NEW YORK – On October 7, guests had the opportunity to Meet the Maestro of the Athens Philharmonic at the Four Seasons’ Ty Bar in Midtown Manhattan. Maestro Yiannis Hadjiloizou, the founder, chairman, artistic and music director of the newly-formed Athens Philharmonic spoke about the upcoming Carnegie Hall debut which takes place on October 10.
The proceeds of this performance, conducted by Maestro Hadjiloizou, will benefit the reconstruction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine which was destroyed during the September 11 attacks. The Philharmonic will be joined by the New York Choral Society and soloists Larisa Martinez and Daveda Karanas. Additionally, the concert program includes works by Mr. Hadjiloizou himself, the U.S. Premiere of Servikos Cyprus Dance No.1, as well as one by his father, composer Michael Hadjiloizou, the U.S. Premiere of Interlude Act II from the opera 9th of July 1821, and Mahler’s Symphony No.2 Resurrection.
Among those present at the October 7 event was His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, the Permanent Representatives of Greece and of Cyprus to the United Nations Ambassadors Maria Theofili and Andreas D. Mavroyiannis, Consul General of Cyprus in New York Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, the Hon. B. Theodore Bozonelis, Stefanos Cherpelis, Efstathios Valiotis, Marios Frangoulis, Dr. George Liakeas, Jamey Barbas, and the Maestro’s father, Michael Hadjiloizou.
His Grace Bishop Apostolos of Medeia gave the welcoming remarks, thanking everyone for their support. He especially thanked the event’s hostess, Mrs. Katerina Nafplioti Panagopoulos “who has made this evening and the concert possible through her generosity.”
Bishop Apostolos said, “There are no words adequate to thank Mrs. Panagopoulos for her dedication and love expressed for St. Nicholas Shrine and the Archdiocese in the United States.”
He then introduced Mrs. Panagopoulos to offer a greeting. She said, “It is with a great sense of joy, pride and responsibility that I stand here before you in order to introduce to you Maestro Yiannis Hadjiloizou, ahead of his Carnegie Hall debut with the Athens Philharmonic on Thursday. His personal efforts, artistic sensitivities, and professional qualities as conductor, composer, and pianist set him apart among the many. I’m certain that Yiannis is the personality to continue from where Mitropoulos, Bernstein, and Mahler left off here in New York City.
“Following his own vision against all odds, Yiannis created the Athens Philharmonic early in 2019… it is an honor to associate my name with Maestro Hadjiloizou and the Athens Philharmonic and even more to do this here in New York City, the capital of the world. It has become even deeper for me dedicating this special occasion in loving memory of my husband Pericles Panagopoulos who left us on February 5.”
Mrs. Panagopoulos continued, “St. Nicholas is the last piece of Ground Zero waiting to be put back together following the tragic events of September 11th and being the patron saint of seamen gives our journey a symbolic meaning. I foresee that the new St. Nicholas will be a house for all believers, for all New Yorkers, for all people, this is indeed the legacy of great civilization. Thus having His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros set this concert under his auspices and stand with me here today with all of you is of the utmost importance and appreciated.”
Mrs. Panagopoulos then introduced Maestro Hadjiloizou who said, “It is also a great honor for me to here today,” and noted that Mrs. Panagopoulos’ words were humbling.
He continued, “As you all realize, having this opportunity for the Athens Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall is a life-changing experience for all, why? Because New York City is this exactly when you do things rights it could pay off. When I first met with His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros and His Grace Bishop Apostolos, I saw in his eyes a man, a simple man with a heart of gold, a leader for the nations, not just the Greek Orthodox Church and I would like to clarify as far as artists are concerned this is a concert… where we’re trying to do our best, but having Mrs. Panagopoulos as our only patron, so generously, it is exactly her kindness and her sensitivity to the traits and characteristics that unite all people. She had this idea to give proceeds to St. Nicholas, there is a big symbolism behind that. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of seamen and the seas unite all the lands of the earth, all people.”
He then recounted visiting the late Pericles Panagopoulos who “was on his deathbed, they told me he couldn’t speak or understand and I went over to him and told him I had composed a nocturne, a three-minute for solo piano… and I played it for him and went over and kissed him on the forehead and he looked at me and said ‘Yianni thank you for what you are doing’ and that to me is the power of music.”
“Music has the power to resurrect,” he said referring to the inclusion of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony in the program of Thursday’s concert.
Archbishop Elpidophoros noted that “tonight we celebrate the resurrection which is the core of the teaching of the Church, the real Good News that Our Lord Jesus Christ brought to this world… this what we are trying to do here, also remembering what Pericles of blessed memory wanted for this world and whose legacy is continued here today by his wonderful wife Katerina Panagopoulos.
“What we want to resurrect from the ashes is our beloved Church St. Nicholas at Ground Zero which literally evaporated, there is nothing left behind of that church, and this is always a challenge for a Greek when something disappears it bothers us, it touches our DNA, it challenges us to resurrect it because this is what we are we want to resurrect it and this is one of the main reasons I am so grateful to all of you, first to Mrs. Katerina who is a well-known and beloved person, an ambassador of Greece to the world, the musicians, maestro, and, of course, our great sponsors who made this possible, and Mrs. Panagopoulos herself personally. To see St. Nicholas resurrected, I promised that as your Archbishop, and let this beautiful church be again an example of life to this beautiful American nation which suffered so much from religious terrorism and extremism. We have the privilege to have the only church around Ground Zero and we will have some news to announce soon. God bless you all.”