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Culture

Greek Chamber Music Project Honors Theodorakis in Music of Resistance

BERKELEY, CA – The Greek Chamber Music Project (GCMP) presents Music of Resistance, an epic tribute concert to the late composer and activist-politician Mikis Theodorakis. The concert will take place on Sunday, January 28, 2024, 4 PM, at St. Mary Magdalen Church, 2005 Berryman Street in Berkeley, and will also be live-streamed. While best known internationally for his film scores (Zorba the Greek, Serpico, and Z), Theodorakis was a symbol of resistance throughout his life. The concert features original arrangements of ‘The Ballad of Mauthausen,’ considered one of the greatest musical works about the Holocaust, as well as selections of ‘Canto General,’ Theodorakis’ epic folk oratorio set to the poetry of Pablo Neruda. Music of Resistance will feature a five-piece chamber ensemble, the Berkeley Community Chamber Singers, and mezzo soprano Melinda Martinez Becker as soloist.

Theodorakis deeply understood the power of music to activate social movements. Harnessing the composer’s infectious spirit, Music of Resistance will premiere a new work titled ‘Chariot of Dragons’ based on themes of resistance with original music by Costas Dafnis and poetry by Berkeley Councilmember Terry Taplin. ‘Chariot of Dragons’ is commissioned by the Greek Chamber Music Project. This concert is supported in part by a Civic Arts Grant from the City of Berkeley and from the Wattis Foundation.

“Theodorakis’ unwavering pursuit of justice and peace and his optimism are an inspiration,” said GCMP director Ellie Falaris Ganelin. “No doubt these are traits that embody the Bay Area ethos, which makes this place a fitting location to pay tribute to this larger-than-life figure.”

“Music to Theodorakis was an expression of the innate human soul, but there was also a responsibility attached to it, which was that we have to recognize the needs of the community around us, and serve those needs as much as possible,” Dafnis said.

Music of Resistance will feature the world premiere of ‘Chariot of Dragons,’ which the GCMP commissioned to honor Theodorakis’ legacy with a work that’s relevant to the current time and place. It consists of four movements with music by Dafnis and poetry by Terry Taplin. Like Theodorakis and Neruda before him, Taplin exists at the intersection of art and politics. As Berkeley city councilmember, he is a mobility and social justice activist who represents the traditionally marginalized community of District 2. His texts for ‘Chariot of Dragons’ use mythical imagery to address very modern topics, including mental health, harsh urban landscapes, and our surveillance society.

“It’s been really exciting to be able to set these texts and take Terry’s words, which are so poetic, so intriguing, and so evocative and fit them into a context that feels very cantabile, very songlike, very communicative,” said composer Dafnis about setting this work to music. “That’s been something that I really love doing.”

He adds that his composition “pulls in a lot of sounds and experimental textures, but it also fundamentally tries to fulfill what I see is Theodorakis’ main thrust, which is songs. The song has that kind of memetic quality, long before memes existed online. A song has the ability to reach outside a country, outside of a concentration camp.”

“I think that there’s something especially privileged about the nature of a song,” Dafnis said.

Personnel:

Berkeley Community Chamber Singers

Ellie Falaris Ganelin, director & flute

Costas Dafnis, music director, composer & arranger

Melinda Martinez Becker, mezzo soprano

Mike Smith, guitar

Byron Hogan, cello

Mary-Victoria Voutsas, piano

Sage Baggott, percussion

Music of Resistance will be performed at St. Mary Magdalen Church, 2005 Berryman Street in Berkeley, and live-streamed on Sunday, January 28, 2024, 4 PM PST.

Suggested donation: $25

Tickets and streaming details available online: https://www.greekchambermusic.com/music-of-resistance/.

About the Greek Chamber Music Project

The Greek Chamber Music Project (GCMP) is an ensemble that celebrates the Greek world through captivating programming in intimate concert settings. Recent programs have included Celebrating the Jews of Greece, deeply personal songs about ‘The Iliad’ in Conversations with Homer, the commissioning of ‘Talos Dreams’ inspired by the myth of the first robot, and Uproot, capturing the refugee experience through song.

GCMP is a champion of Greek composers, shedding light on the rich musical repertoire coming out of Greece and the Greek diaspora. GCMP has released three full-length albums and performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Library of Congress, as well as cultural centers and universities across the U.S. and Canada.

Learn more: https://www.greekchambermusic.com/.

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