The Lira Ensemble is the nation’s only professional performing arts company specializing in Polish music, song and dance. Its mission is to bring the best of Polish culture into American life. Founded as the Lira Singers in 1965, the ensemble now makes about 50 appearances a year in the Chicago area, across the Midwest, occasionally around the nation, and has made six concert tours of Poland. Lira has produced nine major recordings that are sold nationwide.
Lira presents the full spectrum of Polish music and dance, both classical and folk, with informative and witty English language narrations that explain the traditions and history behind the works performed. Lira has long been trusted by Polish Americans as an expert culture bearer.
Lira is the arts outreach group of Chicagoland’s Polish-American community and often represents Polish Americans and Polish and Polish American culture at city, state and national events. Lira has won high praise, as well as awards, for its series of concerts performed jointly with Mexican Americans and African Americans and its outreach concerts for the American Jewish community, as well as outreach to other ethnic groups.
The company consists of a symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, singers and dancers who perform serious, folk and popular Polish dance and music in the original language and in English translation. When appropriate, Lira artists perform in authentic folk garb of various regions of Poland as well as historically correct costumes from several periods of Polish history.
Lira is based in Chicago as artist-in-resident at Loyola University Chicago, which makes a significant, on-going contribution to the promotion of Polish culture in the United States by donating free office, rehearsal and storage space to the Lira company.
Lucyna Migala, co-founder of Lira, serves as artistic director/general manager and narrates Lira performances, Mina Zikri is conductor of the Lira Ensemble. Iwona Puc is choreographer and director of the Lira Dancers.
The Lira company is a 501(c)(3) federally recognized charity which receives donations from hundreds of individuals each year from Polish Americans and other lovers of quality music and dance Lira regularly receives funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, major foundations and corporations in the Chicago area, as well as from prominent Polish-American organizations. Thanks to this support Lira is one of the most successful ethnic arts organizations in the Midwest.
The Lira Singers, the female ensemble which is the core of the company, is made up of eight to fourteen women, and is one of the few professional, fine arts female vocal groups in the Midwest. The Singers perform in authentic, colorful folk garb from various regions of Poland, in period gowns, or in traditional concert dress, depending on the music performed. When presenting folk music, the Singers perform a bit of choreography.
The Lira Chamber Chorus consists of the female ensemble plus eight to twelve male singers.
All singers employed by Lira are classically trained; all hold music degrees, often graduate degrees in vocal performance. Many are teachers of music as well as professional singers; some are also members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Lira is an ensemble of soloists, and all vocal soloists are chosen from within the company.
The Lira Symphony is made up of 40 to 60 instrumentalists who perform Polish and American repertoire and accompany the Singers and Dancers at major concerts. All hold advanced degrees in their instrument. Lira Orchestra members are some of the best instrumentalists in the Chicago area and also perform with major orchestras in the region, such as the Orchestra of the Lyric Opera and the Grant Park Symphony.
The Lira Chamber Ensembles consist of musicians who hold first chair positions in the Symphony who perform with the Lira String Quartet, Lira Piano Quintet, Lira Woodwind Quartet and other chamber groups.
The Lira Dancers comprise the nation’s only professional dance company specializing in Polish folk and historic dance. Created in 1994 by Lucyna Migala and Anthony Dobrzanski – Lira choreographer emeritus – the Dancers perform dances from various regions of Poland in the authentic regional folk garb, as well as dances from the royal court and manor houses of Poland and dances from various periods of Polish history, all presented in historically correct period costume.