ASTORIA – The Stathakion Cultural Center was packed on November 23 for “A Musical Tribute to Nikos Gatsos, the renowned Greek poet and lyricist.
Almost 400 people turned out on the coldest night of the season for the performance by Grigoris Maninakis and the Mikrokosmos Ensemble.
Chairs were still being set up in the aisles even as the guests were welcomed by Demetris Filios, the president of one of the sponsoring organizations, Geros tou Morea.
Christos Vournas, First Vice President of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, which provided the venue free of charge, also greeted the guests and the representatives of community organizations.
The event was called a model of cooperation among organization for cultural endeavors by Vournas, who also spoke about the life and work of Gatsos.
Filios said the concert was presented free of charge because “when we honor great Greek artists the community should not be obligated to pay.”
Vournas also announced that any funds raised that night would be sent to the municipal founding home of Athens – Vrefokomio Athinon – and the Pan Arcadian hospital in Tripolis.
When the lights were dimmed, Elisavet Tzoumaka recited the poem “Toutos o Topos – This Place” which was then sung by Maninakis.
The audience welcomed the narration in Greek by Tsoumakas and the commentary in Greek and English by Maninakis, and they gladly acted on his invitation to clap and sing along.
Of the 27 songs, 11 were composed by Manos Hatzidakis, who proved to be one of Gatsos’ “best musical friends.” Maninakis said that the composer called Gatsos “a great teacher and poet and said the after his mother he was the most important person in his life.”
The program included poems set to music by other great composers, including Mikis Theodorakis, Dimos Moutsis, and Stavros Xarhakos.
The consensus of the huge crowd was that no one pours out his passion and his vision for Hellenism in America like Maninakis. His musical endeavors are especially appreciated during painful period in Hellenic history.
“Grigori mas parigorises – Grigori you gave us comfort,” one man shouted. Another declared “Grigori lives!” The ebullient musician and impresario replied “Efhome – I hope so.”
And few endeavors founded on serious missions – in this case, the promotion of Hellenic culture in America – are as entertaining as Mikrokosmos presentations.
Glafkos Kontemeniotis performed on keyboards, Kostas Psarros on bouzouki/vocals, Megan Gould on violin and baglama, Giorgos Kostopoulos played on bass and Spiros Arnakis was the drummer.
They were joined by vocalists Anna Eliopoulos, Elena Toumaras, and Nikitas Tambakis.
Maninakis said that what is most gratifying for him about such programs is that the community sees the results of his efforts to recruit talented and devoted singers among second and third generation Greek-Americans.
He was especially pleased to note that the youngsters he has trained have begun to produce their own events, such as the one put on in Princeton last week by Tambakis.
The Stathakion concert was presented by the Geros tou Morea and Eparhias Kynourias chapters of the Pan Arcadian Federation of America – Gatsos was born in Arcadia – the Athenian Society of New York, and the Greek Writers Guild of America.
Vasilis Katsikiotis told TNH that “despite the cold and the snowfall, Grigoris Maninakis and his orchestra and singers warmed not only our hearts and the Stathakion but the hearts and memories of more than three generations of Greek-Americans who partook of this beautiful event. I am very proud to see that Greece has such worthy cultural ambassadors in the most far flung parts of the world, including Astoria, the heart of our community.”