Tenor Rolando Villazon and ERT Orchestra drew enthusiasm from audiences of the Onassis Foundation supported concerts at the UN and at the Lincoln Center
New York.- Greek poetry and music featured at the UN Day annual concert that took place Wednesday evening at the UN General Assembly auditorium to mark the 61st anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, which was organised by Greece for the first time. Organized by a different member country of the United Nations each year, this annual concert – first held in 1953 by then UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold, honors the United Nations Charter that was created in 1945, and is presented to an audience of UN member representatives. This is the first time that Greece, currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, had organized it.
The United Nations Day concert was organised by ERT with the assistance of a grant from the Alexandros Onassis Foundation, under the aegis of the Greek foreign ministry, and was broadcasted live by satellite over an area spanning America, Australia and South Africa.
Leading singers, including renowned Mexican tenor Ronaldo Villazon and Greek soloists Fotini Darra, T. Apostolou and A. Smyrnakis, performed at the concert of music inspired by the works of poets George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis — Greece’s two Nobel poetry laureates — and Constantine P. Cavafy, composed by Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Hatzidakis, Spyros Samaras, Dimitris Lagios and Dimitris Papadimitriou.
The concert was attended by Annan, UN officials, permanent representatives to the UN and hundreds of diplomats of the organisation’s 192 member-states, including officials of the political and cultural life of the United States and Greece. The Greek government was represented by Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos.
The concert, entitled “Greece: Poetry and Music”, was praised by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who thanked the Greek government and the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation who helped “for us to be all together at this concert,” which was performed by the 62-member National Symphonic Orchestra of the Greek Radio and Television foundation (ERT) and leading artists at the hall of UN General Assembly, after midnight Greek time.
The anniversary concert, a tribute to culture and peace entitled “Greece: poetry and music”, commemorated the 61st anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, as well as Greece’s participation in the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for a two-year term covering the 2005-2006 period.
In a written message, Annan stressed that “Every year, men and women from wherever they come from, wherever they belong, celebrate the Day of the United Nations,” noting: “Even though the United Nations is an Organisation of States, the rights and freedoms which it defends and promotes belong to all. In order for it to accomplish its mission, the UN needs the support of all the people, wherever they are. And this is valid either when we give the battle against illnesses and hunger, either when we promote the human rights and justice, either when we struggle against terrorism, either when we build peace, either, finally, when we try to make the UN more effective and accountable to those people for the good of whom it was created and exists.”
Addressing the audience before the concert begins, Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos on behalf of the Greek government thanked Annan for his ten-year services as UN Secretary General and referred to the value culture bares in the modern world, underlining the ecumenical message of the poetry by Seferis, Elytis and Cavafy.
The president of the 61st session of the UN’s General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, in her own message on the occasion of the concert, noted:”This year, the theme of the Day of the United Nations is the Olive, world symbol of peace from ancient times. It is therefore self-evident why two olive branches surround the globe as the symbol of the United Nations. Thus, the Olive is continuously linked with our Organisation.”
The president of the 61st session of the UN’s General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, in her own message on the occasion of the concert, noted: “This year, the theme of the Day of the United Nations is the Olive, world symbol of peace from ancient times. It is therefore self-evident why two olive branches surround the globe at the symbol of the United NJations. Thus, the Olive is continuously linked with our Organisation.”
The president of this year’s session of the UN General Assembly expressed her gratitude to the Greek government, noting that “the National Symphonic Orchestra of ERT, which includes some of the most known musicians and performers, will interpret verses written by the greatest contemporary Greek poets.”
The President of the Alexander S. Onassis Benefit Foundation, Antonis Papadimitriou, gave a press conference at the Foundation’s Cultural Centre in Manhattan on Tuesday. Also present at the press conference were Shashi Tharoor, UN deputy secretary-general for communication affairs, ERT president and managing director Christos Panagopoulos, Greek Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis and tenor Rolando Villazon.
Antonis Papadimitriou, speaking at the press conference referred to the presentation by Greece, for the first time, of the anniversary concert both on the occasion of the 61st anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, and of Greece’s participation at the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for the 2005-2006 period.
“One of humanity’s lasting quest seems to have found its answer. It concerns the seeking of beauty through art,” said Papadimitriou.
“The specific songs which we have been chosen present the additional characteristic that their performance follows this which is usually called a classical style. The songs are played by a symphony orchestra and are interpreted by lyrical singers,” Papadimitriou added.
The UN under secretary-general for communication affairs praised Greece’s historic and cultural course, the country of Plato, as he said, and thanked the Greek government, the Foundation and ERT.
ERT president Panagopoulos referred to the participation of the National Symphonic Orchestra at Wednesday’s event, stressing that “it is being held at the most important site for the proclamation and defence of peace and culture:The hall of the UN General Assembly.”
Ambassador Vassilakis thanked in particular Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, the Foundation’s president Papadimitriou and ERT president Panagopoulos for their contribution in the implementation of this effort which constituted, as he said, his “personal dream”.