Musical stories

The “Wieliczka” Salt Mine Representative Brass Band has existed since 1830. Its long history abounds in numerous events, official ceremonies, and interesting stories – sometimes moving, sometimes funny.

The last God Bless in the People’s Republic of Poland

The absurdities of not-so-remote past can fill many a tome. It was both funny and scary at the same time. Non-sense literally accompanied Poles to the grave, and sometimes even during the passage to the otherworld. One day, back in the 1970s, a certain citizen was to be buried in Wieliczka. One corpse, one coffin, but two funerals. It was so as the widow had found out that the so-called state funeral would be free-of-charge. It would have been a grave sin not to taka advantage of this opportunity. And so, Communist Party’s appropriate funeral rites were performed in the graveyard – tears, bouquets of flowers. Towards the end of the gathering, the widow expressed the wish to be left alone to say her last farewells to her deceased husband. No sooner had the party officials evacuated the premises, than the coffin was extracted from the fresh grave to be taken to the chapel. On that day, the miners’ band played at two funerals – first at the state and then at the Christian one.

With processions

Kopalnia Soli "Wieliczka"At the end of the 1970s, the miners’ band started playing at the ceremonial processions from Wawel to Skalka. Also on the holiday of Corpus Christi, the musicians of the Wieliczka mine marched at the head of the procession from Wawel to Main Square. Jozef Wandas even prepared a special collection of songs to be played by the band during the 8th of May and Corpus Christi celebrations. Officially, it was unbecoming for the miners’ to perform in uniforms at religious ceremonies, while off-the-record many a person managed to maintain common sense and find explanations to satisfy the overzealous.

Trombone that did not want to change hands

In the second half of the 1980s, the band ventured to Germany. It was touring Bavaria, en route visiting the cities of Munich, Augsburg, and Lanzberg among others. A certain musician from a friendly band was bent on playing the trombone belonging to the band from Wieliczka. He borrowed the instrument from the Poles and blew in it with all his might. Meanwhile, the trombone remained as silent as a stone, it would not make the slightest sound. How was that possible? After all, the Polish musician played it before! Upset and annoyed, the musician tossed the uncooperative instrument straight under the wheels of a passing bus. Imagine his surprise when the trombone that did not want to change hands came out of this unscathed, entirely operational.

The bandmaster one way, the band - another

The Wieliczka miners’ band played at a funeral ceremony held in Rakowice Cemetery, in the close vicinity of Jan Matejko’s grave. The band played in abandon and so, when they reached an alley-crossing, the bandmaster took one turn while the musicians another. As long as the bandmaster could hear the music, he continued unsuspecting. Only when the band’s sounds somewhat subsided, he realised that he indeed conducted an orchestra, but one of ghosts.

Kopalnia Soli "Wieliczka"The more, the merrier

It will not be an exaggeration to state that the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine Representative Brass Band is one big family or, at least, a team of good friends, mates, and colleagues who remember about one another also outside their rehersals and concerts. Traditionally, the band appears at weddings of its members or weddings of their members’ children. Also the annual Christmas Eve meetings have all the characteristics of tradition. And since we are talking about Christmas... Before the war, the musicians were known to like to borrow a cart from surveyors from Barycz. The cart travelled around houses of more prominent mine officials – Christmas carols were performed for the mine’s director and managers.

A.D. 1989

On 3rd May 1989, Solidarity organised a march of colour parties from Wawel to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Bands from other plants and factories refused to take part in the venture, whether out of fear of possible problems or for other reasons. Let it suffice to say that the band from Wieliczka did not fail. Marching down Grodzka street, the miners’ band played Jak długo na Wawelu Zygmunta bije dzwon, when they reached Krakow’s Market Square at the plate commemorating the oath taken by Kosciuszko, they played Marsz Bartoszow to finally reach the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where they delivered Pierwsza Brygada. Citizens of Krakow did not even try to hide their emotions and tears.

Światowe dziedzictwo


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