masters

MALEC Anna

6 IX 1910 - 1 II 1991

singer

 

Anna Malec (maiden name – Skowron) was born in  Chłopkowo. She started singing in early childhood learning from her mother and her grandmother who were both singers and wedding cooks. Her brother also sang well. She completed four years of elementary education. After marrying her husband, Michał Malec, she moved to nearby Jędrzejówka, where they had a 90-acre farm. They had three daughters and a son.

Her repertoire was immense. Her songs were often recorded - the earliest registry, in scores by Józef Sokołowski dates back, to 1946,  she was first recorded in 1950  by J. and M. Sobieski.  In addition to her songs, Piotr Dahlig and Marian Domański also recorded interesting interviews. According to local sources [Polish Village Atlas] she was recorded  “for the radio” even before WW II, in 1935.  She knew songs for every occasion, she also composed her own lyrics:  I love nature in spring the most, it makes it seem like I'm still growing up...

 She had a strong singing voice, with a full timbre. She used to say: my voice is different from others'. She used ornaments in her singing, which in her view, added a particular charm to traditional melodies. From the recorded interviews it appears that she attached more importance to embellishing melodies when she got older. A large part of her repertoire consisted of folk songs she had learnt as a child and an adolescent girl, when she spent her days grazing cattle.    It was an important time in her musical education, an opportunity to pick up basics of singing and music in general, to exchange the repertoire and to practice immediately in an unrestrained fashion. (…) she also sang to lull herself to sleep, to forget about hunger. Her singing abilities that she discovered within when in the fields,  as well as volume exercises, listening to the echoes from the forest and nearby hills, all of this installed in her a habit not only of singing when performing everyday tasks, but also a habit of listening to herself, of aesthetic self-control. [Dahlig] Spring...cattle we grazed, goose...there were so many........ songs. (...) Groundhogs we made out of birch-wood. Am no boy, still make them I could.

These field lyrics, often improvised or combined from ready-made pieces already being sung in her circles, formed shorter or longer loops depending on the mood and circumstances and usually had a flirtatious note to them. These field tunes are short, but I know a good million of them! [interview with Dahlig, IS PAN]

This kind of signing could have a tangible impact on some: One time I graze my cattle and I see a woman passing, an old one she was, but later I recognised her – for her cape, earlier a linen sheet them wore like a cape, and she threatens me: Hey you, Larkgirl, don't you dare go singing today! What, why? Cause our Jasiek went to plow, and he ain't gonna plow again if he hear ya sing. Yesterday he plowed nothing but sat and listened to ya. And she says: Why didn't ya plow? - Not even half did I plow. And why? - Larkgirl was grazin' and singin' and me, I sat myself on the plough and I listened. - So don't ya go singin' today, hear me? And me- I'm gonna be singing, I will.  [interview excerpts with  P. Dahlig, IS PAN]

Wedding singing, and in broader terms, singing at all sorts of family and annual celebrations, was another “class” of singing that Anna passed when still a maided, while singing by her mother's and grandmother's side.

Devotional singing is yet another genre in her repertoire, with its particular status and features. She knew many psalms by heart, others she learned “ by the book”., from  musical z kantyczek.  She also learned these at a very young age.

When I was in Chlopkowo still, we  would go to the “station” , to private houses. I was young, so tiny that the leader would take me his book and told me to sing with him. Such a nice voice I had. [interview with P. Dahlig, IS PAN]

As an adult, she considered devotional signing in sacral situations, be it at home, in the church or by the chapel, as her service, and she performed it with dedication almost till the very end of her life. In autumn and in winter, during neighbourhood gatherings focused to communal household chores (peeling, washing, knitting) she learned longer lyrical forms and ballads.She collected these in her memory in great numbers (partially thanks to temporary prints), as she used to say they wouldn't fit even in a fifteen-gallon sack.

 

 Anna Malec with her daughters Władysława and Helena, around 1946. Photography available thanks to the courtesy of family.

 

Her outstanding singing abilities and excellent memory allowed Anna Malec to be a truly universal singer. She felt comfortable and at ease in any role. But when we also consider her other personal traits, such as sensitivity, wit and intelligence, it becomes clear why she loved singing and which form of singing she actually preferred. It was the form which focused on dialogue. With herself, with nature, with God, or more broadly even, with sacrum. She loved signing for its “situational” connotations. Jerzy Bartmiński was right when describing her as “the folk song queen” because it was in the dialogue with people, encompassing all other “conversations”, where she was at her most expressive.

