The Metropolitan Greek Chorale’s performances of major classical and contemporary Greek and Western music from around the world are much-anticipated, major community events for the Greek American community and the general public. The Chorale has performed in major concert halls in New York City and elsewhere in the Unites States. Even in the ancient amphitheaters of Greece. It’s time for a celebration.
Saturday, June 6 is the day the Metropolitan Greek Chorale will celebrate with a Golden Anniversary Concert titled, “ODYSSEY: a 50 Year Journey of Extraordinary Music”, in Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Center in New York under the direction of Music Director Marina Alexander and featuring the ever-popular guest vocalist Grigoris Maninakis.
“The Chorale is unique in its commitment to offering world and American premiers of the works of Greek, Greek-American, and international composers,” Marinna Kolaitis, a board member since its founding and the Chorale’s historian, said to the GN, “It really has been a 50-year Odyssey for the Chorale, and this Golden Anniversary Concert is like a reunion. The Chorale is like a family whose members have love for each other; a family that has survived and performed in major venues with limited resources for 50 years of dedication to performing the widest variety of musical genres from our Hellenic heritage. What better expression of love for each other, music, and our Hellenic heritage is there than through the language of music? We look forward to continuing our joyful work for the next 50 years and beyond.”
This will be a moving concert, a reminiscence of the Chorale’s most beautiful programs. Because it is the Chorale’s Golden Anniversary the concert will be an all-Greek repertory. Highlights will be the Odes to Zeus and to Apollo from Theodorakis’ Canto Olympico, the U.S. premiere of his quartets, Petits Cyclades, plus two pieces from his landmark oratorio, Axion Esti: Ena To Helidoni, and Tis Dikaiosinis Ilie Noite. The concert will also feature traditional pieces from Asia Minor, Magkiko Mou, Hariklaki, and the Greek mainland, To Aidoni, a song from Cyprus, Ta Rialia, as well as contemporary ballads and popular songs such as To Paramythi by Manos Hatzidakis, and Katse Kala, by Christos Nikolopoulos, traditional Greek Folk and Rebetika songs arranged in the Art Song genre by popular composers Tikey Zes and George Katsaros, and arrangements by the Chorales’ past and present conductors Dino Antagonist, George Tsontakis, and Marina Alexander.
Grigoris Maninakis, who stresses his dedication to perpetuating the Hellenic musical legacy through his group, “Mikrokosmos” (violinist Megan Gould, piano player Glafkos Kontemeniotis , and bouzouki player Kostas Psarros, enhanced by two traditional Greek music musicians, clarinetist George Stathos and percussionist Richard Khuzami for the concert), has sung with the Metropolitan Greek Chorale several times over the past 40 years. “It is always an honor and a pleasure to sing with the Metropolitan Greek Chorale, as they have maintained a great quality in their presentations, and also because I have an emotional connection with the Chorale that goes back to the early 80’s,” Maninakis told the GN. “In addition, it is an opportunity to appear with them in such high prestige halls as Merkin Hall and also the opportunity to appear before a Greek American audience, different from the one I usually perform for! Intriguing this time is the fact that I am singing songs of various styles… the works of composers such as Theodorakis and Hatzidakis, as well as traditional mainland, Asia Minor, and Cyprus tunes which are part of our Hellenic Cultural Heritage that must be maintained in the Diaspora for the future generations.”
Marina Alexander, Music Director of the Metropolitan Greek Chorale, a composer and Adjunct Asst. Professor Department of Performing & Creative Arts, College of Staten Island/CUNY, among other positions, said that as a Greek American who is very proud of her Hellenic heritage, she considers it a great privilege to work with the Chorale. “Being part of the Chorale is ”a wonderful thing to be able to ‘give back’ to the Greek American community through my professional work. And I also think that it’s very important that we underscore the amazing work that this group has done for 50 years, maintaining the identity of the Greek American community in the New York area and in the United States as a whole. The degree of creativity that comes through this organization is astounding, not in the actual music-making, which is wonderful, but in the far range of the repertory that we explore that has to do especially with Greek culture, both religious and secular.”
Ms. Alexander has composed several of her own works including Strange Mystery, based on 12 century Byzantine chant, and Sancte, Sancte, Nicolas, from a medieval hymn blending modern sensibilities with techniques from the medieval period.
“I reconnect with my Greek roots every time I sing,” says, Greek-born Bass singer Tassos Rigopoulos, who has sung with the Chorale since 2000, “Our repertoire, especially for this concert comprises a lot of songs I grew up with, and they make me very emotional… I’m in my late 40’s, and I remember as a five-year old listening to Milise mou by Manos Hatzidakis, one of the songs we’re doing, so it makes me very happy to sing these songs. We are also doing two songs from the Axion Esti. In the song Tis Dikaiosinis Ilie Noite, the words, “mi parakalw sas mi lismonate ti chora mou”, are, think, tremendously apropos today with the situation in Greece. I think that even though young Greek Americans might not understand the lyrics, they will be caught up in the passion of these songs. This is interesting, because I do believe that music is one of the few truly international art forms… and Greek music, well, although not much of it has survived, we were probably among the first cultures to develop it.”
The Chorale is comprised of an all-volunteer membership from Greek communities and their friends in the greater metropolitan area. Established in 1965 in New York by the Council of Greek Orthodox Directors of Greater New York, with Ernest Villas as Director, the Metropolitan Greek Choir functioned under the aegis of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, HIs Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, and the Metropolitan Council of Greek Orthodox Communities. The Choir made its concert debut at Town Hall in 1968 with its first conductor, the late James Stathis.
Ticket prices cover a fraction of the cost of Metropolitan Greek Chorale concerts.
The Metropolitan Greek Chorale is a non-profit organization, which must rely on public contributions to carry on its important work.
For concert information and to purchase tickets call Merkin Concert Hall Box Office (212) 501 3330 or visit www.kaufmanmusiccenter.org
or www.metchorale.com (908) 353 1845