Błażej Matusiak OP
I met Maciej at the festival in Stary Sącz in 1994. As always, ‘Song of Our Roots’ was an intensive time, full of concerts and talks with the artists, dances and improvisations. Chant was also present there – sung during concerts in many different interpretations, commentated on practical-mystical workshops led by Taivo Niitvagi, finally sung during vespers with the Dominicans, whom I joined a year after.
Chant was also an adventure for both of us: me and Maciej. We were linked together by curiosity towards the diversity of ways of singing the liturgical monody – but primarily by exploring chant as a prayer, rooted in the human body, fervent and beautiful. Maciej was not among those who have found the one and only way to perform liturgical music. To his ‘benedictine’ work we owe translations of ‘Gregorian semiology’ by Fr. Eugène Cardine (co-translation with Michał Siciarek), ‘A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography’ by Egon Wellesz, and of the manual ‘Western Plainchant’ by David Hiley. How many times we sang together, during festival or monastic vespers, our beloved antiphon Salve Regina, a prayer of those who are still wandering on this valley of tears, in hac lacrimarum valle. I came to Lubomierz the day after Maciej passed away, just on the liturgical commemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows, who is also venerated in our church in Jaroslaw.
In march 2009 we went to New England. Together with Maciej, dearest travelling companion, we looked at the maple trees with buckets for the sap harvest, we visited old cemeteries, and at our host’s (Tim Eriksen) place we saw 19th-century songbooks: sacred songs of the German immigrants, written in the Gothic script, songbooks of Christian sailors, and early editions of the Sacred Harp collection, containing songs composed since 16thcentury up to now. Our journey was inspired by Tim Eriksen’s performance in Jaroslaw, especially his Sacred Harp workshop.
Borges imagined that the Paradise is like a library. Maciej’s collections of books and instruments, as well as his journeys and conversations, were intended to create a community beyond time and space. That was and that is a community of people alive. There Maciej talks, sings and plays continuo. Or, as once in Jaroslaw, solemnly plays the timpani in ‘Messiah’.
Our last meeting in Proszowa. A holy mass on St. Mathias day – without singing, not in the dream chapel, but at the little altar at home. Without wandering, only with a very short walk. Lots of sorrow. And celestial music played by Maciej on lirone. Tender sounds, sounding representation of the universal harmony. Earthly suffering and a foretaste of Heaven.
Sławomir Witkowski, Schola Cantorum Minorum Chosoviensis
I met Maciej for the first time sixteen years ago – obviously at the Jaroslaw festival. That time we haven’t exchanged a single word, but I still have a photo made there, with both of us. Now it is some kind of a relic for me. From the next years I remember my awe for Maciej’s translations of the festival artists’ talks. It was really an art – and the translations were often linguistically better than the original phrases… they were just like a text, ready to be transcribed and printed. Sometimes I was quite irritated when he asked somebody else, often very young and unexperienced, for the translation. But he knew that only experience can make you experienced, and that giving tasks which are demanding enable people to develop their skills. I am sure that many people in cooperation with him became self-conscious and find their way. He really had a talent to perceive potential in others. It was also my story, when some day in August, when I was on my vacation, he called me and convinced me very quickly that I would be able to prepare my ensemble for the inauguration of the festival in Jaroslaw. We dreamed about performing on the festival, but it seemed unreal, and then – we got the proposal to prepare ourselves in just three weeks! We hadn’t even time to think about it, and the repertoire was already given. Maciej was aware that it was a kind of risk, and we were extremely mobilized to take that task without any disappointment. We learned a lot then and I am convinced that it was one of Maciej’s ideas while proposing us such a performance. In his activity, he probably had some hidden goals very often.
Every time after meeting Maciej I felt somehow greater – in the dimensions of my humanity. It was one of his greatest talents – “enlarging” people. I always had an impression that he would like to hide himself, to disappear. But it is not easy to hide such a great heart. Thank you, Maciej.