Celebration of Thracian roots

With a father who was a priest and a mother who was a singer, it was quite natural for Chronis Aidonidis to be influenced by the two most basic elements of Greek music; Byzantine psalms and traditional Greek melodies. But things were different when he was a boy, in the interwar years in a village near Didymoteicho and in the 1950s, when, as a young man, he came to Athens and began a more in-depth involvement with traditional Greek music. Fifty years later, Aidonidis is optimistic about the survival of traditional Greek music. «Younger people are singing our songs now,» he said in a recent interview, paraphrasing Cavafy. The singer and music teacher is celebrating those 50 years with a colorful and lively concert at the Athens Concert Hall tonight with participants that include Domna Samiou, Dionysis Savvopoulos, George Dalaras and Glykeria. The song and dance performance, titled «The Music of Thrace and Greece» and directed by Giorgos Constantzos of the Greek Music Archive, will also feature a large band of traditional musicians, a Byzantine choir, student vocal ensembles and a number of other performers. «I first sang on the radio in 1953 for the show ‘Thracian Echoes,’» Aidonidis recalled. «We, the whole family, had just come to Athens from the village.» The singer also remembered that while he was avidly interested in exploring the music of his homeland, it was never his intention to become professionally involved in singing. «I worked in the financial services department of the Sismanogleio hospital,» he said. «I never wanted to make a profession of tradition. I treated it like a holy heirloom… I just made recordings and occasionally appeared at special events. Anyway, I was always more interested in songs whose lyrics made reference to historical or social events, rather than songs for entertainment.» Aidonidis’s first record was a 78 rpm. One side had a song from Macedonia and the other a Thracian one. «Next,» the singer recounted, «I made around 17 records on 45 rpms and another 15 on 33 rpms.» His repertory always was, and still is, centered on the songs of his own homeland, Thrace, and embraces all of the region; the east, north and (the only part belonging to Greece today) west. Aidonidis has also made several recordings on CD. His new album, a double release which is due to go into circulation any day now, contains songs from Thrace on the one disk and Byzantine psalms on the other. «Ever since I was a little boy, my father would take me to church with him so I could chant. I never stopped doing that. Even today, I look for any excuse to chant in church.» Aidonidis has participated in numerous albums with other artists, the most recent of which was songsmith Nikos Kypourgos’s dreamy «Vlefaro Mou» on the album «Ta Mystika tou Kipou» (Secrets of the Garden). The singer let on that this evening’s concert will close with this beautiful song. He also expressed how pleased he is with all the young performers who will be appearing with him, while noting that two of his most talented students, Nektaria Karantzi and Vangelis Dimoulis, will also be on stage (Nektaria also performs on the new album). «I am very optimistic about the future of traditional Greek music,» Aidonidis said. «We Greeks come together when we smell danger. That’s what will happen now, in this age of globalization.»

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