Alfonsas Mikulskis - Composer & Conductor

10400 Brighton Road
Alfonsas Mikulskis

Alfonsas Mikulskis, a composer and the conductor of the Ciurlionis Ensemble, a choir he founded in 1940 in his native Vilnius, Lithuania. Alfonsas presented his group in the major music centers of Lithuania.

Alfonsas was born on October 14, 1909, in Lithuania. He studied at the Kuanas and Klaipeda Conservatories of Music and later studied composition at the Stuttgart Academy of Music In Germany.

In 1940, the 30-year-old musician organized the Ciurlionis Ensemble, a Lithuanian folk singing group named after one of Lithuania’s famous composers. During World War II, he suffered many pressures from the Nazis and Soviets and escaped from death more than once.

He was one of the first members of the Lithuanian underground during the 1940 occupation of the U.S.S.R. The Soviets came to his home at 3:00 a.m. with a list of people to take away. However, the Soviets were not sure of the spelling of the name and left. Alfonsas and his wife slipped out into a park and hid in the bushes for two days after they left.

In 1941, the Nazis took over the country, and Mikulskis was one of their primary targets. He heard he was listed for a concentration camp. So he and his wife hid in another house. They escaped by being disguised as firemen and taken out of town in a fire engine. They took him to the Marion Fathers monastery in Vilnius, Lithuania.

He organized and taught a choir in the monastery under a false name. Early in 1944, the Nazis decided it was better for the people's morale to have their music. He returned, but when the Soviets returned, his group escaped to Vienna, where the Ciurlionis Ensemble was re-established

The ensemble gave over 300 concerts in western Europe until 1949 when the maestro and forty of his followers arrived in the United States under the sponsorship of the Cleveland Lithuanian Organization. Their first concert in the United States was at Severance Hall in 1950.

Mr. Mikulskis received a master's degree from Western Reserve University. The ensemble made many concert tours in the United States and Canada. In 1964, the seventy-member choir gave a concert at the World's Fair in New York.

His work with the choir was on a non-paid basis. Mr. Mikulskis had a full-time job as a machinist at Cleveland Worm and Gear Co., from which he retired in 1971.

His dedication and that of the choir were demonstrated by an incident in the 1950s. The choir had promised to sing in a charity event on a winter night. Unfortunately, a blizzard developed, and 80 choir members showed up, with only 21 in the audience.

Mr. Mikulskis died at his Bratenahl home on October 13, 1983. He had cancer for three years prior, but he continued work with his choir. He last led the group on the day before his death. His death was marked with a mass composed by Mr. Mikulskis.

Mr. Mikulskis was survived by his wife, Ona, also a musician. She was director of a string ensemble featuring a variety of sizes and tones of the Kankles, a Lithuanian plucked string instrument belonging to the Baltic box zither family.