YouTube is probably popular Christian "pop" music from Poland. As you've probably discovered, it's difficult to find good renditions of many of the Polish hymns on YouTube.

    If I can be of additional help, please feel free to email me at: deasaun@gmail.com. I'd be more than happy to correspond with you and perhaps arrange to send you some study copies of some of the hymns I have in 4-part or organ score.
  • "Będę śpiewał" is indeed a tune in the popular idiom, and not part of the body of traditional Polish hymns as referred to by David Andrew. If you have a season or occasion in mind, I'm sure folks in the forum could suggest something appropriate. The Assumption B.V.M. Choir of Oil City, Pa. put together a nice Polish hymnal, complete with Gorzkie Zale and lots of old Polish standards http://www.polishheritageproject.com/ The site is a bit awkward to navigate, but the info on the hymnal with address, phone and email are hiding there.
  • Here is Gorzkie Zale

    with English texts as sung by Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Cleveland. These setting were meant to preserve this parish's unique ornamentations and rythmns.They will close this May.

    I have hundreds Christmas, Lent and Easter hymns that were copied from a hymnal in Poland. I do not know which hymns are popular but these are harmonized and voiced beautifully. Better than any American edition i have seen.
  • donr
    Posts: 971
    I have some distant relatives in Poland. I will try to contract them and get some music for you.
  • Aga
    Posts: 38

    I am from Poland. It is difficult to discuss the Polish repertoire of hymns because it is quite large. You can find some good and traditional hymns in the Polish hymnal you pointed out.
    My suggestions for Lent would be: Ach mój Jezu; Bądź mi litościw; Bliskie jest królestwo Boże (more modern); Jezu Chryste Panie miły; Krzyżu Chrystusa; Krzyżu Święŧy; O Krwi najdroższa; W krzyżu cierpienie; Wisi na krzyżu.

    Gorzkie Żale is a remarkable devotion for Lent, but you should remember it is not a set of hymns for the Mass. It is sung usually on Lent Sundays but not during the Mass.

    If you need some additional assistance (for example harmonized tunes) feel free to contact me, maybe I can help you.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    For Christmas ...

    Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911)
    Opus 60, Book 2, pages 1-4

    Variations on an Old Polish Carol
    Introduction et variations sun un ancien Noel Polonais
    (Accourez bergers fideles, l'heure benie a sonnee)


  • Oh my goodness! I never expected so many responses! My apologies for not checking in earlier. It seems I've been unintentionally rude to multiple people.

    David: Thank you kindly for your detailed response. It sounds like you had your work cut out for you when you arrived at Our Lady of Mount Carmel! I'll take the suggestion to start off with the koledy to help train my ear, and after that foundation, perhaps will take you up on your offer and email seeking your more experienced perspective. I'd be very interested to hear what you've been doing during Lent, and if there's anything you've found to be particularly appropriate for funerals. Thanks again for the overview!

    John: Thanks for the confirmation, and for the link. I had found that site, but am happy know that they did in fact collect the chestnuts.

    Ralph: I'm so sorry to hear the parish will be closing in May. I was able to download, but not able to properly display, the copy of Gorzkie Zale you link to. Do I need to have a particular font available? I'm very interested to hear that you have many arranged versions of hymns. Would you mind if, once I get some ideas, I email you to check in about a particular piece or two, to see if it's in your collection? (I'm wondering, by the way, if your photocopies might not be from the 4-volume "Chorał Opolski" that David mentions....it might be worth investigating!)

    Don: Kind of you to offer to contact your relatives :-)

    Aga: Thank you for your suggestions! I look forward to looking them up and listening soon! Would you have any additional tunes to suggest that might be particularly appropriate at a funeral? It's likely I'll be asked to re-set the music to different texts, so if the hymn text isn't necessary important. (Though of course, if it does happen to be, that wonderful too.)

    Eft: Thanks for the citation and the links. Variations are so helpful to hear.... it really helps me get inside the melody.
  • I'm not sure how I've survived this long without this hymn (Jezu, Tyś cały krwią zbroczony). How gorgeous!! There's just something about the Slavic choral tradition.
  • Aga
    Posts: 38

    it would be fantastic if you could find Polish hymnal by Jan Siedlecki. But it isnt't without difference which edition it is because newer editions are worse then older. But these edited about 1980 are quite good because they consist many traditional hymns.

    As for the funeral - you can also find entire funeral liturgy there (in this hymnal). In Poland it is common to sing (after the mass while priest changes his vestments to cope) the hymn called "Pożegnanie"( it begins "Przybądźcie z nieba na głos naszych modlitw") and then while the coffin is taken out of the church "Niech aniołowie zawiodą cię do raju". There are also hymns which are to be sung for departed souls and can be used during the mass: "Ach Ojcze pełen litości", "Bądź mi litościw", "Do Ciebie z serca wołamy Panie", "Przez czyśćcowe upalenia","Racz wiekuiste dać odpoczywanie" and some more. Unfortunately I don't know if they can be find on Youtube. If you are interested I can try to send some photocopied tunes on your e-mail.

    If you need any help feel free to contact me.
  • Rebecca (or anyone interested),

    I'm a church organist in the Buffalo, New York area, home of a very large Polish-American community (unfortunately, the assimilation over decades has been absolutely tragic; so many Polish-Americans have lost knowledge of their rich language, history, culture, and religious traditions). There is a plethora of Polish hymnals and other materials available in this area (though much has no doubt been sadly thrown in the trash following the closing of so many inner-city churches where Polish immigrants and their families had attended for decades). Please feel free to contact me. I'm sure I can obtain a wide variety of items for you.
  • gualbert
    Posts: 3
    Did someone ask for Będę śpiewał Tobie mocy moja? Here's a copy of it.