Composer, conductor, arranger, songwriter,
who wrote `Red Poppies on Monte Cassino``
Henryk Wars was born in Warsaw on 29 December 1902. He was a composer, conductor, arranger, songwriter. He came from a musically gifted family. His eldest sister Józefina was a soloist of the Warsaw Opera, then Milan's "La Scala", his younger sister Paulina was a pianist.
Henryk Wars was certainly the most outstanding composer of popular music in Poland, the author of songs and dance pieces, most of which have withstood the test of time. He is considered - along with Ada Rosner - a precursor of swing in Poland. He perfectly assimilated the American style of "sweet music" with elements of jazz, gathered the best musicians around him, and created the best dance orchestra in the country. His band of about 25 members was the first Polish "big band". The orchestra took part in the film The Parade of Warsaw - its performance in the film was equal to American or English orchestras. Some recordings of the Wars band, from the film Follow the Fleet (Błękitna parada) including: Lets face the music and dance and Let yourself go, on the "Syrena Electro" albums, were better than the recordings of these songs made in America.
Henryk Wars was not only able to adapt to the current fashion, but he was also not indifferent to Polish folklore, as exemplified by the excellent Kujawiak from the film Heroes of Siberia. The light, cheerful style of his compositions, the ease of creating simple, melodic, and at the same time original and unique pieces, the arrangements becoming more and more varied over the years, inventions unheard of by other composers - these are the things that make his work one of the most beautiful pages in the history of polish song. Syrena Records recorded most of his compositions.
He also composed much more ambitious music. He is the author of symphonic works: Concertina for piano and orchestra dedicated to Maurice Ravel, Symphony No. 1, Three symphonic poems, string quartets, sonatas for violin and piano, piano preludes, the ballet Maalot choreographed by Stefan Wenta, as well as numerous chamber works. He belonged to the association of American artists: the Film Academy, and the Academy of Music.
He was a very prolific artist. In Poland, in the years 1930–1939, Wars composed music for a total of 52 films. Over time, working on film music became so important to him that he resigned from the position of music director of Syrena Records. In 1933, he wrote the music for The Spy in the Mask. The waltz from the movie Love Will Forgive You Everything became the composer's showcase piece and, years later, a symbol of almost all Polish popular music of the interwar period.
World War II did not stop his creative work. In August 1939, he was mobilized and fought in the September Campaign, then he was taken prisoner by the Germans. He escaped from the transport and at the end of October 1939, he got to the zone occupied by the Soviets. At the beginning of 1940, he found himself in Lwów. He founded a 21-member music band there, consisting of Polish musicians. He performed with soloists: Eugeniusz Bodo, Adam Aston, Albert Harris, Gwidon Borucki, Stefan Bob, and Renata Bogdańska. He visited many Russian cities, giving hundreds of concerts. He also recorded albums in Moscow.
After the outbreak of the German-Soviet war, in August 1941, he joined the Polish Army forming in the southern USSR and evacuated with the army to the Middle East. He was the music director and conductor in the "Czołówka" ensemble and in the "Polish Parade" in the Middle East (in Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt). In Baghdad, together with Alfred Schütz, he composed the music for the revue Keep Smiling. In Italy, he led the orchestra of the Revue Theater of the Polish 2nd Corps. He appeared with his band in the film Polish Parade, made in 1942, and in the film Children, shot in Egypt by Michał Waszyński.
In the army he served as a second lieutenant, and was awarded the Silver Cross of Merit and the Army Medal. He also received the order of Cavaliere de Croce d'Italia, from the last Italian king, Victor Emmanuel. In 1944, he recorded for the first time Red Poppies at Monte Cassino, with the soloist Adam Aston, for the label "La Voce del Padrone" in Milan. He performed until demobilization in Italy. In 1946, he wrote music for the film Wielka Droga, made in Rome by the "Sirena Film" studio.
After emigrating to the USA in 1947, he composed music for 37 American films. He also became a respected composer of American popular music. His compositions were sung by: Bing Crosby, Dorris Day, Brenda Lee, Diana Shore, Jimmie Rogers, Mel Torme. The most popular songs at that time were Sleep my Child, and Over and Over (thanks to the performance of Margaret Whiting, it became a great hit, the album was sold in half a million copies; in Poland it was performed by Anna German), Little Shephard, Good Love, Speak to Me Pretty, Walk with Him, and That Cotton Candy. The popularity of his compositions also resulted in many social contacts - he met Henry Mancini, and became friends with Pola Negri.
Translation of the Polish text at Polonijna Agencja Informacyjna