Children’s music, a neglected artistic form, remembered for song contest

It’s been a summer of sport and the competitive spirit generated by it all. In the latest addition, one indirectly linked to sports – as a cultural side event for the upcoming Paralympics – 19 songs by young singers will be presented as the best entries of a children’s song contest organized by Athens 2004 and the Orchestra of Colors, the Athens outfit founded by the late composer Manos Hadjidakis. Nine singers, culled from a starting list of 40, will interpret 18 children’s songs selected from a total of 100 entries. This will be done over two nights at the Athens Concert Hall, the Megaron Mousikis, on September 7 and 8. They will not vie for places. The song contest was announced last February by the Orchestra of Colors on behalf of Athens 2004. The idea was proposed by the orchestra’s artistic director, Giorgos Kouroupos. The jury appointed to select songs for the final could not have been more appropriate when it comes to children’s songs. Besides being respected musicians and composers, the jury’s members, Kouroupos, Nikos Kypourgos, Dimitris Maragopoulos, and Spyros Sakkas, all contributed to the now-legendary radio production «Lilipoupoli,» a highly successful children’s music series for state radio in the late 1970s. Also included in the jury is Evgenios Trivizas, the prolific children’s writer and also a criminologist in the UK. The nine finalists, aged between 9 and 12, are Marianna Nomikou-Tsiokou, Eleni Orfanidi, Dafni Lazou, Dimitris Dimopoulos, Costas Zafiris, Alexandra Athanasiou, Leonora Kaziani, Danai Komodromou and Magda Plessa. Both the finalists and the Orchestra of Colors will be conducted by Miltos Logiadis. Tickets will not be issued for the two-night performance but interested parties can attend by obtaining free passes at the concert hall’s box office. «There was an era, between the late ’70s and early ’90s, when children’s song in our country offered new blood [to music] that was very interesting,» noted Kouroupos. «I’m talking about the period of ‘Lilipoupoli,’ my songs ‘Six Songs for Mice,’ ‘Melodonia,’ by Petros Perakis, ‘Icho ke ta Lathi tis,’ by Lena Platonos, ‘Mila Mou Gia Mila’ by Stavros Papastavrou, the traditional children’s songs accumulated by Domna Samiou, ‘Nanourismata’ (Lullabies) by Kypourgos and Savina Yiannatou, and others,» he added. Kouroupos said that, in more recent years, quality children’s songs had vanished from the scene. «With great dismay I see kids on television aping songs and singers along the lines of Eurovision. Is this, then, the solitary form of children’s song today?» questioned Kouroupos. «What would emerge if we were to stage a competition for new compositions of children’s songs like those organized by Hadjidakis in Corfu back in ’81 and ’82, and Kalamata in ’91? It’s been a while since something like this was organized. That’s how this latest venture got started. I suggested it to the people at Athens 2004 and it was accepted.» A total of 80 composers, as old as 40, submitted 92 songs. «We ended up with 18 songs because that’s how many we assessed as being worthy – I must admit I thought that some entries were ingenious. Songs given between three and five votes qualified for the final. We held meetings for songs that received two votes and listened to them again,» noted Kouroupos. He stressed that the two upcoming nights at the Athens Concert Hall will not be a competitive occasion in search of the «best» song. «We avoided that as we wanted to stage an event that was more of celebration than a competition,» said Kouroupos. All 18 short-listed songs, he noted, are already considered winners. Their composers will each receive 1,000 euros. This amount will also be given to each of the singers. The composers behind the songs are both professional and amateur songwriters, known and unknown. «The songs are diverse in style. I find some to be very advanced, while others are on the verge of your typical popular Greek song (laiko) but possess very clever lyrics,» Kouroupos said. The performance will be recorded for a possible CD release. Kouroupos said that, at this stage, it remained unknown whether the concept would continue on a regular basis. «For this occasion, we’re kind of testing the waters,» Kouroupos said. «We’ll see how things are amid the scene. If there’s potential, nothing’s out of question.»

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