NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The “East Meets West…Musical Bridges concert of the Metropolis of New Jersey, a musical tribute to the late Nicholas and Anna Bouras featuring young singer and santouri master Areti Ketime and a fine ensemble of musicians at Rutgers University on May 30 was two and a half hours of sheer joy.
The black clad musicians entered the stage to warm applause and after the rumble of the double bass announced the ison, the held note of Byzantine chant, Grigori and Petros Papaemmanouil, sang the Orthodox Doxology.
The two brothers, distinguished chanters from Greece also joined their voices to Ketime’s for traditional and contemporary Greek music, and the latter captured the hearts of the audience as soon as they saw her at the Nicholas Music Center, whose warm colors and wood matched the young musician’s santouri, the ancient instrument, kin to the hammered dulcimer, she is famous for.
A sunflower in her hair, Ketime strode onstage in black slacks and a pink sweater. She immediately began to sing, and even as her lilting soprano began to enchant, she communicated silently with her audience – with movements, hand gestures and facial expressions, the charming and gifted young woman invited all to sing and clap along, immediately establishing rapport.
When she announced that “Eche gia, panta gia – To Your Health, Always” would be the last song, shouts of “no” and “more” from Greeks and non-Greeks – Ketime already shows signs of broad international appeal – rang out.
Sweetness and grace, however abundant, do not fill halls or lift jaded observers from their seats for standing ovations like Ketime does. The character, professionalism and musical gifts of the 23-year-old, who began to play the Santouri at six years old prevailed are the foundation of her fame.
She paused at the start to say “thank you for honoring me with your presence” and thanked Metropolitan Evangelos and Aphrodite Daniels’ and Syn-Phonia Entertainment for the concert’s organization and promotion.
“It is a joy and an honor to perform the music I love for the Diaspora” she said.
Indeed she seemed to have fun throughout, which was infectious.
Her love of the music she performs is often manifest as a shy smile that shines as her hands hover over the santouri just before she begins a song.
Ketime pointed out the composers and home regions of some of the songs: “The last two were composed by Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis,” and she was thrilled to announce “let’s go to Kalamata” and “that was from Epiros.”
She referred to Greece as a country of many colors, and when she introduced “Mes tou Egeou – In the Aegean,” the song she played at the 2004 Athens Olympics, she praised the blue of Hellas’ skies and seas.
But there were also musical hints of the clouds shrouding the nation.
“Mana Mou Ellas – Mother Greece,” composed by Stavros Xarhakos with its memorable lyrics by Nikos Gatsos “Ta Pseftika ta Logia ta Megala – Your Big, Lying Words,” reminded the audience of the politicians who engendered the crisis.
The artist, who began her career as a child prodigy, protects herself, grounded by her intelligence and her Orthodox faith, as the Metropolitan noted. “I not only work with fine musicians but with good people. I surround myself with people I love and who love me,” she said
Metropolitan Evangelos expressed how delighted he was to participate in the presentation of Greek culture on a high level in New Jersey and in Ketime’s North American Premier, and he praised her talent, faith and character
“I have the privilege of serving a great metropolis and its great people. And I have a great responsibility to promote the Greek language, culture, value, ethics and art,” he said.
The goal was crowned with success. He congratulated the event’s co-chairs, Andreas Comodromos and Ann Michals, and praised Nicholas Bouras as a grand benefactor of the Church.
Bouras donated funds and material – including steel produced by his company – toward the building of numerous churches. Dr. Spiros Spireas, Demos Vasiliou, and the Pan Gregorians were among those Evangelos thanked, and he lauded the musicians and organizers.
The Metropolitan singled out Daniels, who is also a much-loved Greek-American singer in New York and Ketime dedicated a song to her. Ketime also acknowledged Comodromos, who is from Cyprus, before she dedicated “Oula Halalin Sou – Fare the Well,” to that star-crossed but beloved island nation,
Ketime sang “Tzivaeri – My Jewel” for her encore and exclaimed, “thank you so much for this evening,” evoking thank yous from the audience in turn.
Her fans – old and new – could hear more on May 31 in Baltimore and on Cosmos FM in New York, were he performed with three violinists and her santouri. A final concert will be held at Queens College on June 5.
The musicians, led by Achilleas Wastor on piano, who was also the music director of the concert with well-chosen and beautifully performed songs was joined by Manolos Kottoros, Petros Klampanis, Engin Gunaydin, Vasilis Costas, and Mavrothis Kontanis on Oud. The sound engineering was excellent and also garnered applause
“This night was organized to support Metropolis and its programs,” Comodromos told TNH, and to present the culture of Greece through music. The funds raised through ticket sales and concerts will be added to the Metropolis’ general fend and will be applied to the balance of its headquarters’ mortgage, which now stands at $650,000.
George Pappas, president of Hellenic University Club of Philadelphia, said “I’m’ here to support the Metropolis and enjoy an night of Greek culture,” and Dr. Thomas Papathomas, a Dean at Rutgers, told TNH he was delighted with Ketime’s performance and said “We are lucky to be able to host at Rutgers such a special event for the community.”