The Gala Concert of the 8th “Beats of Cochlea” International Music Festival entitled “Artists to Patients” coincided with two major anniversaries of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing in Kajetany. July is a special month for the World Hearing Center and the world’s otosurgery. On 16 July 1992 – 30 years ago – Prof. Henryk Skarżyński performed the first cochlear implantation in Poland on a completely deaf adult; and a day later, a 5-year-old deaf child received such an implant. In 1997 – 25 years ago – Professor initiated the world’s first program for preserving preoperative residual hearing before cochlear implantation. On 12 July 2002, 20 years ago, he performed the world’s first implant surgery on a person with partial deafness. These landmark events became a reason for celebration.
The extraordinary concert marking these anniversaries was organized with the participation of artists, artist-patients, and winners of the 8th edition of the “Beats of Cochlea” Festival at the concert hall of the “Mazowsze” Tadeusz Sygietyński State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble. The “Mazowsze” made a special appearance in the concert’s second part, presenting the show “Kaleidoscope of Polish Colors.”
Guests attending the concert at the Mira Zimińska-Sygietyńska Concert Hall were welcomed by Agata Konarska and Maciej Miecznikowski. Among the invitees, there were many representatives of state authorities, and the academic, scientific, medical, and business communities, including Marian Banaś, President of the Supreme Chamber of Control, Deputy Minister of Health Marcin Martyniak, Chairwoman of the Senate Health Committee Beata Małecka-Libera, Senator Prof. Alicja Chybicka, Senator Jacek Bogucki, MP Prof. Wojciech Maksymowicz, Mikołaj Pawlak, Ombudsman for Children’s Rights, Prof. Romuald Zabielski, Vice President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, His Magnificence Piotr Wachowiak, Rector of the Warsaw School of Economics, His Magnificence Rev. Prof. Ryszard Czekalski, Rector of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University, President of the Social Insurance Institution Prof. Gertruda Uścińska. The hosts also read out congratulatory letters addressed to Prof. Henryk Skarżyński and the World Hearing Center team, received from, among others, Deputy Health Minister Piotr Bromber, Mazowieckie Voivodship Governor Dr. Konstanty Radziwill, President of the Board of the Employers of Poland Rafał Baniak, President of the Polish Chamber of Commerce Dr. Andrzej Arendarski or President of the National Health Fund Filip Nowak. Prof. Henryk Skarżyński received many wishes of many more successes and inspirations, and his achievements on not only the national and international arena were emphasized, as well as his contribution to the development and promotion of Polish medicine. It was also pointed out that Professor will certainly amaze the world with his achievements more than once….
Time to start the concert…
And finally came the moment all guests had been waiting for – the sounds flowed… The concert began with the “Carmen” overture – an opera by French composer George Bizet, played by the “Mazowsze” orchestra conducted by Jacek Boniecki. Even before the concert, the ensemble’s director and excellent conductor stressed that this was a celebration of the World Hearing Center, but also of people who return or enter the beautiful world of sounds resounding in, among others, concert halls. – Sounds that we also create, he added. On behalf of the „Mazowsze” Ensemble, Jacek Boniecki congratulated Prof.H. Skarżyński on his work. – This concert is dedicated to those who have not heard these sounds. Among them are people gifted with great musical talent. The experiences of these people are hard, but the joy of regaining hearing is greater.
Opera music stayed on the stage for a longer time with the appearance of the great lady of the Polish opera. Dr. Bogumiła Dziel-Wawrowska is an artist of the Musical Theater in Łódź and a teacher at the Fryderyk Chopin University in Warsaw. On this solemn evening, she sang an aria “Suknio, coś mnie tak ubrała” from “The Countess” by Stanislaw Moniuszko. The artist, singing in a beautiful soprano voice, received warm applause. – I am thrilled to participate for the fourth time in this great event, the International Music Festival “Beats of Cochlea.” It is an extraordinary experience both for the patients and for us, the guests. We always join forces together and share good energy with the audience. It is a great pleasure for me to observe how these growing youngsters, that is, the patients-laureates of the Festival, are developing. Every year their performances are better, both artistically and musically. I think this is due to their greater self-confidence; they are opening up more on stage. This would not be possible without their hearing implants, thanks to which they enter the world of sounds. Everything indicates that the subsequent editions will be more and more exciting and on a higher musical level – she said just after the end of rehearsals for the Gala concert.
