NEW YORK – Mother’s Day 2020, tinged with the sadness of social distancing on a day conceived for family gatherings, featured a musical bright spot for the Diaspora and those following in the Hellenic Homeland in the form of a Mother’s Day New York/Athens Webinar Concert produced by the East Mediterranean Business Cultural Alliance (EMBCA) spearheaded by its Founder and President Lou Katsos.
The Sunday afternoon Webinar Concert via a Zoom screen split into eight frames featured some of New York’s leading and beloved Greek musicians: pianist Spiros Cardamis and his daughter, singer Olympia Milonas, guitarist Tassos Papaioannou and bouzouki player Kostas Psaros – both also singers, rock guitarist Mike Savvas, and percussionist Richard Khuzami.
Katsos’ welcome to the audience began with condolences to families that have lost relatives to the coronavirus and Mother’s Day greetings to all.
The virtual event began with Professor Nikos Alexiou, sociologist at Queens College, reading one of his poems dedicated to his late mother.
Cardmis led off the music with his own composition – Everlasting. In turn sweet and poignant, with also some passionate and dramatic passages, Cardamis said the piece, “is dedicated not only to our mothers with us today, but also to our mothers who are in heaven. His emotional and equally beautiful second piece, What If, illustrates a mother-son relationship and reflects messages from beyond the grave.
“That’s for Ellada. We love you,” he shouted amid applause from the other musicians online.
Savvas, UNESCO award winning artist and featured performer with the Byzantine Rock group Porphyra, is also a composer and song writer. He provoked images of visits to the homeland the audience is hoping for but some fear may not materialize this year when he appeared onscreen bedecked with guitar, bouzouki, and a sailor’s cap.
Khuzami’s family is Greek Orthodox from Lebanon. He is an officer of EMBCA, an AHEPA member, and an as Astoria civic leader. Well known among New York musicians as a promoter and producer of World Music, he said he wanted to add some party memories and spice to the day, as well as memories of the Old Country. In his percussion solo he effortlessly weaved together the complex rhythms of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans.
An accomplished bouzouki and baglama player and recording artist, Psaros told the audience, “one of the things we are missing today is music and art. Artists have been silenced, but at least for today, our voices are back at least for an hour,” he said, thanking EMBCA. He presented the poignant ‘Enas Kombos’ – A Knot, and then a piece that combined Rebetiko and Asia Minor elements.
Olympia Milonas, Cardamis’ daughter and cofounder with the popular DJ Sava of Mylos Entertainment, delighted the audience with the traditional and touching ‘Sagapo Giatise Orea’ – I love you because you are beautiful (with the complementary lyric “I love you because you are you.”) She then sang Mana Mou, “dedicated to all our mothers,” and for which Katsos thanked her, telling the equally emotional singer, “what can I say? You brought tears to my eyes.”
Katsos then shined the spotlight on Papaioannou, a noted singer and guitarist whose career includes performing with Greek stars in the boites of Plaka, across Europe, and in New York. He also sang a song titled, ‘Mana’, the one with lyrics by Giorgos Myzalis and popularized by Giorgos Dalaras. His next song was also dedicated to mothers, with lyrics by New York-based Greek Cypriot-American leader, media personality, and distinguished poet Polys Kyriakou.
Papaioannou brought the emotional endeavor to a close with Mikis Theodorakis’ song with lyrics by Errikos Thalasinos dedicated to all the Hellenes far from their common Mother, Hellas, the deeply moving Το τραγούδι της ξενιτιάς – The Song of Exile.
The concert was produced in association with the Hellenic Cultural Commission (HCC) of AHEPA and AHEPA District 6, of which Katsos is respectively Chairman and District Governor.
Explaining the concert’s genesis, Katsos told The National Herald, “in my recent conversations, everybody was down as Mother’s Day was approaching…you know, on Mother’s Day some people are not even able to visit their mothers – and it just hit me ‘let’s have a Mother’s Day concert.”
It was the first of a number of Webinars EMBCA is planning – COVID-19 has forced EMBCA to already to postpone five events, including its popular annual Manhattan concert that began with a ‘Greek Blues- Harlem Blues’ theme inspired by Rebetiko that expanded last year to Cuban music.
EMBCA will continue to present web events “until we can do what we want to do, live events, as soon as possible – cultural, business, and historical events – lectures and panel discussions. The bicentennial of the Greek Revolution is coming up and there must be events leading up to the celebration next year.”