NEW YORK – It was indeed a choir of angels that the people who filled the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity encountered the evening of December 13. Maria Koleva presided over a little holiday miracle when she conducted the Archdiocesan Youth Choir’s annual Christmas Concert.
The music began with the children sweetly intoning Agia Nixta – Silent Night, its opening notes on piano played by Konstantinos Valianatos reverberating throughout the warmly lit nave of the Cathedral beautifully decorated for Christmas.
The Ukrainian Bell Carol, with its dramatic opening on piano and voice followed, and the third piece was a traditional Cypriot carol begun on violin by Nicholas Sofos.
The choir, which consists of students from Greek-American parochial, afternoon and Sunday schools supplemented by college-age soloists displayed remarkable poise and there was an extraordinary richness and maturity in their voices.
The program contained songs in Greek and English in a variety of styles from a range of countries, and innovative arrangements of well-known pieces intrigued the audience of Manhattan music-scene veterans and neophytes alike.
Archbishop Demetrios, with many heads nodding in agreement, said he especially enjoyed “Nutcracker Jingles” – the words of Jingle Bells set to a suite of music from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.
Not one, but two beloved Ave Marias were performed. Laina Tzanides, a freshman psychology student at Baruch College, movingly sang Franz Schubert’s setting and Flora Kirou, who assists Koleva sang the Bach-Gounod beautifully.
Other soloists included Eleftheria Papadopoulos singing H. Blake’s “Walking in the Air,” Maggie Papayiannis performing a medley of Elvis Presley holiday favorites, Eliana Panopoulos singing “Winter Song” and Eleni Papastefanou singing a traditional Greek New Year’s carol. Despina Dassouras thrilled the audience with “O Holy Night.”
By the concert’s end many of the children earned their first, but surely not their last standing ovation, led by Archbishop Demetrios, who beamed with pride in the gifted youngsters with “these amazing voices.”
He marveled at their ability not only to master so many musical styles – Byzantine, Pontian Greek, Afro-American, classical, “and some other species of music I could not identify,” but also complex rhythms and four part harmony. He said credit was also due to Kaleva and Valianatos.
The Archbishop shared the delight of the whole audience in the quintet of the youngest voices, the littlest performers who provoked the biggest applause.
Among the people he thanked were Cathedral Dean Father John Vlahos for hosting the auspicious event, Papanicolaou, who serves as the Choir’s Chairman/President, and its Vice President Ted Klingos.
Prior to the concert Papayiannis welcomed the audience on behalf of the members of the choir and Koleva to whom she conveyed the deep appreciation of the singers.
She also thanked everyone for supporting the choir, especially the parents of its members, and as reflection of their all having become like a family through the years, invited the audience what she called a family gathering, their first Christmas Tree Lighting in the Cathedral Ballroom after the concert, which also featured a catered reception.
Koleva has guided the Choir since its inception in 2001 under the leadership of Archbishop Demetrios and Cypriot-American community leader Panicos Papanicolaou.
She was born in Sofia Bulgaria and studied music in Eastern Europe. The choir has performed in Constantinople and at the concert it was announced that the P1resident and First Lady of Cyprus have invited to children to Cyprus next summer to perform there for the second time.
Archdeacom Panteleiomon Papadopoulos greeted the guests during the catered reception and urged them to support the children and their wonderful Choir.
The children and guests of honor line up for a commemorative photo.