Then the first of this year’s winners of the “Beats of Cochlea” Festival – Antoanela Elena Isaiu from Germany – performed in front of the audience. In a video sent to the Institute, she played the “Pavane” by George Enescu on the piano. Antoanela is from Romania. She lost her hearing seven years ago due to Cogan’s syndrome. She had to stop learning the piano she had played since childhood. Her dream of becoming a professional pianist might not have come true. However, she was fortunate, for she met an exceptional man, a doctor – Dr. Domenico Cuda from the hospital in Piacenza, Italy. She can hear and play thanks to him and cochlear implantation in the right ear. Now she can hope to return to the stage as a professional pianist. For now, she enjoys the birdsong, her child’s voice, and the sound of music. She says that what is normal for others – hearing – is a privilege and a gift.
After this touching confession, the next guest to appear on stage was Anna Czupryn, an artist and patient of Prof. Henryk Skarżyński. Anna is a hearing implant user and a member of Tekla Klebetnica music group specializing in the folk music of the entire Carpathian range, primarily Polish, Slovak, Hungarian and Gypsy, combined with classical music and a delicate touch of jazz. She has been its lead violinist and vocalist since 2006. This time, Anna performed with her husband, who played the accordion, and with the accompaniment of an orchestra conducted by Wojciech Gwiszcz. – I am delighted to participate in the Gala concert, which is the culmination of the 8th Festival “Beats of Cochlea.” It is fantastic to be in this place – at the seat of the “Mazowsze” State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble. As the patient of the Institute and a former laureate of the “Beats of Cochlea,” being able to perform on such a unique stage and with the accompaniment of the “Mazowsze” orchestra is a dream come true. I have always wanted to do this with my band- share the stage with “Mazowsze.” This is a special moment, she said excitedly in an interview. – I know I owe it to Prof. Henryk Skarżyński and the World Hearing Center to be here.
Ania showed true mastery, beautifully playing “Polish Rhapsody” on the violin, a composition by Jacek Ustarczyk, a friend from Bielsko-Biała, written as a tribute to the highland music of the Żywiec Beskid, Silesia Beskid and Podhale regions. The leader of Tekla Klebetnica Band also demonstrated the power of her voice by performing the vocal parts of the piece – This is a unique composition; I hope many people will like it, the artist said before the performance. And they certainly did. Applause resounded for a long time after Anna left the stage.
Meanwhile, another winner of the 8th edition of “Beats of Cochlea” appeared on the screen. Laura Korhonen from Austria sang the song “Yes, You Can,” which she composed herself. She usually sings with the band Satuo; at the Gala concert, she performed solo. Laura is a professional singer and music teacher. She studied jazz and pop singing in Helsinki and Vienna. She lost hearing in 2018 and received an implant a year later, allowing her to continue her international music career with the Satuo. The band plays folk music with elements of jazz, pop, bluegrass, and Scandinavian music – Laura is from Finland. They have released three albums and played more than 150 concerts in 11 European countries. In 2016, they had a concert tour in Poland: Kraków, Tarnowskie Góry, Wrocław and Gorzów Wielkopolski. – Laura said that after the release of the new album in 2023, they were planning a tour including also Poland because they liked it a lot. She added that together with her husband, they had founded an organization to promote awareness of cochlear implants. They conduct activities in this field in Austria and Switzerland and organize various events, concerts, and dance courses.
The next artist invited to the stage was Weronika Niczyporuk, a patient of Prof.H. Skarżyński, a user of a bone conduction implant. She sang a song from the movie “Anastasia” entitled “Once Upon a December.” This artist-patient has performed at many festivals, notably at the 51st Jan Kiepura Festival in Krynica-Zdrój, where she sang a song from the repertoire of Anna German. She also appeared in the musical “Interrupted Silence” staged at the ‘Artistic Pool’ stage of the Warsaw Chamber Opera. The author of the musical’s libretto was Prof. Henryk Skarżyński. Weronika has often performed at important ceremonies celebrated by the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing. She is a laureate of one of the previous editions of the “Beats of Cochlea” Festival.
