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Music

Music Lights Up the Night on ‘The Magic Island’ of Andros

ATHENS – The idyllic Cycladic island of Andros, with its inviting picturesque villages, fine beaches, and mountains greener than its neighbors’ presents a hopeful picture of Greece waking up from its Coronavirus nightmare. On July 27 a concert of classical music and Greek song at the church of St. George, floodlit on the hill where the settlement of Batsis rests, presaged a musical resurrection in a country whose summer rhythms are set by the waves caressing tourist-filled beaches during the day and music at night. Live performances are a major part of the Greece’s summer scene – alas, not this year.

Andros’ mayor, Dimitris Lotsaris, aware that municipalities must do their part to support Greece’s talented artists and musicians during the crisis invited soprano Katia Paschou and pianist Lila Karpathaki from Athens to christen the summer with song. 

On a breezy night beneath a midsummer’s half-moon dozens of residents and visitors gathered in the church’s courtyard, the opening notes of Schubert’s Ave Maria mystically emerging from front door then sailing into the olive groves and the Aegean beyond, the concert nicely titled ‘Neraida tou Gialou,’ a song of beloved Greek operetta composer Theophrastos Sakkelarides.

Opera and Greek favorites followed, including, Bellini’s poignant Casta Diva, made famous by Maria Callas and sung dramatically by Paschou, for whom the concert was an emotional affair. “I am always so full of emotions when singing in Andros as my love for singing derives from my childhood memories of my grandmother and her sisters singing in Andros on those beautiful summer nights,” she told the National Herald. 

The audience overflowed the chairs that were set out, spilling into the nearby paths and up the long stairway and Paschou, her light-colored gown with the charming almond tree print swaying in the breeze as she moved among the guests, delighted the home-town gathering. 

There were numerous stretches of instrumental passages highlighting the performance of Karpathaki, who excels both as soloist and accompanist and whose dazzling blue gown was framed by the church’s white façade, the notes of pianist and singer reverberating off the neighbor’s whitewashed homes.

Apropos of the lovely summer night, lyrics telling of moons and starlight – mainly with music of Mikis Theodorakis – enchanted the audience that was encouraged and happy to sing along.

Pleasant musical surprises included a heartwarming Moon River and a thrilling La Vie En Rose. 

Nature also participated, though not always on cue. 

The half-moon floated lazily above, all alone because at first there were few stars to be seen, but they seemed to race to the enchanted spot as if drawn by rumors of something remarkable happening on Andros.

Mayor Lotsaris told TNH, “the people were very pleased. It was a special night and it was nice that there was no amplification. The two artists were excellent.” He emphasized the cultural riches that complement the island’s beauty, like the famous, Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art, noting that family also funded the Archaeological Museum of Andros. Other families like the Embiricos shipping clan are benefactors of the island’s cultural scene which includes the Andros International Festival, a truncated version of which will be held from July 30 to August 9. The Kidonieos Foundation organizes the annual ‘Ploes’ art exhibit. 

Asked about the impact of the Coronavirus on tourism, Lotsaris told TNH that over the past two weeks, international tourists began to arrive from France, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland. Of course this year they are missing the visitors from the U.S. and the UK – especially Diaspora Hellenes. “Nevertheless, our tourism decline is less than in most of Greece. We are at 40% of last year’s numbers,” he said. 

After the concert Paschou offered “a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the Municipality of Andros for the co-creation of a wonderful evening,” citing Mayor Lotsaris, Vice Mayor Nikos Moustakas, and Community President Anna Volika. She also thanked “Father Nikolaos Zaharodis and the Saint George church for hosting our concert, and Ms. Toudasaki for organizing the event.” 

The evening drew to a quiet but just as delicious close – Andros is also known for its cooking – at the Steki tou Andrea taverna, but there is much more to explore and enjoy in a place that is called “the magic island” and “the island of dreams” and is a quick 2-hour ferry ride away at less than 20 euros for economy class tickets.

Andros.gr invites all to see “stone mansions laden with bougainvillea and neoclassical buildings [which are] a feast for the eyes. Andros with the colors of the Aegean Sea and Neoclassical culture has its own magic every time of the year.”

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