The choir originated in the Polish community centre in South Norwood where music, dance and theatre has played an important part of community life for many decades. Central to the community centre is the Polish Catholic church of 'Jesus the Merciful' where the choir performs regularly. The choir evolved from a parish theatre group called 'Zespół 123' which was active nationally during the eighties and nineties. Many members of the choir also came from the Polish folk song and dance ensemble, 'Karolinka', also based at the community centre. Named, in 1999, after one of the first sacred works to enter its repertoire, Mozart’s ‘Ave Verum Corpus’, the choir's repertoire has grown and diversified over the years to include great music such as, Allegri's 'Miserere Dei', Fauré's 'Cantique de Jean Racine', John Rutter's 'This is the day', Cy Coleman's 'Rhythm of Life' and, of course, many Polish works such as, Świder/Norwid's 'Do Kraju tego', Górecki's Totus tuus' and music from Moniuszko's, 'Straszny Dwór' and 'Halka'. The choir embraces cabaret performances involving poetry and prose along with jazz and popular music shows. This socially diverse group meets and rehearses weekly at the Polish community centre with the prime objective of having fun while learning and creating music together.
Jurek Pockert - musical director
Born 1951 in London, of Polish parents, musical director Jurek Pockert embarked on his musical studies from the age of 7, learning piano under the late Prof. Zbigniew Gedel. At the age of 11 he won a scholarship to study piano, organ and composition at Trinity College of Music. He completed his musical studies at London University by the age of 23 but more recently, he has studied jazz piano under Terry Seabrook. Passionate about all types of music, Jurek has been involved with musical activities in both his career and his leisure time. He co-founded the Polish folk song and dance ensemble ‘Karolinka’ www.karolinka.com and was their musical director for 20 years. From the age of 16 he has served as church organist, first at the Polish parish of Brockley-Lewisham, later moving to the Polish Community Centre in South Norwood where he is currently organist and choirmaster. Classical organ has only been part of his love of keyboard instruments. Hammond organ is another great passion and he spent 16 years as a Hammond organist in various entertainment venues. With such a love of music, he put his musical and commercial talents together to establish in 1979, ‘Tune Inn’, a successful musical equipment retail business which he currently runs with his brother Chris in South East London www.tuneinn.co.uk.
Born 1952, in Łódz, Poland, artistic director Ewa Kwaśniewska graduated from the Łódz College of Culture and Education. Following her graduation she started working at the Museum of Art in Łodz where, as a museum guide, she honed her communication skills while expanding her already considerable knowledge of Polish art and culture. After she moved to London in 1976 Ewa found her literary skills as a freelance writer ever more in demand by organizations such as the Polish Daily (Dziennik Polski and Dziennik Żołnierza). Ewa is a passionate believer in intercultural exchange and making that art and culture accessible to everyone. Her articles, always written with a warmth and humour that so typifies her writing style, enlighten her readers on historical, artistic and literary traditions. This warmth is reflected in the way Ewa puts together Ave Verum's concert programms. Her mantra: "Bring joy to others and joy will come to you."
A more multi-talented, energetic and devoted person would be difficult to find. Mimi's artistic skills span across music, art and theatre. As a soprano, she has had many solo parts in the choir's repertoire, as has her husband Chris, her daughter Basia, her son Adam and his wife, Justyna. Together with Ewa Kwaśniewska, Mimi has been responsible for many stage sets for 'Ave Verum' performances. As a talented artist, she is able to create spectacular props out of the most unlikely materials. Mimi also has a fine business head on her shoulders upon which the responsibility as the choir's treasurer is also placed.
Ewa Kwaśniewska - artistic director
Mimi Szeller - general manager