ASTORIA – The songs of Lina Nikolakopoulos thrilled the audience that packed the Chian Cultural Center in Astoria on February 27, but the warmth that comforted the New Yorkers surviving a brutal winter emanated from the great poet and lyricist herself – and the love of her fans.
The tribute concert was a presentation of Syn-Phonia Entertainment, founded by Aphroditi Daniel, who was one of the featured singers. Spiros Exaras, who performed guitar and vocals, was the arranger and musical director.
The audience was welcomed by Yanna Katsagiorgi, who sang and offered heartfelt commentary on the work of an artist whose creative output – more than 600 lyrics and poems – has inspired generations.
Everyone onstage and in the seats resonated with her words when she said Nikolakopoulou’s lyrics expressing her loss, joy, love pain and life experiences, always with passion and sometimes with humor formed the beautiful background of the lives of contemporary Greeks.
|The room darkened a bit more, Hellenic blue light bathing the back wall and streaming from the ceiling, and singing star Nikos Kouroupakis appeared.Sometimes colored smoke enveloped the musicians, including Lefteris Bournias on clarinet, Gary Schreiner on keyboard, drummer Spiros Nitis and Petros Klampanis, electric and acoustic bass.
The spirit of eternal, suffering Greece pervaded many of the songs, including the opening song by
Kouroupakis– who bantered in fluent English. He recited and then sang the lyrics for “Ta Kainourgia Ftera – Τhe New Wings.”
Another soulful piece , “Di Efhon – Τhrough the prayers,” followed, and then Kouroupakis announced “change of climate.”
The beat turned up and the crowd clapped to “Ta Pio Oraia Laika – The most beautiful popular songs,” accented on the singer’s middle eastern drum and Exaras’ riffs.
And one by one the songs American-born Greeks love, sung by favorites like Protopsalti and Arvanitaki but whose author they knew not, became revelations.
Kouroupakis invited Katsagiorgi to the stage, who demonstrated her versatility as “Me to Idio Mako – With the same Fabric” shifted from its sultry beginning into a passionate rock anthem laced with tender moments.
Aphroditi Daniel emerged bathed in goddess-blue light to sing “Prosopoko – Ιt’s Personal.” She too spoke about the meaning of Nikolakopoulou’s poety in what she called our painful yet unfeeling times. “The lyrics draw out of her listeners emotions they were not aware of…Thank you Lina,” she said.
Young Nikitas Tampakis was called up to sing “Meno Ektos – I stand apart” which was more evocative than ever with Bournias’ mournful clarinet opening. Tampakis later delighted on violin.
Bournias went wild with the evocative rendition of “Dynata Dynata – Everything is Possible” to which the audience was invited to sing along.
The performance of “Theos an Einai – If God exists” was one of the evening’s highlights. The audience joined in the refrain and Bournias’ opening passages prompted applause, reinforced by Kouroupakis’ praise, which he later extended to all his fellow performers.
Again the concern and hopes for Greece and Cyprus were evoked by a song, this time “Εimaste Akoma Zontanoi – We’re still alive.”
EMOTIONAL NIKOLAKOULOU RECEIVES THE LOVE
Αfter the concert an emotional Nikοlakopoulou, resplendent in a red velvet dress, was invited to the stage for presentation of awards by students of the Greek studies programs of Columbia University and NYU, both of which sponsored the event.
The honoree expressed her joy at the recognition by the students, and offered them blessings, declaring “you will surpass us all.”
Receiving the audience’s embrace in a loving standing ovation, she said her creative work continues “beauty never ends; it is a treasury – like Noah’s Ark” and asked the artists to play one more song, the beautiful “Ourane – Sky.”
Nikolakopoulou gushed “let’s always gather like this, with our love for Greece. I will remember this like a dream,” and she later told TNH “This night was a great honor for me I my life. The heart of Greece beats in America.”
She agreed that the creators of the country’s songs fire up the souls of Greeks abroad. “Song, the song makes the heart beat – and the feet dance. That is the purpose of the song, and to comfort us and ease our pain.”
The uncles of Nikitas Tampakis, Zachary Katsihtis and Jim Tambakis enjoyed the concert, but they were especially proud of their nephew, who played in Princeton University’s orchestra as computer science major.
Dr. Spyros Orfanos appreciated what he called an exceptional musical experience. “I am here to celebrate a great lyricist and poet. She is a unique voice.”
PHOTO CREDIT: ETA PRESS – Fotios Papagermanos