Another finalist of this year’s “Beats of Cochlea” was 11-year-old Julie Leaning from the USA. She played J.S. Bach’s Invention 14 on the piano. Julie has just finished elementary school and is starting middle school in September. She lost her hearing suddenly, and hearing aids were insufficient to help. Fortunately, she received a cochlear implant one year ago. Julie’s love for music and piano was inspired by her mother – she enjoyed listening to her playing. Later, she started taking lessons. She likes playing Bach the most. In her opinion, the works of this outstanding composer are full of harmony and joy. – I want people to feel inner peace when listening to what I play. If they do, I consider it a success – she says.
Success on the professional stage was certainly achieved by the person responsible for the Festival’s organization, its Artistic Director Barbara Kaczyńska. Singing in a beautiful mezzo-soprano, the lullaby “Sleeping Instruments” – of her authorship, with music by Anna Maria Huszcza – transferred the audience during the concert to the enchanted world of childhood. This therapeutic piece will be included on an album to be released soon as part of the Scientific and Medical Program “Music in Human Auditory Development” carried out by the Music Therapy Team of the World Hearing Center, implemented on the initiative of Prof. Henryk Skarżyński. Barbara Kaczyńska is its co-author and scientific secretary and always makes sure that the Festival’s gala concerts feature accents taken from the program. She has also headed the IFPS Music Therapy Team for many years. Just before the concert, Barbara Kaczyńska emphasized: – Today’s concert is an exceptional event. It is the final concert of the 8th International Music Festival for Children, Youth, and Adults with Hearing Disorders “Beats of Cochlea.” It is also dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the first hearing implant in Poland in a deaf person by Prof. Henryk Skarżyński. This year’s concert will feature artists in tribute to patients who have proven to the whole world that it is possible, after undergoing such a difficult path leading to the recovery of hearing, to engage in one of the most beautiful arts, namely music. In addition to the five winners of this year’s Festival, the laureates of previous editions will perform, although due to the time frame of the concert, it will be a small group. Patient artists, who are already professionally engaged in music-making and give concerts in Poland and around the world, will perform. The full orchestra of the “Mazowsze” State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble will also play as a tribute to the patients, and a group of dancers and soloists will perform. In this way, we all emphasize the importance of regaining hearing, which is essential to being a good musician.
The next laureate of the 8th International Music Festival “Beats of Cochlea” presented during the Gala concert was 14-year-old Karina Sabirova from Kazakhstan. She played a Kazakh folk song on the flute. Karina comes from the small town of Rudnyj in the northern part of Kazakhstan. When she was one year old, she lost her hearing. The hearing aids did not bring the expected results, so she received a cochlear implant at age five. Her development finally gained momentum, and she was not only able to hear her loved ones and the world around her, communicate with other people, but also explore the rich world of sounds and play instruments. Karina attends elementary school and has studied flute for two years at a music school. She also trains in circus school and puppet theater. She often performs on stage and participates in competitions and festivals. Participation in “Beats of Cochlea” is an excellent achievement for her.
– Passion unites people, but musical passions are unique because music knows no boundaries, including when it comes to age,” this is how Maciej Miecznikowski announced the multi-generational trio from Wielkopolska, the Chojniak bagpipe band, inviting them to the stage. Its band’s leader is the senior of the family, Jan Turbański, former winner of the “Beats of Cochlea” and patient of Prof. Henryk Skarżyński. Jan Turbański is a master of the Greater Poland bagpipe and a hearing implant user. The band’s lineup completed his two granddaughters, Stella and Zuzanna Majerowic. The former not only sings but also plays the garter fiddle. The band presented a compilation of folk chants from Greater Poland.
The last laureate presented at this year’s Gala was Maria Sharlene Morta. A pianist, songwriter, and composer, the 22-year-old from the Philippines is looking to earn a bachelor’s degree in music business management from Meridian International College next year. She discovered a passion for music when she was four years old. When she felt the vibrations of the sound waves in her great-grandmother’s piano, she knew it was a lifelong love. It was her great-grandmother who became her first teacher of the instrument. Sharlene says she hasn’t let her hearing loss get in the way of her goals and dreams. – I can express myself even more with my playing, she stressed. At the final concert, Sharlene played Raymond Yiu’s composition “Lullaby.” She also plans to give her first piano concert this year at the charity event for HearLife Foundation Inc. Philippines and Anfini ELS Global.
