NEW YORK – Simplicity, coherence, and the promotion of Greek culture are the basic principles of the new aesthetics imposed by the Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras from the day he took office. On January 28, we were impressed once again by the opening of the doors of the Consul General’s residence as a classical chamber music venue. The recently-tuned, years-old Steinway piano, which decorates the living room of the residence, was played by pianist Lowell Liebermann, one of the world’s most important composers of classical music, announcing the cooperation between the Consulate General of Greece in New York and Chamber Music Hellas (CMH) a non-profit organization based in New York and organizing classical chamber music festivals in areas outside of Greece’s main tourist destinations.
CMH President and CEO Vasos Papagapitos together with his brother George Papagapitos, CMH Vice President, are well known for their company Travel Dynamics, which since 1960 has been organizing themed tourism, including cruises organized for affluent and cultured Americans, scientists, historians, and archaeologists from Harvard and Yale to spread the Greek spirit. Their innovation this time was orchestrated in 2018 with classical chamber music, led by pianist Lowell Liebermann and an outstanding group of musicians from Lincoln Center, establishing the first International Classical Music Festival in Thessaly, which was christened Chamber Music Hellas in June 2018. Thessaly, the blessed “Land of the Gods,” was chosen for the second year again this year as a tourist destination with a ten-day stay and visits to its most beautiful villages and towns, such as Volos, Larissa, and Trikala, concerts at archaeological sites and museums in these regions.
Performances taking place within the framework of cultural tourism will be gradually extended to the rural areas and to the remote islands of Greece. In this way, a unique opportunity is given to the Greek audience to connect with classical music. On the other hand tourists who will participate in the chamber music cultural tours organized in Greece will have the opportunity to visit antiquities and museums in the day, while in the evening they will enjoy, under the starry Greek sky, western European classical music. A unique and intelligent combination that enhances the lives of not only individual listeners, but also entire communities, which, by enhancing the musical experience, builds bridges for the passage of classical music education to the next generations of Greeks.
As Vasos Papagapitos said when he started this effort, “we need perseverance and patience on our part, as well as fruitful cooperation from all the actors who are interested in the sustainability of such ventures and pave the way for the development of their country. We are looking for cities ready to accept big events and not necessarily with a public trained in classical chamber music. The common language of music unites people and acts as a cure for the souls of all.”
The host of this special night, Consul General Konstantinos Koutras told TNH he is excited that Chamber Music Hellas and the outstanding Lincoln Center soloists through classical music will help and stimulate quality tourism, since the artistic presence of Lowell Liebermann and William Hobs, the well-known pianist of Lincoln Center, attracts many European and American lovers of classical music and cultural tourism.
Through the collaboration of this consulate with Chamber Music, the Greek community of New York will have the unique opportunity to hear classical chamber music from time to time, as time allows the famous artists.
The chamber orchestra, composed of Lowell Liebermann on piano, William Hobs on piano, Yoonan Kim on clarinet, Chiu-Chen Liu on viol, and Blythe Gaissert Mezzo Soprano, presented a repertoire by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ioannis Constantinides, Johannes Brahms, and Lowell Liebermann. The concert concluded with three songs by Mikis Theodorakis, interpreted consistently in the style and message of the composer by the mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert.
Liebermann told TNH he is excited about the Greek warmth, hospitality, the beauty of the country, and the unsurpassed Greek cuisine. He was particularly impressed during the concerts he gave last summer by the audience in Kalambaka, which he said “had fallen silent… so we did not understand if they were asleep or listened. At the end of the concert, we were sure that they loved the music, because they broke into warm applause.”
The Board of Directors of Chamber Music Hellas is made up of prominent personalities, such as Gregory Nagy Professor of Classical Studies at Harvard and Director of the Hellenic Studies Center, Ambassador Loucas Tsilas, Carlos Picon, curator and former director of Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Andrew Sacks, Louise Smith, and Richard Weinert. The worthy secretary and communication consultant of the organization in Greece is Maria Christina Baklava.
The concert was attended by Stavros Niarchos Foundation co-President Andreas Dracopoulos, Ambassador Loucas Tsilas with his wife Penelope, Yale Public Health Professor Vasilis Vasiliou, Professor of International Relations Andreas Gofas, Karen Goulandris, the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce President Markos Drakotos, and many American and Greek friends of Chamber Music Hellas and the Consulate General.
Those who are interested in traveling to the “Land of the Gods” can call 866-633-3611 and go to www.chambermusichellas.org.