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Culture

Axion Estin Foundation’s Mostly Orthros Festival Preview

November 30, 2017

NEW YORK – Axion Estin Foundation’s Mostly Orthros Festival is a highlight of the holiday season in New York featuring wonderful events and fascinating discussions to expand the public’s appreciation of the season and of Byzantine music and tradition. The Axion Estin Foundation (AEF) is a not-for-profit educational organization with a core mission of promoting Byzantine Music and the Arts.

This year’s festival which is free and open to the public kicks off with the Byzantine Pop-Ups at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Friday, December 15. This is the fourth year of collaboration with The Met and the Greek Consulate General and this year, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation has joined with AEF’s family of partners with a generous matching grant that doubles Byzantine Pop-Up donor contributions and significantly bolsters the sustainability and depth of AEF programming. The Byzantine Pop-Ups take place at 2, 4, and 6 PM in the Medieval Sculpture Hall (Gallery 305).

The sound of “talanto,” the wooden plank used instead of a bell in monasteries of the Eastern Christian tradition to summon the fathers to prayer and supper, will begin the program of music which includes the signature hymn “Christ is born Glorify Him…” and an eclectic selection of Christmas chants and carols from the Byzantine Empire. The music includes scores in multiple languages as they have been transmitted orally or preserved in centuries-old music manuscripts.

Eleftherios Eleftheriadis, director of the Axion Estin Chanters, is the foundation’s artist in residence since 2013. He returns this year to The Metropolitan Museum of Art following his performances in three previous Byzantine Pop-Ups (December 2014, 2015, and 2016), as well as in the concerts Looking East from Byzantium (March 2015) and Al-Quds: Jerusalem (December 2016,) both at The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. Eleftheriadis is affiliated with the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Shrine Church and the William Spyropoulos School in Flushing, New York.

The festival continues on Saturday, December 16 with the Mostly Orthros Conference, an AEF collaboration with the Department of Music of Columbia University. The Conference focuses on Saint Gregory the Great, the Pope and prolific writer who authored Dialogues and whose name is linked with Gregorian chant. Professor Peter Jeffery’s keynote address on Saint Gregory the Great and Gregorian chant considers the question of whether western music has eastern origins.

Professor George E. Demacopoulos will present Gregory the Great: Ascetic, Pastor, and First Man of Rome. Master chanter and educator Athanasios Paivanas presents the topic “Byzantine Music at the Service of Hymnography and the Archon Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas” and will offer engaging chant workshops and a group listening experience that reflect on rare recordings of the late Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas, one of the most important chanters of the 20th century.

The festival culminates in the Panegyris Folk Concerts which explore the relationship of Byzantine chant with Greek folk music traditions in the first installment of a new three year program on the multi-layered folk tradition of panegyris. Two concert performances in Queens – at the Saint Nicholas community in Flushing and the Cretan House in Astoria – will musically and visually transport the audience to virtual panegyris celebrations.

Panegyris Day One takes place on Saturday, December 16 at 7:30 pmat the Michelis Hellenic Cultural Center, 196-10 Northern Boulevard in Flushing and is co-sponsored by Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Panegyris Day Two takes place on Sunday, December 17 at 7:30 pm at the Cretan House, 32-33 31st Street in Astoria and is co-sponsored by Cultural Crete USA. AEF is grateful to the Benaki Museum in Athens for the invaluable text and images used in program materials and to the New York State Council on the Arts and Cultural Crete USA for their financial support in preserving these valuable and fragile elements of our cultural heritage. Photios Ketsetzis- Professor of Byzantine Music Emeritus at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and Archon Protopsaltis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, will be honored this year by AEF for his life-long contributions to Byzantine music education. The foundation will issue a commemorative journal in honor of Ketsetzis, who will be present and actively involved in the 2017 Mostly Orthros festival.

Ketsetzis served as Protopsaltis from 1977 to 1983 at the National Shrine of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (Panagia Megalochari) of Tinos, Greece. From 1992 to 2010 he served at Hellenic College and Holy Cross as Professor, Protopsaltis of the Holy Cross Chapel, and Director of the St. Romanos the Melodist Byzantine Choir. He was trained under renowned master cantors Dimitrios Sourlantzis and Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas.

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