NEW YORK – When Betty Harlafti sings at the Chian Cultural Center on February 9 in a concert presented by Orpheus Foundation for Greek Music and the Arts, the audience will have immediate validation of her advanced studies of classical song and dramatic art. What they will remember, however, are moving songs by a young singer who is coming from Greece especially for this concert, a mezzo soprano who sings the gamut from contemporary, folk, and opera to jazz, retro and rebetika.
The concert is a presentation of the Orpheus Foundation for Greek Music and the Arts as a tribute to Michalis Souyoul, the early 20th century composer from Asia Minor, whose music is experiencing a revival at this time in Greece.
He was renowned during his time as a composer of modern songs of a light quality and his music filled the salons of the Greek world.
The theme will be “From Old Athens to New York” and Harlafti will be accompanied by Glafkos Kontemeniotis, piano, Megan Gould, violin and mandolin, Livio Almeida, Saxophone and Clarinet, George Kostopoulos, Bass and George Maniatis, Drums.
Harlafti will also be joined by special musical guest Tasos Papaioannou.
She will present songs that will resonate with the audience’s memories of growing up with Greek music in the home, but they might not be able to identify the composer or the titles.
Her mission is to make them memorable as the creations of Souyoul by performing 30 of his songs.
“The timing is ideal,” Polys Kyriacou, Founder and Director of the Foundation, told TNH, because Greek-Americans of all ages, but especially the community’s youth, will able to experience an important part of the Greece’s musical history that has continuing influence.
One of the evening’s highlights will be a three-minute video message from the daughters of Souyoul. The composer died too young at 52 years of age.
LET ME FIRST HEAR THE CD
Kyriacou first encountered Harlafti when he interviewed her for his Sunday morning radio program for Cosmos-FM about one year ago.
“Her manager asked me to interview her, and I said I will listen to the CD, and if I like the songs I will interview her,” he told TNH.
“The listeners’ reaction was enormous,” Kyriacou said. “People called me to find out how they could get her songs and that made me think about how much our people love this type of music.
Harlafti has performed with Maria Farantouri, and since winter 2012 she has been working with the Mikis Theodorakis Popular and Lyric Orchestra.
Harlafti has performed the classical repertoire at productions of the Athens Festival and the Library of the Athens Concert Hall, and she has sung at numerous other tribute concerts, including those for Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis, in various venues such as Parnassos Hall, Ianos and the
“Half Note Jazz Club.” Her new CD “Who may you be” includes only songs by Souyoul.
This is the Foundation’s third event, following presentations of a Maria Callas monologue and talented Greek Cypriot singer Doros Demosthenous. The goal of the not-for-profit Foundation is to present Greek music and art of the highest quality to all audiences in America and to Greek-Americans, especially the young.
They will draw upon talented artists from Greece, Cyprus and the United States. Kyriacou, a poet and lyricist who has worked with many Greek composers and artists, is ideal for that bridging function.
The Foundation plans to present new Hellenic music, theater, poetry recitals and art exhibits.
For tickets: Titan Foods (25- 56 31st St., Astoria NY. Tel: 718-626-7771). For information: Orpheus Foundation for Greek Music and the Arts, tel: 917-485-8683.