French-Canadian pianist makes crisis-stricken Greece his home


TAGS: Music

My first encounter with Alain Lefevre was back in 2002, when the French-Canadian pianist and composer visited Athens for a concert at the Greek capital’s concert hall. At the press conference organized before the performance, all of us attending journalists had been impressed by two particular things: The artist seemed genuinely spontaneous and affable, while he couldn’t stop talking about his love for Greece.

His first journey to the country in 1997 had been a visit to the eastern Aegean island of Samos, a place he fell in love with, to the point of performing at charity concerts collecting funds for the victims of a 2000 fire.

I still recall his words: “I deeply believe in the Greek genius. While everything might be very organized in countries such as Germany and Switzerland, people in those countries hardly ever laugh; they don’t love life. In Greece, whether rich or poor, you are not snobs, but simple, generous and warm.”

Twenty years on, the acclaimed artist continues to prove his philhellenism in practice. He is now a permanent resident of Athens along with his French companion Johanne Martineau. The couple moved to Voula, southern Athens, last summer, where they lived through the referendum period and suffered the consequences of capital controls, given that the pianist’s Greek concerts were all canceled that season.

“Everyone is always talking about Greece’s natural beauty and ancient civilization. Both are wonderful and unique. But I always refer to the Greeks, who are equally unique and can stand up to all difficulties,” Lefevre said during a recent official dinner given in his honor by Canada’s new ambassador to Athens, Keith Morrill – similarly to his highly active predecessor, Robert Peck, the new ambassador holds feelings of great respect for the country, along with a particular sensibility with regard to Greek culture.

“I was born in France and I grew up in Canada,” added Lefevre. “But I feel Greek and I get very angry when some foreign journalist expresses a negative opinion about the country where I live during an interview. I was brought up in a family whose members fought hard to make ends meet, I learnt how to put up a fight and not to mince my words. As a result, I can’t stand listening to cliches, that Greeks are lazy, for instance, when the country’s suffering from such high unemployment rates and Greeks top the list of working hours across Europe.”

The pianist is currently working on a new album which is expected to be released in early October. The record’s title will be “Sas agapo” (I love you).

“It’s dedicated to my new country and showcases pieces I have composed since I moved here. I believe in classical music’s power today. I recently penned a protest letter to President Obama, who recently released a list of songs on his iPod. There was not a single classical music piece on that list, although right now the United States boasts a few of the world’s best orchestras. How can he ignore them? I never got a reply, but I did what I had to do. That’s another thing I like about Greeks: They always speak their mind.”