Franciszka Ciesiółka nee Budzyń was born on the 24th of February 1881 in Iłowiec, Kościański district, Wielkopolska Province. Both her parents had a musical background, her mother sang at wedding parties and her father was a very good dancer. Her brother was also musically inclined, he played on the clarinet, trumpet, the guzikówka (type of accordion), and played at wedding ceremonies, ever since he was ten years old.
A singer since early childhood – first a soprano, then a low alto. She used to say she has a ‘razowy głos’ – ‘raw voice’. She was brought up surrounded by bagpipes and you could even hear echoes of it in the way she sang. She had learnt most songs from her mother. In later years, she got to know more songs from seasonal workers near Częstochowa, who also worked near Iłowiec, as well as from her husband Józef (who was from Jarocin).
At the beginning she sang mostly at work. Most of the neighbours would know, when the group of girls were coming back from the fields. They couldn’t see them yet, but they could hear Ciesiółka’s singing perfectly: Budzynko, your Frania is coming back from work – the neighbours would tell her mother.
Ciesiółka didn’t have an easy life. In her youth she struggled not only with her health, but also had to work very hard. She had been a maid, since she was nine years old at her aunt’s house, although she would often runaway because she had been mistreated there. When she was thirteen she began working in the fields. In 1903, she married Józef Ciesiółka, with whom she moved to Kościany. From then on, she worked mainly as a laundress and maid. Due to her poor financial situation and the fact that her husband wasn’t permanently employed (he was unemployed for 20 years), she had work in the fields again even in her 60s.
During the interwar period she took part in a strike, as a member of the unemployed demonstration. During the war she got thrown in prison, for helping a fugitive hide; a man who managed to run away during the transport to the labor camps in Germany. In prison, she lightened the mood of her fellow prisoners and won the affection of the guards with her singing.
Her musical career began in the PRL (Polish People’s Republic) era. Thanks to radio broadcasts, her voice become popular even outside the region of Poland, that she was from. Before 1948, she began singing in the regional band that was active as a part of the State Printing Office in Kościany. Along with the Kurowski brothers –Michał [‘podwiązany’ (tied) violin] and Stanisław (bagpipes), she was the foundation of the band. The band toured a lot, performing at various ceremonies across the country. In the meantime, Ciesiółka took part in the extravaganza “Wesele Kościańskie”, during which she sang such songs as „Kościańskie zegary” (the present hourly bugle-call is a variation of that melody). Furthermore, she performed with her band in Warsaw theatres: “Roma” and the Polish Theatre.
Between 1948-1963 Ciesiółka’s voice was transcribed by Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski, who worked in the State Institute of Art in the Department of Folk Music (nowadays the Phonographic Archives of the Art Institute in the Polish Academy of Sciences). The scholars and the singer became good friends. Ciesiółka used to call Jadwiga Sobieski „paniąprofesorową” (miss professor) and the Sobieski’s were invited to important family occasions (such as Ciesiółka’s 60thwedding anniversary in 1963) and were informed about important family events (a telegram after the death of Ciesiółka’s husband).
Ciesiółka’s voice was arichmelismatic one, strongly variational, a ripple of the musical line and performed in quick tempo. She often switched up the accents in music and was very skilled at the tempo rubato technique. She would often rubato on the final note in the 3/8 bar.
She lived in Kościany until her death. Amongst her children, Franciszka Ciesiółka (her daughter) sang – but not as good as her mother – and her son played on the accordion.
2014 – Ewelina Grygier, FranciszkaCiesiółka – królowa rubato, „Ruch Muzyczny” nr 10/2014.
1948, 1963 – Jadwiga Sobieska, Sprawozdania z badań terenowych, materiał niepublikowany, Zbiory Fonograficzne IS PAN.
1950 – Jadwiga i Marian Sobieski, Pieśńi muzyka ludowa Wielkopolski i Ziemi Lubuskiej w świetle dotychczasowych badań (transkrypcje 9 pieśni w wyk. Fr. Ciesiółki ).
1979 Grajcie dudy, grajcie basy, wybór i oprac. J. Sobieska (3 utwory)
2009 Early Post-war polish Folk Music /1945- 1950/, IS PAN (6 utworów)
1997 Muzyka Źródeł vol. 5. Wielkopolska, Polskie Radio (1 utwór)
Polskie Radio, Zbiory Fonograficzne IS PAN
Author of the note: Ewelina Grygier
Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska