Homeless ensemble battles on

The issue of the country’s major orchestras being without a home seems to have no end, as the Athens State Orchestra (ASO) joins its Thessaloniki counterpart in stressing the difficulty this hopelessness creates. «The Athens Concert Hall has no legal obligation to provide the Athens State Orchestra with a rehearsal space, but it does so, and does so free of charge,» stressed Megaron General Manager Nikos Manolopoulos at a recent press conference, drawing attention to the fact that there is indeed no official framework that defines the working relationship between these two intrinsically linked bodies. Byron Fidetsis, who is filling in as the orchestra’s artistic director while the ensemble waits for a permanent board to be announced, described the relationship as a «marriage, with all its small day-to-day problems.» While the ASO has found a temporary solution to its housing problem with the Megaron, the orchestra insists that the space it is using at present is not suitable for rehearsals, and it is waiting for construction of a better space to be completed. «This year began with a lot of problems,» said the president of the Association of Musicians, Dimitris Semsis. «We were forced into a lot of maneuvering… We are waiting for the new rehearsal hall in the Megaron to be ready and will not stop demanding it,» he added. The hall is expected to be ready by December and it will be given to the ASO free of charge by the Athens Concert Hall. However, Manolopoulos notes that «it is not [the Megaron’s] duty to solve the ASO’s problems. We are just trying to help.» Until December, the Athens State Orchestra will rehearse in a hall leased from the Athens Conservatory (for 18,000 euros a month) as well as at the Megaron hall it has been using to date. Nevertheless, despite all the practical difficulties plaguing the ensemble, it has put together an interesting series of projects and programs for the 2005-2006 season. Among these are plans to begin recording works by Greek composers and a trip to Austria in April to perform Mikis Theodorakis’s «Zorba.» There are also many concerts planned, some dedicated to composer Theodoros Antoniou for his 70th birthday, a tour of Greek cities and the organization of the Second Festival of Greek Music in May 2006.