Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis in New York

                                                                                                                                           

Of course the title must not be understood literally. Their music has been performed there, and that IS being present, but in a more spiritual way. From one of the readers of this blog I got a link to an interesting other blog with a post about an intimate performance on March 19, 2013, in New York, USA in the Greek-Orthodox Archdiocese Cathedral School. Well, if you go to the website of the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity then you will understand that the school belongs to an exquisite Greek Island of Science and Culture, in New York.

Also the in this article mentioned “A. S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies” (New York University) is impressive: on their website I read that it is an educational project which “provides students with a comprehensive and interdisciplinary understanding of the language, literature, history, and politics of post-classical Greece”. 

Greece in the middle of New York, and an honor for Maria Farantouri, Lina Orfanos and Gail Holst Warhaft to be there as the Greek presenters of the Greek composers Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis. At the same time it is an official honorable statement of the A. S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies (N.Y. University) that Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis are composers that fit within their high leveled ethics and aesthetics. 

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  • Singer: Maria Farantouri
  • Singer: Lina Orfanos
  • Choir: Student Choir of the Cathedral School
  • Piano: Gail Holst-Warhaft
  • Director: Alexandra Skendrou
  • Music/Greek teachers: Alexandra Skendrou, Elli Tsakou and Athanasia Filiou
  • Program:  Songs of Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis

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The following text is a mix of the original post, written by Vicki James Yiannias, and my own words, changes, adds and lay-out. The original post is a chaotic massive of paragraphs, and therefore hardly possible to read it. 

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Introduction                                                                                                                                    

The evening-performance contained 20 songs, composed by Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis, all with Greek lyrics, and performed by the students of the Greek-Orthodox Archdiocese Cathedral School together with the internationally famous Greek singer Maria Farantouri –whose legendary, deep contralto voice has earned her praise as the “soul of Greece”— stirred the emotions of a huge crowd of parents, relatives, and other interested guests on March 19.

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The ballroom

The performance was in the ballroom. I could not believe that this is the word that can be used within the context of “Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity”….. Maybe it was a mistake?!  But on their website I can find the word back, an official room, indeed, but it has not anything to do with “ball” (dance). Why do they use this word, is there not something else, like auditorium…?    (On the photo: Maria Farantouri with the children’s choir in the ballroom.)

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The Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity writes: *

“The Cathedral Center Ballroom is one of the largest event venues on the Upper East Side. It offers an elegant space for a variety of needs, including private receptions, corporate meetings, lectures and small performances. The simple, yet elegant, design of the ballroom, with its signature crystal chandeliers, allows for the space to be customized in a way that makes any event distinctive. With a maximum capacity of 240, the Cathedral Center Ballroom is the ideal venue for gatherings large and small.”

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The program: songs of Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis              

In the review that I used to create this post I cannot find more than a few sentences in which the names of  Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis are mentioned, just mentioned, but that is not enough, in my opinion. The followers of this blog know who Mikis Theodorakis is. For those who do not know Manos Hadjidakis: I would like to introduce him to you by advising to read his biography on his website, or to listen to some of his compositions. (I added a special playlist with his music in “Sources and additional information, scroll down.) Shortly:  Manos Hatzidakis (Greek: Μάνος Χατζιδάκις) (October 23, 1925 – June 15, 1994) was a Greek composer and theorist of Greek music. He was also one of the main prime movers of the “Éntekhno” song (along with Mikis Theodorakis). In 1960 he received an Academy Award for Best Original Song for his song “Never on Sunday” from the same-titled movie. Here you see them both on a photo, in 1964. Soon I will add a special page in this blog with more photos of Manos Hadjidakis together with Mikis Theodorakis in the Photo-Gallery.

Manos_Hadjidakis_Mikis_Theodorakis

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The children of the choir, and the Greek language
the children, who were superbly directed by the Cathedral School music teacher, the singer Alexandra Skedrou, didn’t seem to be looking at their music sheets as they sang. The children Dwayne Lewis and Veronica Blaw (members of the choir) explained that they had memorized the songs during the course of just one week. “It was fun!” said Dwayne Lewis, about the entire experience, while Dwayne’s mother, Patricia, related that Dwayne “loves speaking Greek, and loves Greek music.” Dwayne added “I love rembetika, especially!” before scampering off with some other kids. Veronica: “I’m Greek, so it was easy to learn the songs. I love singing in general, and Greek songs especially…. and it was an honor to sing with a Greek legend, Maria Farantouri.”

Alexandra Mitsis, six year-old daughter of Phillip Mitsis (professor within the Alexander S. Onassis Program of Hellenic Culture and Civilization at NYU), “ran around the house singing the week before the concert and had no problem whatsoever memorizing all the songs”, said her father, who noted that he found it “very moving to watch children of this generation–especially from so many different traditions and ethnicities–enjoying this music.” Mitsis praised Cathedral School principal Sonia Celestin for bringing many cultural events to the school and integrating them into the curriculum.

“Sometimes you think, ‘Are they learning Greek?’”, Sonia Celestin told. “Well, in the rehearsals, when the teachers gave the students the words of all the songs to read, everybody was reading Greek! The fact that they were reading the words in Greek answered that question. They know more than you might think they know!” Seeing that there were multicultural children at the school, Ms. Farantouri  (she is named as Ms. in the original post, but I prefer to name her Maria, she is Maria, and I honour her not lesser with naming her so. I continue with “Maria”. a.j.) was also amazed with their facility in learning the songs, said Sonia Celestin.