Czesław Nizio, who worked at the cultural centre in Biłgoraj and was in constant contact with the singer, recalled that she was an authority in her community, that she “ held the leadership of her village”.

My voice is so unlike anything else. Another one doesn't tune and my tunes. One sings, with ornaments, with “kolana”, and another sings simply to keep up. I sing with “kolana”, another one sings without'em, simply. It seems to be the same song, the same melody, but they are unlike each other. It's like with music: the same dance, the same play – legs shake, something trembles within, I am old, but when no one is looking I'd dance! But when another one plays [the same melody] there's no will to dance. [interview with P. Dahlig, IS PAN]

Many songs of Anna Malec are based on modal scales, some of them (devotional and field songs) also have a recitation metre, with only an outline of tact measurements, which was not maintained in a strict fashion, but varied  depending on the internal “voice centre” of the singer on a given occasion.

Anna Malec, aware of her own value, combined in her singing a natural flow with a control of dynamics. Regardless of circumstances she sang with an underlying constant order, sparkling with a multitude of hues and shades of emotions. (…) This was internal singing , which reached us through external shapes and shines captured by the microphone, to which by the way, she paid no attention. [Dahlig] She valued songs from her region the most, and what's interesting she held “Russian singing” [śpiewy ruskie] in the highest esteem. Yet considering geographical proximity, and exchange of musical cultures (visible in kolomyjka rythms, timbre and voice emission), granting value to this collateral relationship is understandable. Anna Czekanowska and Piotr Dahlig emphasize the pan-Slavic character of the oldest collections of  biłgoraj folk songs (ładkanki, narrow-range wedding songs), also in Anna Malec's repertoire.

Anna performed on folklore scene from 1967 onwards and received widespread  recognition. She sang as a solo artist or with a band “Kapela Bździuchów”. Her son Eugeniusz Malec (1945-2013) from Wólka Abramowska, inherited her musical talent, and was a musician in town brass bands in Jędrzejówka and Goraj.

A concert titled “Field tunes of Anna Malec” took place in August 2013 during the Jagellonian Fair. In February 2014,  Polish Radio released a CD of Anna Malec and “Kapela Bździuchów”, and organised a concert commemorating these artists and their repertoires.

 

 

Awards:

1983 - Nagroda im. Oskara Kolberga 1983

1974 – Złote Skrzydło Ikara, Festiwal w Mielcu

1969, 1972 - OFKiŚL w Kazimierzu - I nagroda

 

Discography:

2014 - Portrety: Anna Malec i Kapela Braci Bździuchów (seria Muzyka Źródeł vol. 28) Polskie Radio RCKL

2009 - Early post-war – polish folk music recordings, IS PAN 2009 (Wyleciała siwa zezula)

1997 - Lubelskie, (seria Muzyka Źródeł vol. 3) Polskie Radio RCKL 1997 (Oj śpiwom ja se śpiwom, ale nuty ni mom, Oj przyleciała siwo zezulia i na kalinejce padła, Oj idzie bydło z pola, Będziemy sie krężyli, bośmy żytejka dożeli, Za las słońce za las)

1993, Pologne: Chansons et danses populaires - Poland: Folk Songs and Dances, VDE  (Siadaj panno młoda, Oj wyleciała siwa zezula, Wianuj mnie matejko wianuj)

1980 - Polskie kapele ludowe, Pronit 0023, 1980 (Oj, toczy mi się; Przyszła starościna; A wy goście nie żałujcie), Pronit 0022, 1980 (Ej dzisiaj Stanisława)

1976 - Grajcie dudy, grajcie basy, wybór i opracowanie Jadwiga Sobieska, Muza 1976, reedycja na CD pod tytułem "Songs and Music from Various Regions"  Polskie Nagrania 1990 (Oj a moja matejko, nie budźcie mnie rano)

 

Archives:

Instytut Sztuki PAN (255 utworów), Polskie Radio pr 2, RCKL (nagrania Mariana Domańskiego, ponad 200 utworów) , Radio Lublin

 

Author - Remigiusz Mazur-Hanaj

 

Anna Malec - Oj idzie bydło z pola, oj i krasula moja / A cattle is coming back from the field

Anna Malec - Bedziemy się krężyli sośmy żytejka dożęli / We will dance since we have reaped rye

rec. Warszawa 1973. „Sources of polish folk music” nr 3 – „Lubelskie”, ©℗ Polish Radio SA / Institute of Music and Dance, Warszawa 2012

My voice is so unlike anything else. Anna Malec, photo from the family album.