Cypriot poetry put to music

He is a Cypriot; a refugee from the town of Ammohostos. Composer Michalis Christodoulidis has a great passion for his island and its art. Thirty years ago he was a young man, living and studying in Paris when the Turkish invasion took place. That was the first time he felt the need to put traditional Cypriot poetry to music, starting with poems dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries. Throughout these 30 years – a harsh period for the island – the composer has refueled his need for new works over and over again. A number of these works will be presented at the Athens Concert Hall next week, in a concert scheduled for Monday, June 7. The event is being organized by the Cypriot State as part of a series of events celebrating the country’s accession to the European Union. A number of distinguished artists are participating at the Athens Concert Hall event: soprano Tzeni Drivala, Giorgos Dalaras, Aliki Kayaloglou and Doros Dimosthenous. They will be joined by two young singers from Cyprus, Costas Haralambidis and Areti Kasapi. All together the artists will interpret works by the prominent Cypriot composer – a low-key, highly productive artist. At the Athens Concert Hall, the ERT (Greek Radio and TV) Contemporary Music Orchestra will be conducted by Christodoulidis himself and Andreas Pylarinos; also joining the concert will be the Kifissia Young People’s Orchestra. «I wrote this work based on Cypriot poetry because I had felt the need to give a series of concerts in order to present Cyprus’s political identity,» says the composer. «At the time, I wanted to show the French that that was the land, that was the culture that was being lost. We gave about 20 concerts which were introduced by Jacques Lacarriere, the well-known Hellenist…» A few years later, Christodoulidis was living in Athens. Already an established composer with a rich repertoire including works for theater and film, he began working on 16th century poetry, coming up with a sensational collection of songs. Recently released in CD form, the works are interpreted by Aliki Kayaloglou and Doros Dimosthenous. (The singers will perform them at next week’s concert.) The rest of the works to be presented at the concert were inspired by the island’s contemporary history: the great Cypriot poet Vassilis Michailidis’s «Ninth of July,» narrating the cruel way in which the island’s uprising was crushed in 1821, and for which Christodoulidis created an oratorio. Another oratorio is dedicated to the work of poet Theokli Kouyali, for his tribute to Cypriot national hero Kyriakos Matsis. The concert will end with works based on a variety of lyrics by contemporary Cypriot poets, which will be interpreted by George Dalaras. This is a busy season for Christodoulidis. Besides preparations for the Athens performance, he is currently working on the music for an ancient drama performance by the Cyprus National Theater Company. Based on lost works by Aeschylus and reconstructed by Ilias Malandris, the performance will be directed by Nikos Haralambous and will feature a cast including Mario Frangoulis and Despina Bembedeli. Christodoulidis’s music will also feature in a Theatro Technis production of an Aristophanes play starring Giorgos Kimoulis. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2000. Reservations for all events should be made in advance on tel 210.728.2150 or via the Internet at