Gwendolyn Toth

Gwendolyn Toth is the director of the New York City-based early music ensemble, ARTEK, and a soloist on early keyboards (organ, harpsichord, fortepiano). She is married to harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, and they have three children.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Concert in Lubaczow, Poland

Stepping off the train, we knew we were far from western Europe. We were 30 km from the border with Ukraine. Our first destination was the town of Lubaczow, where I played in the local cathedral, and we stayed in the parish guest house, taking all our meals with the priests in their dining room. It was a real taste of food Polish style - meat (ham, sausage) at every meal; rye bread and butter; pickles & radishes. Other items that varied, but those were always present. The pastor, Father Andrzej, was a great guy who was determined to converse with us despite our complete lack of Polish and his complete lack of English. At first, he invited other guests to meals who could speak English and be the translator; but then we discovered, thanks to wireless in the dining room, that we could carry on perfectly fine conversations between my nook and his Samsung tablets: we each had our translation program opened, and would type our reply and show the other person our answer on the tablet! Miracles of modern technology.

On Thursday, after practicing for the concert in the morning, Fr. Andrzej was determined that we would have some sort of local tourist experience. Now, we had just spent the past 2 days sightseeing in Krakow, and our feet were tired; plus, it was 95 degrees out (by some miracle, our train to Jaroslaw had AC, which was noted with amazement by every Polish person we mentioned this to. Guess we got really lucky that day and got a new train!). So, since we were out in the country, in a very rural area, I asked if there was perhaps a lake or swimming pool where we could have a bit of cooling-off and relaxation. Much discussion ensued amongst the priests. Then, the tablet was passed to me: "Do you like kayaking?" Yes! So we spent the entire afternoon with a Polish university student who spoke English, and a young priest newly ordained. They took us first to a lovely lake and recreation area for about an hour; then we piled back in the car and went a bit further where we ended up on a kayak river trip - on a very small and quite shallow river - that lasted about 4 hours! We had great fun. What a special day that Father Andrzej had arranged for us.

In the evening we visited the old church to see the clearly old small 8th-century organ in the loft.  Alas, though the baroque case was beautiful, it looked like it had been reworked in the 19th century. But, no one, including the priest, could figure out how to turn the organ on! I have searched and found strangely hidden startup mechanisms for organs in countless churches over the years. This was the first organ that I just could NOT find any switch, electrical outlet, anything. We had to give up!

Friday was my concert. The pictures show that the organ is from the 1960s (?) and also you can see the typically Polish 20th century organ console. There are little colored tabs that get clicked on for combinations (only a few combinations were possible; good thing I wasn't playing Reger!!!) I had never seen anything like it before but I figured it out. During the concert, program notes were read from the lectern in between each piece. Afterwards, many speeches and flowers and food and drink. Wonderful people.

Here is the gate leading to the church, from yet another era, with a large banner for the organ concerts:

The church was a strange architectural amalgam: a baroque church was enlarged in the 1960s to accommodate the growing Catholic population (these parts of Poland are now 98% Roman Catholic) by grafting a thoroughly modern building onto the apse of the old building, but facing sideways. The two interiors were linked but separate. The old church functioned as a chapel, being long and narrow; the newer church was now the main worship space.
Here you see the old church and new church where they connect:

Here, the interior of the new church

And the interior of the old church, now a chapel.

Here is the baroque organ case in the chapel.

Here is the organ I played my concert on.

Playing during the concert. You can see the little tabs for combos.

Father Andrzej making speeches

 And, my kayaking friends!

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