Last night, I had the opportunity to attend an amazing concert at the Rio (so glad that theatre was saved), such an iconic location in Vancouver. It was a wonderful tribute to George Dalaras by local Greek Musicians. They took us on a journey from the famous 1983 Orfeas Concert to some of Dalaras’ most recent classics. The project was lead by Yannis Fyssas and included a rich ensemble of local musicians George Yioldassis, Mark Hamilton, Rick Zygouras, Kostaki Roumeliotis, Sofia Toumpa, and Jonathan Lewis (from Calgary). I really enjoyed how all of these artists brought their own personalities to the music – sometimes tribute concerts are about mimicking the music not expressing the art that went behind the music but this did not happen in this concert.
Normally when we think of Greek Music – we think about dancing. The music often becomes secondary to the expression of dance, a layer for the dancers. As a musician, I have often struggled to enjoy live Greek music as it was about the audience expression and not about the performers sharing stories and experiences. So it was a pleasure to be attending a Greek concert that focused in and gave us an understanding the history behind these classic songs and the legacy that is George Dalaras.
I have grown up hearing these songs at family parties, Greek community fundraisers, and Greek restaurants but it always served as background to something else. I never gave much thought to the music so it was thoroughly enjoyable when Yanni explained the history of the music and (nerd moment) the theory that Dalaras used to create the arrangements. If you have never listened to George Dalaras’ music – check it out – I would say his music, although has Greek influences and is sung in Greek, has a transcendent quality that surpasses both language and culture. I especially loved how at the time the powers to be in music gave Dalaras a lot of flak for experimenting with new techniques and fusing different styles into his music. As Yanni Fyssas told us last night, “the rest is history!” This is a good reminder for any artist trying to create something new and give an authentic expression of him or herself and in turn we humans will respond to the truth of whatever is authentically spoken. I wish more musicians would take inspiration from this and experiment.
Although the concert took place in a traditional western style concert space – the musicians created a sense of an old taverna especially when Yanni’s dad and several of his friends sat at a table with a checkered tablecloth to sing the back up lines. I especially enjoyed the smoke rising behind them reminiscent of floating cigarette smoke, a stable in the Greek Tavernas of old. It brought back wonderful memories of my early 20s going to Alexis on West Broadway sitting in their back room enjoying amazing Greek food and hearing stories from the 70s when Telly Savalas would come in for dinner. Naturally George Dalaras’ had been playing in the background.
I had many favourite moments in the concert but there was one intimate moment when Yanni looked over us almost as if he was watching a scene far away and described it to us. It was as if we were looking into a memory, a moment in time, not a lot of artists can pull off moments like this. All of the musicians created a spell of enchantment over us, telling us their memories through sound. Another part of the concert that made it unique was that some of the musicians had prerecorded the music in Greece and the live entertainers were playing/singing along to it. It was a seamless expression, one we might not be aware of if Yanni hadn’t told us. The concert ended with a standing ovation.
I hope concerts such as this can continue to happen – not only for our local Greek youth to learn more about music of our heritage but also for the greater community to understand that Greek culture is more than just souvlakis but one with many rich traditions including deeply complex musical expression.
The Orginal ……
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