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A Moving Concert Tribute to Manos Hatzidakis in Astoria

ASTORIA – Synthesis Cultural Foundation presented a moving concert tribute to Manos Hatzidakis on March 4, featuring a talented group of artists- the dynamic soloists Nikos Kouroupakis and Yanna Katsageorgi led by Music Director Petros Hatjopoulos, accompanied by The Hellenic Musical Society Choir, Spiros Exaras on guitar, Theodore Tsinias on percussion, and Kostas Psarros on bouzouki, for a full house at the Stathakion Cultural Center in Astoria.

The program included many of the beloved classics by the internationally renowned Greek composer perhaps best known for winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song for Never on Sunday from the film of the same name.

Hatjopoulos gave the welcoming remarks at the concert, thanking everyone for filling the Stathakion, and noting that it was “a great honor to perform the music of the perhaps the greatest Greek composer, certainly the greatest Greek composer of the second half of the 20th century, Manos Hatzidakis, with some outstanding musicians.”

Yanna Katsageorgi, Nikos Kouroupakis, The Hellenic Musical Society Choir and its Director Yannis Magiros. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)

The Hellenic Musical Society Choir of Clifton, NJ, led by Director Yannis Magiros, opened the concert with three songs- Mythos, Tora pou Pas Stin Xenitia, and Oneiro Paidion. Yanna Katsageorgi then took the stage with the Choir for an emotionally charged performance of Asteri tou Voria that features the powerful lyrics of Nikos Gatsos.

Katsageorgi then thanked all those for attending even in these days of mourning for Greece following the recent tragedy, noting that “Hatzidakis’ songs are happy, sad, philosophical, so many, that the way things are now, they absolutely express the entire situation in Greece.”

Her enchanting performance of well-known songs included Sinevi stin Athena, Pes mou mia lexi, Pame mia volta sto feggari, Evridiki- based on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Poli Magiki, and San Palio Sinema. Katsageorgi also performed the charming Panagia ton Patision which has a special significance for her since she was discovered by Hatzidakis who cast her in a musical that featured the song which became a great success. Katsageorgi’s dynamic performance of the clever song with its witty lyrics drew enthusiastic applause from the audience. She noted that she had the good luck to work with Hatzidakis, who was unlike any other composer she subsequently worked with, and such a singular personality, who, of course, wrote the famous Never on Sunday, but then rejected it as he did some of his other popular songs that were performed later on in the concert.

Yanna Katsageorgi performing with The Hellenic Musical Society Choir led by Director Yannis Magiros. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)

Nikos Kouroupakis then took the stage to a warm round of applause and gave a stirring rendition of the poignant classic Pou to Pane to Paidi while his performance of Aspro Peristeri was especially moving. Exaras’ beautiful guitar solo opened Mi ton Rotas ton Ourano which highlighted his artistry and also the dynamic Kouroupakis’ range as a vocalist.

Athens-native Kouroupakis immigrated with his family to New York City when he was six years old. His father is from Ierapetra, Crete, and his mother from Vroutsi, Amorgos. His first professional collaboration was with George Dalaras and Dimitra Galani on their North American tour in 1992. Kouroupakis moved to Greece in 1995 and began his collaboration with Haris Alexiou on her European tour and onto Athens for concerts. From early on in his career, he was recognized as a strong, upcoming voice in contemporary Greek music. From the summer of 2000-2002, he collaborated closely with the legendary Dimitris Mitropanos on concerts in Australia, Europe, and Greece. In 2002, Kouroupakis met Erofili and Dimitris Yfantis and formed the vocal group Trifono which delighted audiences with their captivating harmonies. He realized his dream to sing in the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus in 2003 with Notis Mavroudis. Kouroupakis was invited by Mikis Theodorakis to sing with the Theodorakis Orchestra and Nena Venetsanou in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. He has also collaborated with Stamatis Kraounakis, Lina Nikolakopoulou, and Niko Antypas, and continues to impress audiences with his vocal skills and devotion to Greek song as he did during the concert on March 4.

Nikos Kouroupakis gave a moving performance at the concert on March 4. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)

Kouroupakis and Katsageorgi gave a touching performance of Lianotragoudo which showcased their vocals and the skillful playing of the musicians, including Hatjopoulos on piano and Tsinias on percussion. Psarros on bouzouki also impressed the audience with his masterful playing throughout the concert bringing a fresh aspect to Hatzidakis’ famous songs.

Hatjopoulos also addressed the recent tragedy in the homeland, noting that “we gathered here tonight around the great fire which is our love of music, as people have done for eons at the end of a long day, to laugh and cry and sing and celebrate the lives and the memory of our lost loved ones. In a time of human tragedy, it is understandable to feel anxiety, grief, and frustration, so it is important to remember that all together we can support each other in this difficult time.”

He continued: “We cannot change what happened, but we can choose how we will react. Let’s choose to come together and support each other in this difficult moment. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who perished in this tragedy. Let us honor their memory by working together for a better tomorrow.”

Following Hatjopoulos’ remarks, a moment of silence was observed in honor of the victims.

Yanna Katsageorgi and Nikos Kouroupakis. (Photo: TNH Staff)

At the conclusion of the performance, the artists received a standing ovation and Hatjopoulos thanked all those who made the concert possible, including Christina Costakis, Founder of Synthesis Cultural Foundation who was invited to the stage to take a bow with the performers.

The Hellenic Musical Society Choir led by Director
Yannis Magiros, at right. (Photo: TNH Staff)

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