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  Nr. 66 - Dec.' 03-Jan. '04
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An Evening of Greek Song

by Jeffrey Carson, December 2003

CONCERT, NOVEMBER 1 at the Hall of the Archilochos Society

Owing to its beauty, Paros has often attracted artists, but composers and players of music have been less forthcoming. So we are glad to notice that opportunities to hear serious music - classical, jazz, and Greek art song - have been much increasing in recent years. It is especially gratifying when the musicians are native or long-term residents, for whom Paros, wherever else they may perform, is home ground. Part of this revival is due to the music school, since more and more children are learning to read music and become aware of musical depth, part is due to Paros' openness to the world, and part to sheer talent that will out.

On the evening of November 1, Andonis Prekas and Maroulia Kontou gave a concert of Greek art song. Many of us have heard Maroulia performing classical piano pieces since she was a child, and consequently, though delighted, we are not surprised by her virtuosity and sensitivity.

Andonis has been heard performing with Nikos Sarris' Archilochos Chorus, and as a classical singer in the chamber chorus of his teacher - now a resident - Orfeas John Munsey. The time is ripe: Andonis has stepped out on his own with an ambitious and extended repertory of classic Greek song. His tenor is sweet and sure and trained, and his love for these songs - most of them as well known here as Gershwin and Kern are to Americans - kept his interpretations chaste and lucid, though Hadjidakis' "All Alone" nearly brought tears to many eyes. With their lovely melodies and poetic words, he demonstrated that these songs can be performed as classical art songs with no apologies. The composers - who included, in addition to the two masters, Arleta, Mikroutsikos, Moutsis, Loizos, Spanos, and others - should have been in the audience to hear their works treated with such musicianship. The piano parts were often complex in the classical tradition, allowing Maroulia, whom we last heard in September playing Saint Saens with Nancy Goldenberg - to put her studies of Chopin to good effect.

From about 1955 to about 1985, Greece produced an amazing number of songwriters who were more than popular, and who aimed, without at all abandoning their popular roots, to appeal to listeners of Schubert and Debussy. The prime movers in this movement were Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis, both of whom were classically trained, neither of whom was limited to the song form. They in turn inspired many younger composers. There is nothing like this movement in, say, America or England: when was the last time you heard a genuine lyric poem set by a composer hoping to sell a lot of records? Yet the songs in this programme, all popular, included verses by Elytis, Kavvadias, Myrtidiotissa, and Gatsos. And what melodies! Unlike in the Western tradition, many are in the natural minor and tend towards modality, harmony is de-emphasized, and simple sequence is much employed.

We have heard rumours that Andonis and Maroulia are considering recording a CD, which is a lucky thing for those of you who didn't make it to the performance. And of course we'll be hearing from them again.
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