Big band sets go down a treat at the Herod Atticus

Such a magical moment won’t be easily repeated: The Glenn Miller Orchestra led with its signature tune, «Moonlight Serenade,» and conductor Dick Lowenthal directed his baton at the new moon rising over the Roman arches, a tiny lamp against the floodlit Parthenon. The Herod Atticus Theater was packed, mainly with young people, who sang, clapped and kept time with their hands and feet. Older spectators who lived through the Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington era or who know their music from films and records simply whispered, «Remember?» In the front row was President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, who attends the Herod Atticus regularly, despite his busy schedule. This time he was greeted by warm applause as he entered the theater and Athens Festival public relations chief Maria Karanagnosti escorted him discreetly to his seat. Herod Atticus patrons pay close attention and this year they have recognized in Papoulias a true fan of music, and in the case of the big bands, one who is nostalgic for the great era of jazz when the composers who created the bands made a new sound that they passed on to their successors. The sound is still fascinating, as is the big band show, with the musicians taking it in turns to stand up for their solos. The performances last weekend were like a master class for fans. Congratulations to the festival for including the two famous bands in its 50th anniversary program. «Thank you for giving us the opportunity to play in this beautiful ancient theater, and the president for honoring us with his presence,» said Dick Lowenthal after the Glenn Miller Orchestra had performed. «The theater was so full it looked as if it reached the sky,» he said. Lowenthal sat with the president for the second part of the program. Papoulias, with youthful enthusiasm, went backstage to congratulate the conductor and musicians. Then the Duke Ellington Orchestra played hits from the 1920s up to the ’70s. The older musicians were dressed in suits but when conductor and trumpet soloist Barry Lee Hall Jr asked permission for them to remove their jackets, the audience gave its assent. The show ended with a superb duet for saxophones in «Tales of Two Rabbits.» For two nights of music the Herod Atticus Theater was full and the president of Greece was in the front row. The festival, which is making money for the first time in years, is doing well.

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