6th edition of the International Music Festival “Beats of Cochlea” – Let’s Honor Memories

The whole world is with us today, emphasized Maciej Miecznikowski, who hosted the concert organized as a part of the sixth edition of the “Beats of Cochlea” Festival. The event took place on 15 July 2020, in the gardens of Medincus – the Center of Hearing and Speech – in Kajetany and thanks to the online transmission, participants and supporters of the Festival could watch it all over the world. – We are glad that during the pandemic we can meet with everyone remotely – said Prof. Henryk Skarżyński, the creator of the Festival, while welcoming the guests. 

The Festival is a tribute to our patients who have proven that it is possible to develop their musical passions even with hearing problems – said Prof. Henryk Skarżyński at the beginning. This year’s edition of the Festival was entitled “Plenitude of sound through the looking glass.” There was a message behind it: “if you can’t go outside, turn to your inner world. Listen to your inner self because it allows you to experience the music even deeper.” The concert organized in Kajetany became an opportunity for people who are able to hear thanks to the implants, scattered all over the world, to listen to their inner self in this way and to the pieces performed by patients of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing – the finalists of previous editions. – Their performances on stage have moved us to tears more than once – reminisced prof. Henryk Skarżyński. – And they will remain alive in our hearts – added Maciej Miecznikowski, emphasizing that this year’s finale of the Festival is a concert of memories.

This shared reminiscence began with Estera Łabiga, laureate of the first edition of “Beats of Cochlea” who, together with her sister Laura, playing the violin and accompanied (on the piano) by Paweł Bogdanowicz, played on the transverse flute the piece “Run to you” from Whitney Houston’s repertoire. It is worth recalling that Estera, who performed at the Festival in 2015, as a secondary music school student, is already a professional musician.

Małgorzata Strycharz-Dudziak, MD, one of the first patients implanted with a cochlear implant by Prof. Henryk Skarżyński and who, with her beautiful piano performances at various events at the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, inspired him to organize the “Beats of Cochlea” Festival, delighted the guests with her dynamic performance of quite a difficult piece, Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Polka.” How is Małgosia doing? Despite everyday duties connected with her professional work (she is an assistant professor at the Medical University of Lublin), she doesn’t forget about her passion. Now she shares it with her little son, who attends music school. During the pandemic, when classes were held online, she helped him with the music exercises given by the teachers. The effect? Graduation of the year with an A!

Another of the patients-artists participating in this year’s concert, an avid drummer, has been growing up and maturing musically before our eyes. Olaf Kaca, because he is the one we are talking about here, captivated the audience with his dynamic performances of well-known songs every year. “I rocked,” he said with a smile after the performance. During the concert, Olaf, who has just turned 18, played on the drums “Help” – one of the hits of The Beatles.

Every year, Weronika Niczyporuk, with her voice surprisingly similar to Anna German, has been providing a new set of emotions. And so it was this time, she sang a moving song “Jesteś moją miłością” (You are my love) on the stage in Kajetany. Currently, Weronika is studying psychology, but singing lessons and voice training are equally important for her, because as the laureate of “Beats of Cochlea,” she… dreams of a musical theatre. She has already performed at the Warsaw Chamber Opera once, when the musical “Interrupted Silence,” based on Prof. Henryk Skarżyński’s libretto, was shown. – When the pandemic is over, maybe I will give it a try in casting for another musical – said Weronika after her performance.

“Z tobą chcę oglądać świat” (I want to see the world with you) – A song performed by Zdzisława Sośnicka and Zbigniew Wodecki was presented during the concert by Paweł Sepioło – laureate of the last year’s Festival, and his wife Agnieszka – a music therapist. She conducts classes with young patients of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing as part of the “Music in Human Auditory Development” program. It is worth reminding that at the fifth edition of the Festival, this husband and wife duet performed on the festival stage a popular song by Paweł Domagała, “Weź nie pytaj” (No need to Ask). The audience was moved because this song, performed by Paweł Sepioło, who suddenly lost his hearing in one ear, had a special meaning.

Patients-artists were accompanied on stage by Bonjour String Quartet. The Festival’s memories were complemented by a set of well-known and beloved pieces of classical music. During the concert, we could listen to their performance of such works as “Air on the G-string” by Jan Sebastian Bach, “Water Music” by Georg Friedrich Händel, Waltz by Dmitri Shostakovich (known from the “Anna Karenina” movie), “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from the “Nutcracker” ballet by Piotr Tchaikovsky, and the thrilling tango “Jalousie.” by Jacob Gade. The last one even made some guests dance.

– The way it works with talent is that the more we share it, the more of it we have. There only has to be an opportunity for this – said Maciej Miecznikowski, the concert host. For musically talented people with hearing impairment, such opportunity is the “Beats of Cochlea” Festival. Many attendees from the previous year who performed in front of a professional jury and on then stage, see this event as a life adventure motivating them to continue their work. This can be seen in the statements of the participants of previous editions of “Beats of Cochlea” who, unable to come to Poland again during the pandemic, recorded and sent short video messages. In this group there were, among others: Davide Santacolomba, an excellent pianist from Italy, Dejan Zivkovic, a phenomenal accordionist, and Vsevolod Khmelnitskij, a Russian pianist, one of the most talented teenagers participating in the Festival. All of them emphasized that this musical event, held on the initiative of Prof. Henryk Skarżyński, changed their lives for the better. They took this opportunity, remotely, to express their gratitude to Prof. Henryk Skarżyński.   

The intimate concert took place in the gardens of “Medincus” – the Center of Hearing and Speech – and encouraged not only fun but also reflection. In the current pandemic situation, such a meeting with music becomes an exceptional event, which at least to some extent satisfies the longing for living it together and for being around people who think and feel the same way. We simply need each other, as Dominika Domagała, the concert co-host, sang to the tune of the well-known song from The Blues Brothers “Everybody needs somebody to love.”

For the finale, as every year, the anthem of the Festival “The World I Hear” filled the air, this time performed by Maciek Miecznikowski and Dominika Kościelniak. It is worth mentioning that Dominika played the main character in the “Interrupted Silence musical with a libretto written by Prof. Henryk Skarżyński, inspired by the stories of his hearing-impaired but musically talented patients. The premiere of the musical took place last autumn at the Warsaw Chamber Opera. We warmly reminisced about this event during the Festival, watching a film about the making of the musical. Additionally, as a part of this year’s edition of “Beats of Cochlea,” there was a screening of the film “My moonlight sonata” directed by Barbara Kaczyńska. It is a story of one of the most surprising talents discovered during the Festival – pianist Grzegorz Płonka.

To conclude the concert, Prof. Henryk Skarżyński invited everyone to the next Festival in 2021. The tradition of “Beats of Cochlea” will continue, but, as Professor remarked, it is this unusual, sixth edition that we will especially remember.