NEW YORK - For the first time in series history, Live From Lincoln Center takes its show outside the United States on and broadcasts in Greece on ERT2, Saturday April 18 at 6:30 PM (Greek time). The program presents the extraordinary musicians of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in a special broadcast across iconic settings like the Ancient Amphitheater of Larissa, the historic Church of the Taxiarchon in Pelion, and the newly opened Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens.
Viewers will enjoy signature works by Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Bach, Debussy, Ravel, and Greek-American composer George Tsontakis from the comfort of their own home.
The program’s producer, Douglas Change, shared some of his thoughts about his remarkable experience. Excerpts from the Live From Lincoln Center program notes follow:
“In April of 2018, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, more familiarly known as CMS, invited us to join its musicians on a journey to Greece. The resulting program, “ODYSSEY: The Chamber Music Society in Greece,” is a follow-up to our 2016 episode, Simple Gifts: CMS at Shaker Village, which established a motif we hope to continue exploring, traveling with this high-spirited group of musicians to locations that help us gain a deeper appreciation for the music they’re performing.
“John Steinbeck has written, ‘A journey is a person; no two are alike…We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; the trip takes us.’ That was certainly true in this case. We expected an adventure – beyond that, I doubt any of us could have told you what to expect until the last frame of footage was shot.
“…ERT generously lent its crew toward the project, simply because it wanted to produce something of cultural beauty for the Greek public, and because it felt they could learn from our techniques. Perhaps they did learn some things from us about shooting live performance; but I’m sure I learned much, much more from them – lessons on dedication, friendship, and wresting joy and satisfaction wherever you find it. I’ve worked with many wonderful crews over the years, but I have never seen a harder-working group of technicians and artists, building camera plots in impossible historic locations without benefit of high-tech amenities or production assistants…and always doing so with grace, good humor and the unassuming pride of true craftsmanship.
“CMS performed in four different locations: the new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens (Mendelssohn’s Octet and Ravel’s Cinq melodies populaires grecques for Voice and Piano); the Church of Pammegiston Taxiarchon in the remote town of Milies on the slope of Mount Pelion (Beethoven’s Serenade in D major for Flute, Violin and Viola, Op. 25); the ancient amphitheater of Larissa (Andante from Bach’s Sonata for unaccompanied Violin in A minor, BWV 1003 and Debussy’s Syrinx for Flute); and the Church of St. Constantine and Helen in the port city of Volos, where Jason reputedly set sail with the Argonauts (Selections from George Tsontakis’s KnickKnacks for Violin and Viola).
“The Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center was a natural choice for the main concert. In 2017 the Stavros Niarchos Foundation – which also provided the primary funding for the film – donated this magnificent complex, designed by the eminent architect Renzo Piano, to the Republic of Greece, and CMS became the first American music organization to perform there. Consistent with its mission, the Center presented the concert free to the public.
“Other locations were deliberately chosen ‘off the beaten path.’ The gorgeous Pelion region in Thessaly is known to many Greeks as a vacation destination, but it is not widely known outside Greece. CMS’s ‘angel’ in this endeavor was Vasos Papagapitos, a staunch lover of music and Greek history, who with his energetic and always resourceful colleague Maria Christina Baklava came up with the idea of filming there.
“On our initial scout, we looked at a couple of amphitheaters conceived in the classical style, one modern and the other dating back to the 2nd Century B.C. but largely eroded. Neither seemed right. Then, on our way back from the monasteries of Meteora, while passing through the textile town of Larissa, we happened upon a street sign cryptically advertising an “Amphitheater." Through a walkway just off one of the main roads of this bustling town, past the “Las Vegas” nightclub and some adorable coffee shops, you arrive at one of the most magnificent and unexpected Greek theaters you will ever find. And this is the one that appears in the film.
“Our skeleton U.S. crew was magnificent, rolling with every unexpected hazard, adjusting to ever-changing schedules, and never losing focus. The serenity prayer that pleads for ‘the wisdom to know the difference’ between what you can change and what you can’t proved to be our collective motto throughout the shoot. Our director, Habib Azar – who also directed Simple Gifts – is a wizard at visually capturing the nuances of classical music, from the shifting dynamic of the instruments to the subtle glances and gestures exchanged between musicians. I’d venture to say there’s no one better at this working today.
“On the night before our last shoot in Pelion, my Greek friends on the crew invited me and my invaluable liaison Anastasia Serdsev out for a drink. Walking back to the hotel, one of them mused, ‘Ah, what an experience! And now we’ll have to go back to our regular jobs.’ To which another joked, ‘so let’s not go back.’ My thoughts exactly. As our friend Martin Bookspan would say, ‘Enjoy!’”
In the United States, the program can be viewed though this link: https://www.pbs.org/video/odyssey-the-chamber-music-society-in-greece-zek6a5/?fbclid=IwAR3CVcOncnEbTN-pXB0lPKnRMHfiPMP1w9bjsJH1H5Rl-eqN-72LeblgMIA