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Maria Farantouri
Father Anastasios Gounaris, Cathedral Dean, welcomed Maria Farantouri saying that the evening will remain unforgettable for the Cathedral students. “I was here yesterday afternoon when Maria Farantouri was rehearsing with the students,” he said. “She was working with the children wonderfully, and I think you will hear that reflected here this evening, as well as the wonderful job their teachers have done. It struck me how kind she was with the children and what a bright dialogue she had with them.”

Thanking Maria Farantouri for her participation in the concert and for rehearsing with the children before the concert, Sonia Celestin said: “Like so many of us, I have followed Maria Farantouri’s career for many years, as she has sung from the Greek songbook, Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, Michalis Bourboulis, as well as from the international songbook in different languages… I thank her for her presence here in New York, and for performing with our students and teachers for whom it will be an honor and a pleasure.”

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The music and Greek-language teachers
Sonia Celestin introduced three of the teachers who together with Alexandra Skedrou, who is also a professional singer, played important roles in the preparation of the concert. They were Elli Tsakou, Greek teacher and coordinator of the Greek Department; Vicki Doukas, Greek teacher; and Athanasia Filios, Greek teacher. Together with Maria Farantouri, Alexandra Skedrou, Elli Tsakou and Athnasia Filios opened the concert with Hadjidakis’ “T’asteri tou voria”, poetry by Nikos Gatsos.

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Lina Orfanos
Professional singer Lina Orfanos, who brought the audience into her songs with singing and clapping, and Alexandra Skedrou, enriched the evening even further with superb interpretations of three songs. Lina Orfanos told that working with Maria Farantouri was “an incredible experience working with a legend who is also down-to-earth in how she approaches the musical material and how she approaches others she works with, let alone the audience.”

Photo:

  • From left to right: Manos Hadjidakis, Gail Holst Warhaft, Mikis Theodorakis
  • From left to right: Maria Farantouri, Lina Orfanos, Alexandra Skedrou

Collage

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Maria Farantouri speaks and explains
Maria Farantouri congratulated Alexandra Skedrou, Elli Tsakou, Vicki Doukas, and Athanasia Filios for their efforts for the concert, which she called“an exceptional undertaking”. It is extremely important to do whatever is possible to promote children’s knowledge of Greek music and poetry, she said, because these are “the vehicle for Greek culture and the Greek language… and the language can be taught only by speaking to them in Greek,” said Maria Farantouri, who started her musical career singing in the choir of the Athens suburb of Nea Ionia when she was a child.
The relaxed and casual Maria Farantouri sang a “symbolic song that has evolved and developed through time”, the 1976, “Sleep, Persephone” (Kimisou Persephone), by Hadjidakis, poetry by Nikos Gatsos, prompted by the building of a refinery on an ancient site. “The poet asks the daughter of Demeter Persephone, who comes up from Hades for six months of the year, to stay below, so that she won’t see the ecological disasters taking place on Earth… humanity’s greed today.”

Maria Farantouri said: “Greek music is a singular phenomenon. There are so many types, traditional, classical, art songs, rembetika, and more. And you can hear it everywhere… even in tavernas you hear songs whose lyrics are high poetry by Seferis, Elytis, Gatsos, Skellianos. In Greece, music expresses joy, sorrow, and anguish… every emotion. It is not only a form of mindless pleasure as the of the music heard in much of the world today.” During another interlude, she made the observation: “Even contemporary Greek music comes from our traditional music. We create the new from the old.”

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Gail Holst-Warhaft
She also introduced the pianist for the evening, Gail Holst-Warhaft, distinguished scholar, poet, translator, musician (piano and harpsichord), biographer of Greek Mikis Theodorakis, and author on Greek music, rembetika in particular.

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Other performances of Maria Farantouri in New York (Charles Lloyd)
In addition to her appearance with the Cathedral School Maria Farantouri also performed  as a special guest in a top-level cooperation with Charles Lloyd and his New Quartet on March 13 at Princeton University, New Jersey (including a workshop on “the capacity of music for transformation”)  and at the Temple of Dendur, in The Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on March 15.

Charles_Lloyd_New_Quartet_Sokratis_Sinopoulos_Maria_Farantouri_Charles_Lloyd

On March 22, Maria Farantouri joined Greek lyrist Sokratis Sinopoulos and others to celebrate Charles Lloyd’s 75th Birthday at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington D.C. They performed programs that ranged from Byzantine hymns to twenty-first-century jazz, including the tenor saxophone jazz legend Lloyd’s own songs, Greek traditional songs and songs by Mikis Theodorakis (with whom Maria Farantouri has had a long-time collaboration that began during the Greek military junta (1967–1974) when they recorded protest songs in Europe).

My friend Zoe sent me a link to a video that I cannot embed here, but if you click on the linked part of this sentence you go straight to the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with the video about the celebration of Charles Lloyd’s 75th birthday.

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Sources and additional information

 

Updated: 19 November 2015

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About "The Music of Mikis Theodorakis"

The blog "The Music of Mikis Theodorakis" started in 2010. The not-for-profit activities of the initiator were and are to collect, create and publish information about the MUSIC of the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis via YouTube, Google+, Twitter, and this blog. Sources for this information are utterly strictly related with Mikis Theodorakis' Music only. The icon is a bouzouki. It is Greece's national symbol for freedom. During the Regime of the Colonels (Military Junta, 1967-1974) the bouzouki was forbidden. Mikis Theodorakis used this authentic Greek instrument in almost all his compositions, and Greeks were listening to Theodorakis's music in the underground scene, during the Military Junta time.
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