Muses Smile at the Hamptons Church

NEW YORK – The international chamber music ensemble Bianchi Musica heralded the first day of summer and delighted the audience at the inaugural Dr. Nikitas Kessaris Annual Musical Concert of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Church of the Hamptons .

The guests attending the free concert at the Nicholas S. Zullas Hellenic Center were welcomed by Father Alexander Karloutsos, Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

He noted that the hall has been named “The Muses” because it is a gathering place were parishioners and friends can commemorate all the joys and sorrows of the community at events representing the nine muses of ancient Greece.

On Saturday night, Euterpe, the muse of music was honored with wonderful performances of classical and popular music spiced with passages from film scores.

The elegant space bordered by window walls on three sides and crowned with a chandelier that once graced Tavern of the Green in Central Park proved to have acoustics that were called “heavenly” by Pilley Bianchi, the group’s music director and pianist.

Indeed virtually all the pieces evoked the heavens in both their celestial spiritual dimensions.

The music began the ethereal sounds of piano and strings in “Kyrie,” which Bianchi composed inspired by “the beautiful synagogues and cathedrals all over the world where we perform,” she told TNH.

“Ladies in Lavender” was a lyrical piece that featured a solo turns by violinist Ariana Rosen backed by percussionist Marcelo Woloski.

An elegant rendition of “Paradise” by Cold Play soon followed, and Biachi’s Yamaha veritably sang the notes of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” so that the listeners did not miss the moving words that usually escort the music.

Classical music was represented by passages from Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata, ” the 18th variation from Paganini’s “Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini” and the stormy ”Summer”  from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” with its dramatic opening played by violinist Nadia Khodakovska.

Soprano Misty Ann Sturm joined the ensemble, which included violist Nikki Federman and cellist Lauren Riley-Rigby, for the second half of the program.

Sturm opened with the sweet “Prayer” and evoked  guests’ memories with “Con te Partito – Time to Say Goodbye.”

After a beautiful instrumental opening, Sturm sang Puccini’s poignant “O Mio Babbino Caro” and the concert was brought to a thrilling conclusion with the Theme from the Game of Thrones.

After the audience showered the musicians with applause, Father Constantine Lazarakis, the pastor of the Hamptons Church, prompted more when he told the guests “these had to me some of the best two hours of your lives.”

He then turned to Dr. Kessaris’ grandchildren, Michael, Alexander, Metaxia and Nikitas, and said “your parents did a wonderful thing to honor your grandfather, but you continue to honor him by serving as altar boys her and with your scholarly aspirations.”

The concert series was established by Dr. Dimitri Kessaris, a urologist who recently opened an office in Astoria, and banker George Kessaris to honor their father, Nikitas, whom Fr. Karloutsos called “the smartest and humblest member of this parish.” He said the he could feel the presence of the distinguished scientist,  “a math genius and Harvard educated theoretical physicist.”

Kessaris’ wife, Dr. Lisa Liberatore-Kessaris, an Otolaryngologist, recruited the ensemble and developed the program, telling TNH “We wanted to gather together family and friends for a musical celebration every year. She said Bianchi was happy they were given creative license for the eclectic selections, and the latter in turn announced she was pleased to present some Kessaris family favorites.

Margo Catsimatidis, who attended with her husband John, loved the Muses. She congratulated Father Alex and Presbytera Xanthi Karloutsos, whose touches are apparent in the details and overall design of the wonderful parish complex,  and said the community will benefit from the beautiful new facility for many years.