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Athens

After hours of rehearsal over two days with guest conductor Simon Carrington and two other choirs, the Southern choir finally held its first performance Wednesday evening.

Simon Carrington directs SCSU choir in Athens, Greece.

“The choir was superb,” said Southern President Mary Papazian. “I know how hard they have been working, and it paid off. They sang with great emotion. Their love of music and joy of song came through loud and clear. It was a thrill.”

The 52-member Southern choir was joined by the University of Alberta (Canada) Madrigal Singers, and the East Lansing (Michigan) St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Choir. They sang three pieces: Missa Brevis, Moonlight Music, and Aesop’ s Fables. The Southern choir by itself also performed a traditional Greek folk song, The Kalanta of the New Year (St. Basil’s Day); “Lullaby” from Three Nocturnes; Go Tell it On the Mountain; and I Believe. The haunting lyrics from the last piece were found etched into a basement wall in Auschwitz after the holocaust.

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.

Choir director Terese Gemme complimented the group on all their hard work. “When we sing we give our gift to the audience. Tonight we sang with love.”

“Working with Simon was such an amazing experience,” said choir member Rosalie Coriolan, ’14. “I am so very grateful for this incredible opportunity.”

Top: Southern choir director Terese Gemme addresses the audience.
Above: Guest director Simon Carrington leads the Southern choir.

 

Athens Trip

After a second rehearsal at the Literary Club Parnassos on Tuesday, we sat down to a festival welcome dinner at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, The Olive Garden (not to be confused with the Italian restaurant chain of the same name).

SCSU choir in rehearsal in Athens, Greece.

Fun fact: Greece is the third largest producer of olive oil, after Spain and Italy.
While helping ourselves to the sumptuous buffet, we enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Acropolis glowing in the distance. All were in great spirits, anticipating their first performance Wednesday. The romantic atmosphere even inspired two couples to announce their engagements! Geeta and Matt, left, and Nick and Ashley, center, pose with choir members after sharing the happy news.

Members of the SCSU choir at the hotel in Athens, Greece.

Top: Maestro Simon Carrington directs the choir during rehearsal.
Above: Choir members atop the hotel at the festival welcome dinner.

Tuesday dawned sunny and warm, perfect for a trip to the ancient city of Corinth. We boarded our motor coaches at the hotel entrance for the hour-long ride, guided by our Athens-based historian, Yannis, who provided colorful commentary on everything from the number of taxis in Athens (16,000) to the four pillars of the Greek economy (shipping, agriculture, industry, and tourism).

On the way were groves of olive, cypress, and pine trees; mountains disappearing in the mist; car dealers and auto parts stores; oil refineries; and highway signs in a mix of English and Greek. We passed a number of small, ornate roadside shrines, marking the sites of car accidents. Friends and relatives construct these as a thank you to the saints for sparing the lives of those involved in the accidents.

Corinth, Greece

Located on the isthmus that connects mainland Greece with the Peloponnese, and surrounded by natural springs, Corinth was the biggest city in ancient Greece. Ancient Corinth became a center of early Christianity, following visits by Paul the Apostle, a Christian leader who is credited with several chapters in the new testament. The ruins, a few miles from modern-day Corinth, were first excavated in 1892 by the Greek Archaeological Service, and are dominated by the remaining pillars of the Temple of Apollo.

On the way back to Athens, we stopped for lunch and a visit to the Corinth Canal. Constructed in 1893, the canal shortened the trip between Greece and Italy. Now popular among “bungy” jumpers, the canal is four miles long by 70 feet wide, with a height of about 300 feet, and rock walls that are nearly vertical. Several bridges span the canal, offering a breathtaking view.

The Corinth Canal, Greece

Top: President Papazian and several choir members at the Corinth ruins;
the remaining pillars of the Temple of Apollo; the Corinth Canal; at the Corinth ruins.

After two days of travel, the Southern choir still managed to muster enough steam to attend the first of three scheduled rehearsals upon arrival in Athens on Monday night.

The trip began with a flight from New York to Zurich, Switzerland. Due to a heavy blanket of fog, we sat in the Zurich airport drinking $7.50 cups of coffee. Our arrival in Athens was a bit behind schedule. But the greeting from our tour guides, Alex and Tassos, and the transfer to the hotel, could not have been smoother.

Images from Athens, Greece, including the lobby of the Titania Hotel.

We arrived in two state-of-the-art motor coaches, where porters unloaded our luggage. On the way Alex gave us a brief descriptive tour of the area. Our hotel, the Titania, is in the heart of the city, among parliament buildings, museums, foreign embassies, and ministries. Even in the dark it was still easy to admire the neoclassical style of the buildings.

Although Athens is considered the cradle of western civilization, today it is a thoroughly modern city. In 2014, Athens had an estimated population of 3.75 million in the metropolitan area.. There is even an IKEA!

Tuesday: a visit to the Corinth Canal, more rehearsal, and dinner at a rooftop restaurant with views of the Acropolis.

Pictured above: The Titania hotel lobby and surrounding neighborhood.