Polish High Tatra Mountains culture project

Shepherd’s instruments

In the summer of 2019 two of the trustees visited the Culture Centre “Jutrzenka “in Zakopane to meet with the teacher and his students who had undertaken the challenge of learning to play shepherd’s instruments funded by MEDyARTE Charity. These instruments included bagpipes and a variety of pipes, some of which are found exclusively in the southern region of Poland, and until now have been on the cusp of extinction, so bringing them back to life presented many challenges.

In the first instance the manufacturers had to study the structure of the instruments based on items found in the regional museums and private collections. During the production process they had to experiment with different types of materials and tools, and learn new skills such as goat skinning and leather tanning in an old-fashioned way without the use of modern chemicals. The entire task was immense, particularly in view of the fact that hardly any of the old masters were still around to lend a hand or give friendly advice. Nevertheless, they succeeded!

And there was a good reason for their remarkable commitment.

During interviews with the instrument makers as well as the music teacher, we found out the vital importance these instruments had in creating the Tatra mountain people’s culture and tradition. The unusual, archaic modes used to compose tunes on these instruments rendered their music distinct. Even though nowadays the music is mostly performed on modern violins it is still recognisable and unmistakable but the notion that the original sounds could echo again in the mountains is bringing tears to the eyes of the local inhabitants.

In the confusion of the Second World War and its aftermath, Communism, people concentrated mostly on survival, forgetting their roots to a certain extent; however now they are coming to realise what they could lose if the original instruments are allowed to be forgotten. They are determined to rescue their heritage.

The second major challenge in the revival of the old musical instruments was the education of the new generation of performers. Krzysztof Trebunia-Tutka, a talented musician well known throughout Poland, had no hesitation in tackling this problem. He wrote his own music scores, found capable young people, organised shepherd’s instrument classes in the regional traditional music school and pursued his dream.

All students in the shepherd’s instrument class supported by MEDyARTE have proven to be extremely enthusiastic and talented. They show an amazing energy and diligence in their studies.  Since starting their lessons under a year ago, various members of the group have participated in no less then eleven regional and national competitions and festivals, achieving many trophies. The culmination of their achievements was an invitation to the Polish Radio in Warsaw to take part in a Polish Folklore Festival “New Tradition” where they were warmly applauded by the audience.

We were delighted to be able to hear the group perform for us in the Culture Centre in Zakopane. The MEDyARTE Charity is very pleased with the progress of the Shepherd’s Instrument Project and we hope to support the purchase of other types of instruments which are now extinct.

Good News from Zakopane

We are delighted that the majority of the shepherd’s instruments have already been manufactured and a group of children from Zakopane and surrounding areas have started to learn to play them.

Last weekend, two talented young men took part in the regional shepherd’s instrument competition and both did very well. One of the boys won in the multiple instrument performance category. Congratulations to the boys and Krzysztof Tutka, their tutor!