Composer Yannis Markopoulos turns 80, and marks it with a grand celebration

Composer Yannis Markopoulos turns 80, and marks it with a grand celebration

Composer Yiannis Markopoulos, who has spent a lifetime captivating audiences with his distinct blend of traditional Greek and symphonic melodies, turns 80 on June 28, when he will be bringing some of his greatest works to the Herod Atticus Theater as part of the Athens Festival.

Hailing from Iraklio in Crete, Markopoulos initially drew inspiration from the music of his native island as well as the Egyptian melodies he heard from across the Mediterranean on the radio, before heading to the Greek capital to train at the Athens Conservatory. After a couple of years living in London, where he studied under Elizabeth Lutyens and made the acquaintance of Jani Christou and Iannis Xenakis, Markopoulos returned to Athens in 1969, which was in the grips of a military dictatorship. Empowered by a vision for democracy, he founded a musical ensemble composed of students and young intellectuals. The ensemble would go on to perform countless symphonies combining Greek elements with international sounds in the composer’s Lydra music studio.

Markopoulos was a pioneer in fusing the lyre and santouri with piano, devising a new genre of classical, international music which he called “Return to the Roots.”

Markopoulos’ discography includes music for the poetry of Nobel Prize-winner Odysseas Elytis, a film score for the BBC television series “Who Pays the Ferryman?” (1977) and the songs for the British National Theatre’s 1968 production of “The Tempest,” among a legion of other projects.

The composer’s birthday performance will feature popular songs from his albums “Ithageneia,” “Thiteia” and “Chroniko.” Markopoulos will be conducting the 24-member orchestra Palintonos Armonia, which will be accompanied by singers Eleonora Zouganeli and Yiannis Haroulis and a choir.

The concert will start at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 28.

For more information about the Athens Festival and for tickets, visit

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