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This Week in History: December 20th to 26th

December 20, 2019

December 20th:

On this day in 1997, Lockheed Hercules C-130H of the Hellenic Air Force crashed in the Pastra Mountain near the Tanagra Air Base because of bad weather conditions, killing all five people on board. The military aircraft was engaged in a mission to transfer soldiers from Tanagra to Pieria in an effort to help with the discovery of a 42-passenger Ukrainian plane which went missing on approach to Thessaloniki on December 17th of the same year.

December 21st:

On this day in 1818, Amalia, the wife of King Otto of Greece was born in Oldenburg, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. Amalia served as the first queen consort of Greece from 1836 to 1862. In the early years of the new monarchy, Queen Amalia won the hearts of the Greek people. Her beauty and vivaciousness (her fair hair and complexion were a novelty in Greece), along with her modern fashion sense, brought progress to the impoverished country. She worked on social issues and was involved in the creation of gardens in Athens. The gardens, now the National Gardens of Athens, were commissioned in 1836 and developed over the next 25 years. Amalia wisely realized that her style of dress should emulate the style of the Greek people. She created a ‘romantic folksy court dress’ which eventually became the Greek national costume (named in her honor). However, as Amalia became more politically involved, she became the target of harsh attacks – and her image suffered further as she and the King proved unable to provide an heir. Amalia and King Otto were eventually expelled from Greece in 1862 after an uprising. They spent the rest of their years in exile in Bavaria where it is said that they decided to speak Greek each day between 6 and 8 o’clock to remember their time in Greece.

December 23rd:

On this day in 1963, there was a great fire on the Greek ship Lakonia, in which 128 people lost their lives. The passenger ship had begun an 11-day Christmas cruise of the Canary Islands (sailing from Southampton, England) with a brief visit to the Azores first. On the fourth night of the voyage, while the ship was about 180 miles north of Madeira, a steward noticed a fire that was spreading quickly toward the passenger cabins. Alarms were sounded but it was said that they were too soft to be heard by most of the 1,022 people (including 646 passengers and 376 crewmen) on board. All but 21 of the passengers were British citizens, while the crew members were mostly Greek and German. Evacuation was hampered by the overcrowding of lifeboats and the loss of several boats to fire. Some passengers were able to reach the water via the gangways and rope ladders while two ships, alerted by distress signals, managed to save most of the others. After an investigation, eight of the ship’s officers were charged with negligence.

 

December 26th:

On this day in 2018, Theodore Antoniou, the well-known Greek teacher, composer and conductor, passed away at the age of 84 after a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Born in Athens in 1935, Antoniou studied violin, voice, and composition at the National Conservatory and the Greek Conservatory of Athens and continued his studies of composition and conducting at the Munich Academy of Music and at the Darmstadt International Musical Center. He taught at Stanford University, the University of Utah, and the Philadelphia Musical Academy and was a professor among the composition staff at Boston University, where he taught since 1978. He also led and conducted the new music ensemble Alea III at Boston University. The ensemble regularly performs new compositions, works with numerous renowned artists, and has toured Europe on numerous occasions. Since 1989 he was the president of the Union of Greek Composers. Founder of the Experimental Stage at the National Opera, Antoniou was the artistic director from 2004 to 2011. Throughout his life, he composed over 450 works, many of which were commissioned by major orchestras and foundations.

 

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