Before the end of the concert’s first part, guests gathered in the concert hall to watch a short archival film recalling the first implant surgery in Poland for a deaf person. After the film, Prof. Henryk Skarżyński emphasized that currently, about 1 billion people worldwide have a hearing problem. – Particularly in Europe, this is a noticeable problem, as the societies are aging, and almost 70% of seniors over 70 have partial deafness, he added. This is why the introduction of the partial deafness treatment program was so groundbreaking. Invoking Seneca’s words: “When you don’t know what port you’re heading for, every wind is unsuitable,” Professor emphasized that he and the World Hearing Center team built more ports and took advantage of all favorable winds. He tried to tame storms and gales. He also thanked all the Forever Friends who supported his activities. The result of this very touching moment for Professor was a poem he wrote and read out during the ceremony:
The anticipated anniversary day has arrived
Memories have returned, images from the past
Let it continue
Let it form our continued collective achievement
And the whole look like a flower
Because beautiful is this world
On behalf of all the patients of the World Hearing Center, to whom Prof. Henryk Skarżyński restored their hearing, allowed them to enter the world of sounds, and realize their dreams, and passions, including musical ones, Anna Czupryn expressed her thanks. She thanked him for the heart and effort put into his work, treating each patient individually and looking for the best solutions. The congratulations were complemented with a joint “Happy Birthday” singing to Professor. And so came the grand finale of the first part of the gala concert of the 8th International Music Festival “Beats of Cochlea,” and it could happen without the festival anthem “The World I Hear,” traditionally sung by Barbara Kaczyńska and Maciej Miecznikowski. Prof. Henryk Skarżyński wrote its lyrics, and the music composed Prof. Krzesimir Dębski.
Musical tour around Poland
The concert’s second part was an extraordinary musical performance entitled “Kaleidoscope of Polish Colors”; its protagonist was the “Mazowsze” Tadeusz Sygietyński State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble, which took all guests on a unique musical journey around Poland. The program consisted of a selection of songs and dances from various corners of Poland and national dances. “Mazowsze” is an ensemble with vibrant traditions – it was founded in 1948 and will celebrate its 75th anniversary next year – it has visited all continents, performed in 51 countries, and is an unquestionable ambassador of the Polish culture. – “Mazowsze” may be called a musical theater or an artistic ensemble, Agata Konarska said, presenting the activities and character of the ensemble. – Musicians, soloists, dancers, that is, the professional orchestra, ballet, and choir, all are encompassed by the word “Mazowsze.”
The audience was delighted, as evidenced by the applause, which did not stop and once again called the artists to the stage.
At the end of this extraordinary evening, “Mazowsze” ‘s Director Jacek Boniecki once again congratulated Prof. Henryk Skarżyński on such a wonderful jubilee and on the fact that he does extraordinary things that help other people, make you humble in the face of life, are an expression of exceptional artistry and, above all, a wonderful heart. He also wished further successes to the Professor and the entire team of the World Hearing Center.
– The 8th edition of the Festival is behind us. Our joy that we can share music is excellent. We should also be happy that we have such great specialists in our country as Prof. Henryk Skarżyński, who helps patients regain hearing and helps them share their talent – said Maciej Miecznikowski in an interview after the concert. – I owe to Professor that I can speak to you, that I can listen, sing, and share music. I have a debt of gratitude to Professor, which I try to repay with my participation in such beautiful events – he added.
Professor Henryk Skarżyński emphasized that during this evening, the possibilities of modern science and medicine were shown through the performances of his patients. – They appeared on the same stage with the professionals from the “Mazowsze” ensemble. It turned out that it is possible in much more difficult conditions – with illness, after treatment, rehabilitation – to play and sing, showing the highest level of artistic, vocal, and instrumental professionalism.
– The eighth fantastic “Beats of Cochlea” Festival becomes history. It will surely be remembered by participants, guests, and friends as an artistic and scientific event with a touch of great humanism because, in addition to culture, science, and medicine, it appeals to instincts deeply rooted in a human. Today, the artists of the “Mazowsze” made a bow to other artists whose path to artistic achievements was much more difficult. These two worlds, interpenetrating each other, showed how beautiful the world could be – said Prof. Henryk Skarżyński in conclusion.