Lena Platonos makes a rare appearance

Despite her significance as a composer, the work of Lena Platonos, one of the more important songwriters to have emerged from state radio’s innovative Third Program activity when the station was under the direction of the late Manos Hadjidakis, is rarely performed in concert. However, the Athens Concert Hall has taken the initiative and organized a concert to feature the composer’s work tomorrow. As things have turned out, the event will be restricted to a lucky few. It seems that the concert hall’s administration had underestimated the popularity of Platonos’s work when it decided to stage the performance on its smaller Dimitris Mitropoulos Stage. Tickets have sold out rapidly, leaving a considerable number of eager Platonos fans outside, and wondering why. Nevertheless, the concert, part of the venue’s «Bridges» series, has been put together by the accomplished pianist and arranger Thodoros Kotepanos. The acclaimed vocalist Savina Yiannatou, who has collaborated with Platonos on several releases, as well as Doros Demosthenis, will interpret songs culled from the songwriter’s «Sabotage» and «Karyiotakis» albums. Lyrics for the former were written by Marianina Kriezi, while the latter is based on the dark poetry of Constantinos Karyiotakis, who committed suicide at the age of 30 in 1928. Tomorrow’s repertoire will also include songs contributed by Platonos to «Lilipoupoli,» the popular Third Program children’s series back in the late 1970s. A full two decades have elapsed since this steady-selling, classic material was released. Looking back, Platonos recalled that it had emerged amid conflict between the collaborators. «After ‘Lilipoupoli,’ Marianina [Kriezi] and I decided to carry on working together. We had written three songs and then got involved in a feud. We stopped working together and seeing each other,» Platonos remarked, referring to the trouble encountered during the early stages of «Sabotage,» her debut album. «That was 1981, when the big earthquake struck Athens. Several months later, Marianina approached me and said, ‘Let’s go and see some dresses somebody’s brought in from India.’ That’s when I realized that work on the album was about to recommence,» the composer added. Work not only got under way again, but the two immersed themselves in frenzied creativity to produce what has gradually evolved into a modern classic. «In the meantime, I’d met Yiannis Palamidas and was excited – a great talent with theatricality in his vocal delivery, who sang on the album with Savina Yiannatou and myself. We all gelled into a remarkably close-knit team,» Platonos recalled. «We’d sleep at each other’s houses. It was a magnificent period. I was constantly in love. I was in love with love itself,» she added. «Sabotage» was eventually released on the high-caliber Lyra label, which at the time was run by its founder, the late Alekos Patsifas, who had an uncanny ability to tune into inspired work. Loaded with groundbreaking material for its time, «Sabotage» proved popular among younger, open-minded listeners who could relate to innovative numbers such as «Manitou,» «Blue Guitar,» and «Penguin’s Galaxy.» «We wanted to come up with something different from ‘Lilipoupoli,’ something modern and contemporary, and, primarily, relevant to lovers – an album about a couple’s problems. That’s how ‘Sabotage’ was made,» said Platonos. It was the first time Platonos, widely regarded as an avant-garde composer, had applied synthesizer to an entire project. Some synthesizer had appeared on parts of her «Karyiotakis» album, which was recorded before «Sabotage» but released as a follow-up. «It wasn’t my idea to interpret Karyiotakis musically. It was suggested by the people at the Third Program,» noted Platonos. At the time, the radio station’s program included daily five-minute poetry slots, as part of monthlong tributes to various poets. Young composers were commissioned to write the musical theme for each month’s tribute, musical backdrops for the daily five-minute recitals, as well as complete songs based on poetry by the featured poet. Platonos was given the task of Karyiotakis, which she found daunting at first. «It scared me. I thought, ‘How on earth am I supposed to write music to the poems of a prominent, classic poet?’ I expressed these fears to the program’s director, the poet Toula Tolia,» said Platonos. But the young composer gradually overcame her insecurities over Karyiotakis. In retrospect, she recalls being inspired to write her first song to the poetry of Karyiotakis after hearing distant voices of children playing. By chance, she had just read the poet’s «Night,» a poem about the distant voices of children. «I wrote the song in five minutes. Then I wrote another, ‘Spring’,» Platonos remembered. «The people at the Third Program were thrilled by what they heard, which gave me courage to continue.»   The contents of Platonos’s fabulous «Karyiotakis» album – which «Hadjidakis had fallen in love with, and had even offered to [Constantinos] Karamanlis [PM at the time] as a present – «Sabotage» and parts of «Lilipoupoli» will all be revisited at the Athens Concert Hall tomorrow.