Ignacy Paderewski, a world famous pianist and composer who served as the first prime minister of Poland in 1919, performed at Amsterdam’s former junior high school on Guy Park Avenue on March 26, 1933.
According to historian Hugh Donlon, Paderewski was invited to Amsterdam by Reverend Anton Gorski, pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, one of the city’s predominantly Polish-American parishes.
Paderewski and Gorski were distant relatives by marriage. Donlon said “(Paderewski) came more to show his appreciation of the intense loyalty of Amsterdam Poles to their native land than to any other purpose.”
Historian Jackie Murphy wrote in an article for Historic Amsterdam League that the concert was a benefit for the Sisters of the Resurrection.
The Sisters opened a nursery on Park Street for the children of women working in the city’s mills in 1926. The nursery closed the next year and the Sisters opened a Children’s Home or orphanage on Brookside Avenue.
Murphy wrote, “The ongoing increase in the need for their services soon overtaxed the Brookside Avenue facility and in 1932 the Home relocated to the former Gardiner Blood home at 118 Market Street on the southwest corner of Market and Prospect.”
Paderewski’s benefit performance raised nearly $2000 and enabled the Sisters to pay off their bank debt.
Donlon recalled attending the 1933 concert in a column written after Paderewski’s death on June 29th, 1941, “Those of us who were fortunate enough to get into the auditorium — and it was crowded — are now even more privileged to claim with pride, ‘I heard him.’”
Among the first to greet the pianist was Division Street physician Dr. Julius Schiller who had heard Paderewski when he played for the first time in America with the Chicago Symphony in 1891.
Donlon wrote that in Amsterdam Paderewski played as though he was among “a small group of personal friends.”
The program began with a Bach fugue, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and a sonata by Schumann.
Donlon, who had spent many years as a church organist, wrote, “Before the evening was over he had wandered far from that musical fare. In response to wild enthusiasm he went from one Chopin composition to another, and finished with the brilliant Military Polonaise that left his spellbound audience wishing the joys of the evening might never end.
“He was an old man then, Paderewski was. The passing years, with their heartaches, were taking their toll, and there were times when he played as one tired, very, very tired. But then he would rouse himself and show flashes of his old-time technical mastery and poetic fire, his weariness concealed beneath flawless stage posture.
“Those who were there need no jogging of the memory. Those who were not there-well, they missed Amsterdam at its musical best.”
The Sisters of the Resurrection Children’s Home on Market Street, made possible by Paderewski’s concert, filled a need.
Murphy wrote, “At times there were as many as 12 to 16 infants no more than nine days old being cared for at the home. And not only did the home care for children, but from time to time, it also helped others in need; a student from Poland who was unable to return to his home because of the world situation spent seven years under the care of the Sisters who made it possible for him to complete his medical studies, another individual was helped after he had escaped from a concentration camp in Spain.
“The Children’s Home was closed by the diocese in 1960 and the Sister’s ministry relocated to Massachusetts. The building was demolished in 1966 for Amsterdam’s Route 30 South arterial.”