Gdyńska Orkiestra Symfoniczna derive from the Symphony Orchestra of the Paris Commune Shipyard in Gdynia, established in October 1946 by music enthusiasts and the Shipyard workers: Wacław Balbier, Franciszek Borowski, Wacław Kominkiewicz, Anastazy Ponek, Sylwester Szukała, Leon Szyca, Stefan Świderski, Edward Wojczuk and Jan Wróbel on Jan Wroński’s initiative, The Shipyard’s main accountant. The Orchestra’s first concert conducted by Jan Wroński took place on the October Revolution Anniversary in 1946. Due to the conductor’s outstanding charisma and commitment, the number of the Group’s members grew every year, which led to 40 musicians at its peak. These were not only the Shipyard workers but also music school and university students, people working in different professions and the retired, all of whom were united by the same passion – music. For 25 years of work with the Orchestra Jan Wroński tried to promote musical culture among the Shipyard workers and the rest of society. Numerous concerts were organized to honour the Shipyard ceremonies, ships launching, concerts from “On Saturday after work” cycle and “Musical mornings” for children and the youth, the patients of Rheumatological Hospital in Sopot.

Despite the fact that the Orchestra received widespread recognition from the audience and were readily invited to the concerts away from Gdynia, the Shipyard’s authorities decided to terminate the contract with them in July 1967 (for financial reasons). The Orchestra ceased to exist for two years. However, thanks to strong determination, in May 1969 they renewed their activity directed by Jan Wroński. At the end of 1971 Zdzisław Bytnar became the conductor and he tried to continue his predecessor’s work. Under his leadership the Orchestra took part in the 7th Festival of Social Symphony Orchestras in Cieplice Zdrój (1973) and won the first place in the 1st Polish Festival of Amateur Bands in Gdynia (1974).

Educational concerts for children called “Musical mornigs” were also continued. During one of such meetings Krystyna Łobocka, 11-year-old at that time, noticed that there was no street in Gdynia bearing the name of the outstanding Polish composer, Feliks Nowowiejski. The Orchestra supported this idea and in 1971 their representatives (Z. Bytnar and Z. Pozorski) appealed to the city authorities with a proper suggestion. However, it was only 10 years later that Nadmorski Boulevard in Gdynia started to carry Feliks Nowowiejski’s name.

The Orchestra performed successful concerts in Czechoslovakia (1980) and Yugoslavia (1981) with their next conductor – Henryk Hoyer-Maryńczuk. In spite of fruitful cooperation with foreign orchestras and good reviews of the concerts in the country, the number of members gradually started to decrease. It was only under the leadership of Emanuel Wieczorek, an experienced teacher and composer, that the ranks of the Orchestra were rebuilt whereas their repertoire refreshed and enriched (e.g. with new arrangements of the conductor). In 1986 the Orchestra was accepted by The Polish Association of Choirs and Orchestras. The Group used to be a frequent musical guest in old people’s home “Za Falochronem” in Gdynia and organised “The Carnival Concerts”.

The Orchestra faced the difficulties again when in 1991 the Paris Commune Shipyard authorities cancelled the contract with the members and the conductor, Emanuel Wieczorek. As a result the Board and the conductor decided to separate from the Shipyard and changed the name into Gdynia Symphony Orchestra. The Group prepared to the next performances with new energy and participated in 9th and 10th the Festival of Amateur Choirs (1994, 1995). In 1999 they started a cooperation with The Navy Club “Riwiera” which has lasted until today has resulted in countless great concerts on certain occasions, e.g. Women’s Day, Polish Army Day, Artistic Coctail Parties. Nonetheless, the enthusiasm did not lasts long and many musicians left. 2002 could have been the beginning of the Group’s end. In this difficult situation, with the ranks decimated, Jarosław Bednarek conducted the Orchestra from 2003 to 2005. During this period a cooperation with Culture Department of Gdynia City Council started and annual projects of “Promoting musical culture among inhabitants of Gdynia and surrounding areas” were launched. From 2005, when Monika Stefaniak PhD started to conduct the Orchestra, new members joined the Group. One year later The Orchestra was registered as the Association in the National Court Register. In the same year the Group performed at the 2nd Kashubian Festival of Choir and Folk Music. Monika Stefaniak initiated two editions of Master Conductor Courses (2007, 2008) led by prof. Jerzy Salwarowski. The orchestra performed several times for the youngest audience (e.g. “Bajnutek” concerts) conducted by Grzegorz Sutt (09.2009 – 02.2011), who was assisted by Fabian Rynkowski, conducting student of the Music Academy in Warsaw. On the death anniversary of the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (5.12.2010) the Group played “Requiem Mass in D Minor” with “Non Serio” Choir from the Management Department of Gdańsk University. The jubilee year 2011 has already been busy for the Orchestra: in April, as a result of cooperation with the French Choir (Pontarlier) “La Campanelle” the Orchestra presented themselves in Pierwoszyno, Gdańsk, Puck and Jastarnia. Subsequently, the Group started intense preparation to “Film Music Concert” conducted by the new artistic director, Piotr Oleksiak. In the repertoire there were soundtracks from famous films such as “Pirates of the Caribbean”, ”Star Wars”, “The Magnificent Seven”. The performance of the Orchestra conducted by Piotr Oleksiak featuring Maciej Sztor attracted huge audience and receiving enthusiastic reviews proved to be an enormous success.

The Orchestra have often been described in favourable articles published by the press. They were also mentioned in Encyclopedia Dictionary of Polska Ludowa from 1965 as well as in Encyclopedia of Gdynia from 2005. What is more, in 1972 Antonina Siegel, the viola player, defended her Master’s Thesis at Public Music High School in Gdańsk. The title of her work was “The Symphony Orchestra of The Paris Commune Shipyard in Gdynia and their history”. There was also a paper about the history of the Orchestra presented during the symposium concerning music culture of Tri-City during 30 years of PRL (People’s Republic of Poland). 

CONDUCTORS OF THE GDYNIA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA:

1946-1971 – Jan Wroński

1971-1979 – Zdzisław Bytnar

1979-1985 – Henryk Hoyer-Maryńczuk

1985-2002 – Emanuel Wieczorek

2003-2005 – Jarosław Bednarek

2005-2009 – Monika Stefaniak

2009-2011 – Grzegorz Sutt

2011-2013 – Piotr Oleksiak

2013-2016  Rafał Kłoczko

since 2016 - Piotr Jędrzejczyk

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