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Music, dance showcase Polish Christmas and culture

The LirDancers

The Lira Dancers

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‘Polish Carols, Song & Dance’

The Lira Ensemble

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Dominican University Performing Arts Center, 7900 W. Division St.,
River Forest

Tickets: $48-$58; half-price for children under age 16

Info: (708) 488-5000;

Updated: December 30, 2013 12:02PM

The holiday season will be celebrated with a Polish accent when the Lira Ensemble presents, “Polish Carols, Song & Dance,” 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1 at Dominican University Performing Arts Center. The program will feature the Lira Singers, Lira Dancers and Lira Orchestra, conducted by Mina Zikri. Lucyna Migala, Lira Ensemble’s artistic director and general manager, will narrate in English.

“It’s an unusual program because it’s kind of an introduction to Polish culture,” Migala said. There will be classical music, polonaises, folk dancing and singing, and Christmas carols. People love Polish carols because they’re beautiful and interesting. We probably have more carols than any other nation on earth. They’re a really big part of our culture.

“Carols are constantly being written,” the artistic director continued. “But people continue to sing the old carols. And the beauty part is that these old carols have changed very little in hundreds of years, so they are like a tie to the past.”

Migala noted that they will also do a medley of American and Polish carols “that will knock your socks off.”

A 30-piece orchestra will accompany 16 dancers and 9 singers.

Migala indicated that the costumes are as spectacular as the company. “We perform in authentic folk costumes made in Poland,” she said. “We make sure that they are historically correct.” Dancers change frequently, always wearing costumes that match the regions of the dances they are doing.

A special guest star, 14-year-old piano prodigy Daniel Szefer, will also perform. The New Trier High School freshman has won numerous competitions and is already well on his way to a professional career.

Last year, Daniel made his Chicago Symphony Center solo debut and his orchestral debut at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. He has also performed at the Chicago Cultural Center and Ravinia Festival, as well as in Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Ohio, Poland and England.

Daniel took his first piano lesson when he was seven. “I very quickly realized that I loved playing piano,” he said. “It started to become a very big hobby of mine and then it came to be one of my biggest passions.”

One of his most memorable performances was playing Beethoven’s “Fifth Piano Concerto” at Chicago Symphony Center. “It was one of the best feelings to have played in a place where all the great pianists have played,” Daniel said.

He also has particularly fond memories of performing in England for the first time at the University of Oxford.

For the Lira concert, Daniel will play two pieces by Frederic Chopin, “Andante Spianato” and “Grand Polonaise Brillante.”

“I had a chance to have a master class with this piece two days ago with one of the best teachers in America, Robert McDonald, in Ravinia,” Daniel related. “It was really a great experience. One of the best things was he mentioned that my musicality and my technique said that I have great potential for having a career in music.”

Another highlight of the program will be a demonstration of two Polish holiday customs — but we can’t tell you what they are. “Don’t give it away,” Migala instructed. “I want people to come and be surprised.”

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