NEW YORK – Carnegie Hall was filled with music lovers of all ages and backgrounds for the concert by the renowned singer Maria Farantouri on May 12. The concert entitled, Maria Farantouri: A Tribute to Mikis Theodorakis, presented not only the most famous works by the composer and that Farantouri herself popularized but also works made famous by popular singers including Grogoris Bithikotsis.
Associated with the legendary Greek composer Theodorakis and his music for more than 40 years, Farantouri, accompanied by a chamber ensemble, sang some of his best-loved songs from throughout the composer’s memorable career.
Performing with Farantouri were Music Director Achilleas Wastor- on piano, David Lynch- on saxophone and flute, Heracles Zakkas on bouzouki and mandolin, Alexandros Botinis on cello, Petros Klampanis on bass, Christos Rafalides on vibraphone, and Engin Kaan Gunaydin on percussion, with the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Choir, Evey Simon, Director.
The singer was greeted by enthusiastic applause as she took the stage and began with the famous Kratisa ti zoi mou (I’ve Kept a Hold on My Life) with lyrics by Gorge Seferis and Tis agapis aimata (The Blood of Love) with lyrics by Odysseas Elytis. Her vocal talent, consistent for so many years, impressed her fans. After the first two songs Farantouri addressed the audience, noting that it “is a great honor for me- after 24 years- to sing the music of Mikis Theodorakis again at Carnegie Hall.” She pointed out that Theodorakis had appeared with her that time and though “he could not be here tonight, he is with us in spirit from his home in Athens.”
Farantouri mentioned the poetry of the songs with lyrics by Greece’s greatest poets and the profound connection between the music and poetry which she also spoke about in her recent interview with The National Herald. She thanked everyone for their presence at the concert and said, “I hope it won’t take 20 years for me to come back next time,” to which the audience responded with thunderous applause.
She thanked Helene and Robert Browning for proposing the concert, the Carnegie Hall management, and all those who made the concert possible.
Farantouri then introduced Gail Holst-Warhaft, the well-known author, translator, and Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Classics, Comparative Literature and Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University, who read some of the poems in translation that have been set to music by Theodorakis. Her book, Theodorakis: Myth and Politics in Modern Greek Music, was first published in 1979. Holst-Warhaft also read Theodorakis’ own message written for the event, which referred to the concert 24 years ago and noted, “I am delighted and moved that my work will again be performed in the same hall by Maria Farantouri and the excellent musicians who are accompanying her. She is the truly genuine and authentic interpreter of my work.”
Theodorakis’ letter continued, “This concert is a great honor for me and my music… I wish Maria a triumphant success of which I have not the slightest doubt because of her radiant personality and artistic abilities, and the love of the American and Greek-American public. I thank you.”
The audience was moved by the sentiments expressed and also by the powerful music. Botinis performed a beautiful solo on cello, Horos Asikikos. Wastor demonstrated his wonderful talent in his own arrangement, Concert Suite for Solo Piano, based on Theodorakis’ Sonatina No. 1 and Zorba, which the audience enjoyed thoroughly, clapping along with the familiar rhythm of Zorba. The instrumental Interlude for Bouzouki and Orchestra also impressed the audience. Rafalides on bouzouki received a long round of applause for his efforts in the piece.
The Archdiocesan Choir, in alphabetical order- Nektarios Antoniou, Joseph Brent, Sun Young Chang, Adam Cromer, Dawn Helene, Stephan Kirchgraber, John Koch, Joanna Mieleszko, John Paterakis, Alexandra Skendrou, Alyson Spina, Nikoleta Rallis Sydykov, Costas Tsourakis, and Maria Elena Zollo, directed by Evey Simon, added their powerful voices to some of the most moving songs of the concert. Among them Asma Asmaton (Song of Songs), lyrics by Iakovos Kambanellis, and Kaimos (Sorrow), lyrics by Dimitris Hristodoulou. Tis diakiosynis ilie noite (Intelligible Sun of Justice), lyrics by Elytis, had many singing along in the famous refrain.
The concert concluded with a standing ovation for Farantouri who responded with not one but two encores. The first included the famous, Sto perigiali to krifo with lyrics by Seferis and To gelasto paidi with lyrics by Brendan Behan and Vassilis Rotas. The second and final encore surprised the audience as Farantouri sang Somewhere from the musical West Side Story, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
A total of 30 pieces by Theodorakis were performed in all with about 2,000 people present for this memorable concert. Audience members look forward to the next one.