Sokol Polish Folk Ensemble
The history of the “Sokol” Polish Folk Ensemble is linked very closely with the Polish Gymnastic Association “Sokol. The association was established by a small group of Polish immigrants in Winnipeg in 1906 and modelled after an organization of the same name in Poland.
The exact date of the founding of the choir is not known. The first recorded performance of the Sokol Choir before a Canadian audience took place in January of 1914 at the Walker Theatre. This date has been accepted as the ensemble’s beginning. Since that time the Sokol Choir has rehearsed and performed under the following directors: Kazimierz Sielski, Czeslaw Kamienski, PT. Andre, J. Graban, M. Genel, Reg Landkamer, Bob Gracel, Radian Szewczyk, N. Trebczyk, Jan Sapinski, Richard Seaborn, John Standing, Dr. John Tanner and Tadeusz Biernacki (current director).
The beginning of the Sokol dance group goes back to 1925 when Helena Garczynski, a ballet dancer, became the first choreographer. Helena and her husband Leon left Lwow to make Winnipeg their home. They formed a small group of dancers, which began performing with the choir. In 1925 the dancers and the singers were invited by the Canadian Pacific Railway to perform at the Canadian Folk Festival in Regina. Not all choreographers who worked with the ensemble are known. Known are: Stanislaw Szwarc, Wladyslawa (Gladys) Kulas (for over 40 years), Henryk Lorenc (one of the founders of the ethnic festival “Folkiorama”), Grazyna Prozorowska, Jane Bibik(choir choreographer), Betty Gabriel, Sandro Barbosa (Brazilian of Polish origin, former dancer of the Song and Dance Ensemble “Slask”) and currently Darek Galeand Ewa Bima.
The choir and dance group later formed one entity, which became known as the “Sokol Polish Folk Ensemble”. Each member sang and danced. The musical director of the ensemble at the time, Mr. Richard Seaborn, decided that to raise the quality of the singing the ensemble needed to be divided into two sections: the choir and the dancers. This state exists at
present. During the ensemble’s many years of existence it has given thousands of performances in Canada and abroad, and recorded several programs for television and radio shows. The Sokol Ensemble’s repertoire consists of over 500 songs and dances. The group’s performances range from traditional Polish folk songs through church music to excerpts from operas, operettas and musicals. Over the many years the choir has sung in many languages; Polish, English, French, German, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Hebrew, and Latin. The ensemble usually performs in traditional Polish folk costumes from various regions of Poland.