Some of you may also already know that he was my cousin. His father, Roman, was my great-grandmother Elzbieta’s (and namesake’s) cousin. This makes us second cousins twice removed; “cousin” or “Uncle Henryk” for short.
I only discovered this a few years ago, in the summer of 2007. Mom and I were browsing the CDs in Barnes and Noble when she found his tab. “Górecki… I think we’re related.” “What!?” “Yeah, your great-grandmother was a Górecki before she got married.” We (mostly she) did some research, attempting with varying degrees of success to reconstruct the family tree back into Poland.
Meanwhile, I was flatly embarrassed I had never heard any of his music. On the recommendation of one of my best and most knowledgeable friends, I picked up the CDs of his 3rd Symphony and 3rd String Quartet. I listened to the Quartet first. I decided to contact him.
Whether any of my letters ever got through, I’ll never know. I never got a response. I went through three different contacts at Boosey and Hawkes. I even attempted contacting the Kronos Quartet – whose publicist actually responded to me with a fourth contact, for which I am to this day grateful.
I could go on about the family resemblance between him and my mom; about the research and presentation I did on the 3rd Symphony; about the many new friends I’ve made in appreciation of this great and humble man, some of whom I’ve never met; about how his Amen for choir is one of my favorite pieces.
But what I’d really like to say is, although I’ve never spoken to him, and although I don’t know that he was aware of my existence, I will miss him. Announcing our relation was a great party trick and got lots of attention, but more than that, I felt some kind of a connection, a humble pride. I looked up to him. He and his music were the validation of beautiful simplicity. And knowing he was there, across the ocean, gave me the strength to do the same.
May you rest in peace, and may perpetual light shine upon you. You will be sorely missed, Uncle Henryk.