ABOUT CDs AND PERFORMERS
 

Our first concert, titled " Lulajze Jezuniu and Other Gems of Polish Carols," was performed at the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan on January 6th, 2002. We wanted to bring the Polish tradition of singing Christmas carols to the CIC community, and therefore we sang them in Polish as well as in English. We hoped that everyone would join our singing, whether they remembered the words, or just the melodies, or maybe had only the memories of their parents singing these songs a long time ago. But we also wanted to welcome those who may simply enjoy the carols for their unquestionable beauty.

It was only during our first concert that we realized just how strongly this tradition is rooted in the people of Polish heritage. There were many thanks but also many tears, stories and nostalgic reflections. We promised to repeat our caroling the following year and we have kept the tradition since.

This recording is dedicated to everyone who treasures the beauty of the Polish carols and the tradition of singing them together.

 
Jerzy Bugaj

Jerzy (George) Bugaj--baritone, pianist, organist and musicologist--came to the United States from Warsaw, Poland, in 1989. While in Poland, Jerzy worked for the Public Radio as a broadcaster and a classical music journalist. Political changes in 1982 (martial law) steered Jerzy back to playing piano and also to singing in vocal and vocal-instrumental old music ensembles, namely Bornus Consort and Ars Nova. He also performed with the Warsaw Chamber Opera's Ars Antiqua Choir as a member and soloist. With these ensembles he performed in concerts and festivals throughout Europe, including France, Italy, Germany, Estonia, Switzerland, and Austria.

In the United States George continued his vocal studies, pursuing his master and doctoral degrees at West Virginia University. In 1997 George was the laureate in the West Virginia University Young Artists Competition. He was also a guest soloist with the Toronto Sinfonietta in Canada. Since 1999 George has been the Music Director at the Catholic Information Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was during this time that he prepared a program of Polish Carols which evolved into an annual concert and ultimately the CD titled Lulajze Jezuniu and Other Gems of Polish Carols (2004).
Stephanie Wiltse*

Stephanie Wiltse is a choral singer and vocal soloist, performing frequently in the greater Grand Rapids area. She has studied voice with Dr. Russell Hammar, former Music Director of the Kalamazoo Bach Festival; Carl Kaiser of Calvin College; and Larry Biser, music director of the Chamber Choir of Grand Rapids. She has sung in numerous small ensembles in the area, including the quartet Nobistri, and an octet, the Cooler Consort, which was formed especially for the Keller Cooler Concert series. She has sung both as a choral member and a soloist in the Kalamazoo Bach Festival Chorus, the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, the Chamber Choir of Grand Rapids, and currently in the Bach Chorale of St. Cecilia Music Center. She is a member of Trinity United Methodist Church and serves as music leader and pianist for the 8:45 AM worship service, as well as director of the Matin Ringers and a member of the Chancel Choir.


She is founding member of Embellish, a professional community handbell ensemble in Grand Rapids, and has served as Music Director of the group since the fall of 1999. She is director of the Calvin College Handbell Ensemble and the Valenti Handbell Ensemble of Aquinas College. She has held positions directing church handbell choirs since 1992, including South Congregational Church, UCC, Park Congregational Church, UCC, and currently directs choirs at LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church and Trinity United Methodist Church.

Amanda Hagy

Soprano Amanda Hagy has been singing since she began to talk. During her freshman year in high school she began taking professional voice lessons and joined the school choir, eventually becoming involved in the musicaltheater program. She has performed in numerous musicals, including The King and I, 42nd Street, and Crazy for You, where she played the lead role of Polly Baker.

In 1999 she became a cantor at the Catholic Information Center and joined its choir. She received a B.S. in History, Anthropology and Museum Studies and is now pursuing a Master's degree in Museum Studies and Art History, with a concentration in curating Ancient Art at the George Washington University. Amanda continues performing and hopes to keep singing well into the future.

Mialtin Zhezha*

Mialtin Zhezha, a violinist, native of Vlore Albania is a student of Pinchas Zukerman pursuing a Master of Music degree at Manhattan School of Music in NYC. He is a recipient of numerous awards and scholarships. These include WMU Honors String Quartet, Fetzer Foundation Scholar, Kalamazoo Symphony Artist Scholar School of Music String Scholarship, Music Alumni Friends Scholar, the Denny and McKee distinguished scholar award and the Presidential Award.

Mialtin has also won numerous awards and competitions such as Concerto Competition at WMU, MTNA National Competition, Fort Wayne Concerto Competitions, Islam Petrela International Competition, Nicola Piccini String Competition as well as the Downbeat Magazine Student Music Award.

Mialtin has an extensive artistic life and he performs in many events inside and outside WMU. He plays with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and has also played with the Battle Creek, West Shore, National Orchestra, and Academy of Arts Orchestra in Albania. He has also premiered chamber works by Carter Pann and Curtis Curtis-Smith and performed as a soloist with various orchestras.

Agata Bugaj

Agata Bugaj began playing the violin at age five. Her teachers include Hong Guang Jia, assistant concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and members of the Pittsburgh Piano Trio. She has participated in the National Youth Orchestra Festival as well as several chamber music festivals around the country. Winner of the Duquesne Young Artist Competition and the West Virginia MTNA, Agata was the concertmaster of the West Virginia All-State Orchestra and Principal violinist of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Agata graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in Computer Science and French. She worked for IBM as a software engineer and has presented at various technical conferences, including SIGCSE and the Microsoft Womens' Conference. She was the Director of Development for the Winchester Orchestra and a member of the violin section.

Katarzyna Bugaj

Violist Katarzyna Bugaj began musical studies on the violin in her native Poland. Currently pursuing a Doctorate of Music at Indiana University, Katarzyna is a graduate of Western Michigan University, The Peabody Conservatory, and Interlochen Arts Academy. Her teachers include Victoria Chiang, Igor Fedotov, Yuval Gotlibovich, and David Holland. She also has a degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University and is pursuing a certificate of literary translation from Indiana University.

Ms. Bugaj is adjunct faculty at Valparaiso University; she was a member of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and a supplemental musician for the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and the Louisville Orchestra. She was also the principal violist of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra (2002-2004), and a member of the 2000-2001 Jerusalem International Symphony Orchestra.

Katarzyna has published several articles about music and is an active translator of Polish musical texts. She also updated the translations of Polish carols recorded on the Lulajze Jezuniu and Other Gems of Polish Carols CD and the Oj, Maluski Maluski and More Gems of Polish Carols CD.

* Oj Maluski, Maluski and More Gems of Polish Carols