ATHENS – All groups and individuals have struggled during the pandemic, but musicians are especially frustrated because while they, like visual artists, are used to semi-monastic existence while rehearsing and creating, singers and instrumentalists have an overwhelming need to perform and share their God-given gifts.
Jenny Chatzopoulou is a dynamic and charismatic singer, pianist, and composer. Before COVID-19, she delighted guests at the UPPER Bistro across from the Greek Parliament in Athens with American jazz and standards and the pop music of Greece and other nations, and she is doing the best she can this year.
She is among the fortunate ones who have had summer gigs, in places like Kos and Alexandroupolis, where her family has a wonderful home with intoxicating views of the Aegean Sea. There, in late August, she and singer Monika Kabasele, her past student, added a touch of jazzy spice to the breeze and natural sounds of a summer night with an evening rehearsal, delighting friends and family on the patio and the stars in the heavens above.
Many musicians were nurtured in musical homes but her family influence was especially powerful and worked its magic by the time she was six. “I knew then that this is what I must do. I could not do anything else.”
Her father Antonios Chatzopoulos is a distinguished Byzantinist but also a chanter who filled the house with his voice and recorded music. Her mother Sousana’s musical appreciation and support were also part of the artistic mix. “She loved listening to us,” Jenny said. Her brother John plays bouzouki, her sister Zefie sings rebetika and Latin music. Their sister Natalie’s art was expressed in painting and dance.
The singers who influenced her were Michael Jackson and Prince – jazz came later, with some help from a friend. “He was guitarist and one year on my birthday he sent me 10 CDs with all kinds of Jazz. I played them so often I wore them out.”
This year she was recruited for UPPER by Periklis Biskinis, also a pianist/singer and a friend of the bistro’s musician and impresario-owner Dimitris Georgiades.
Monika was a family friend who as a child often came to Jenny’s home on holidays and at one point she asked for music lessons. Last year the two, joined by Vive Toyfex, began to perform together as The Ladies in Red.
Notwithstanding that for many people music was vital for getting through their days and nights in the time of the Coronavirus, “unfortunately we live in a difficult period when musicians come last,” Jenny said. “And while we do most of our work from home, not being paid is a hardship. But worst of all, we don’t know if things will return to normal for us after the pandemic, which would be an injustice.”
But frustration does stem her creative juices – she just finished a composition that will become her latest music video.
Music became Monika’s life passion in Junior High, and she complements her talent with academic dedication and excellence, recently finishing her first Master’s commencing studies at another conservatory – this time in Paris. Also a composer, she now also working on her latest musical project. Born and raised in Alexandroupolis, she is something of a musical miracle in her family of three siblings, a father from the Congo, and a mother from Central Greece. So the deep if hidden artistic currents that led to her promise to go to interesting musical places.