Chopin Singing Society of Buffalo © 2020

The History of the Chopin Singing Society

     The Society was founded in 1899 by Boleslaus Michaiski, a Polish immigrant, who served as organist at St. Adalbert’s Church. It was there that the Society first found a home. The Society soon moved to its own premises located at 1210 Broadway. Subsequently, it purchased property at 18-24 Kosciuszko Street where it was located for over sixty years. It then located to 2155 Old Union Road for several years. The Society holds its choral practices at Leonard Post Jr. VFW Post, 2450 Walden Avenue each Tuesday. Its programs and events are held in a variety of venues. The Society’s mailing address is 57 Norwood Ave., Buffalo, NY 14222. The Society was incorporated as a cultural and educational Society in 1914. The incorporators were Joseph Dulski, father of former Congressman Thaddeus Dulski (also a Chopin member) and Lawrence Nagowski, long-time treasurer of the Society. From that period until 1949 the Society enjoyed growth and a high level of excellence in its choral work. In 1912, the Society won first place as best men’s chorus in the International Singers’ Alliance Competition. In 1990, the choir won first place as best overall Chorus.

     The Chopin Society has had distinguished choral masters over the years. Following Mr. Michalski, the Choir was directed by Leon Olszewski for twenty-nine years. It was under his baton that the Society won numerous international choral competitions. Following him, Arnold Cornelissen, led the Society. His concerts earned the Society critical acclaim in American artistic circles. More recently, the Society has been led by Peter Gorecki (for twenty-seven years). then by Carl Druba, Mary Louise Nanna, Ireneusz Lukaszewski and for the last 25 years by Dr. Thomas Witakowski.

     In 1925 the Society donated to the City of Buffalo a magnificent sculpture of Frederick Chopin, executed by Joseph Mazur. Some three thousand marchers wended their way to Humboldt Park for the unveiling ceremonies in front of the Buffalo Museum. Chopin president Zdzislaw Kryszxafkiewicz, who led the Society for fifteen years, presented the monument to the City. In 1974, the Society arranged for transfer of the monument to Symphony Circle where so often Chopin’s music reverberated in Kleinhans Music Hall. The monument was moved through the courtesy of Cowper and Company and was renovated by the Ajax Company. A arrangements for the move were made by a friend of the Society, Mr. Lawrence Wujcikowski.

     The Society was not only a source of a rich cultural life for Buffalo’s Polish-Americans but, during World War II, it offered solace and support to displaced Polish immigrants. The upper floor of its clubrooms temporarily housed immigrant families. The Society’s home became the center, as well, of the Polonia Society, an organization of newly arrived immigrants. The Society helped to assuage their longing for Polish culture. Many Polonia members entered the Chopin ranks, including Ludwig Distel, soloist of the Society for some forty years. He and long-time soloist Theresa Dybas charmed audiences with their solo and duet work.

     During the 27 years presidency of Theodore V. Mikoll the Society produced a rich cultural programming. The Society made three concert tours to Poland, one to Rome, Italy and one to Argentina. It appeared for 15 years in annual concerts with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in Kleinhans Musical Hall. It sponsored the International Chopin Young Pianists’ Competition for 20 years. Its winners have gone on to successful concert careers. Amongst the winners was Claudia Hoca, a Buffalonian. During his stewardship, the Society appeared in 24 Television programs all presenting Polish music and culture. The chorus concertized in Florida, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, New York City. Salem and Boston, Massachusetts. It inaugurated Chopin’s famous Dyngus Day celebration in 1961 which continues to draw large audiences to its Easter Monday fete held at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga, New York.

     The Society presents a number of other annual cultural events including its outstanding “Jaselka” (Birth of Christ), oratorio, its “Wigilia” (Christmas Eve Celebration), its annual tribute to Frederick Chopin, plus many other events.

     The Society chose as its patron and namesake, Frederick Chopin, the poet of the piano who was considered a genius of unprecedented stature. His music continues to be performed on concert stages all over the world to this day. Of special note to our Society is that his music has great nationalistic themes which are a perfect fit for the mission of the Society, “To promulgate the best in Polish music and song.”