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Music high school concert, Hospitaller Palace, 2023
When I was touring the Hospitaller Palace, high school children were rehearsing for a musical performance. (You could tell they were high school children from the especial exuberance of their “Hey, Malaka!” to each other, once they were outside the palace.)
So I went back at 8:30 pm for the free concert, which turned out to be a concert of six music high schools in Greece—an institution that has only been in place since 1988. I did have to go back to my flat at 10, to get a jacket: outdoor concerts are a thing in Greece, but May has been unseasonably chilly. By the end at midnight, only the parents of the kids were left in attendance. It was brutally cold.
Which led me to exclaim the word for brutal cold, with a Cretan degree of emphasis. (Ψόόόόφος, literally “animals dying”.)
Which led my neighbor to ask me if I was from Crete. And then if I was one of the parents from the Cretan music high school…
I dreaded hearing, during rehearsal, a phrase that I thought belonged to the resident Greek reactionary irredentist composer, Stamatis Spanoudakis. I already had hate-watched a special on him a month ago, my first weekend here.
I was wrong. The phrase was from Karl Jenkins’ Palladio, a concerto grosso that started life as a De Beers ad. (Look it up: it keeps showing up on ads.)
(Like this, but a lot less in tune.)
(Like this, but a lot less TAKE BACK CONSTANTINOPLE!!!)
The fact that I confused the two is no credit to either.
Solo and small groups of teen-agers, as the concert amply demonstrated, are capable of exceptional musicianship.
Choirs and string sections on the other hand depend on this little thing called staying in tune with each other…
The evening was not a competition between music high schools. Which is just as well, because Pallini music high school completely stole the evening. Nobody came close. They’ve been doing this the longest, since 1988, and it shows.
(That’s them rehearsing earlier in the day.)
It takes a lot of brass for a high school music ensemble from the outer suburbs of Athens to rock up to Rhodes, and play a musical fantasia of Crete. Then again, it takes a lot of brass for a high school music ensemble to call itself “Give a peasant encouragement”.
The rest of the proverbial expression in Greek goes “and he’ll climb into bed with you” (i.e “give him an inch and he’ll take a mile”.) I guess I am in Europe, after all.
The group specializes in Cretan folk, and they’ve been going for at least ten years. They aren’t standard lyra-and-lute 1960s repertoire, they’re researchers: YouTube has them boisterously reviving Cretan carols.
And the performance was accordingly exuberant. It had the kitchen sink of instrumentation, 2 or 3 of every musical instrument that has been within a mile of Cretan folk. (Cello counts, but only because the recent band Gaitani has a lyra-player who plays both). The only instruments that did not turn up were the bagpipe (which started the tradition—and which is why all Cretan music sounds jittery), and the fiddle (that stopped it sounding jittery—at least in the West of the island).
They had girls singing, which happened occasionally in very early recordings and then was stamped out as not macho enough until maybe 10 years ago. With the drone notes they were holding, they were sounding more Bulgarian than Cretan macho, but it still worked. And the cello girl was clearly having a blast singing.
This is just the second time I’ve heard recorders (θιαμπόλι) in Cretan folk, and three in unison at that. As far as I’m concerned, they are allowed back in. They were very very tight.
And YouTube tells me that recorders have indeed already made their way back in, but it has only been in the last decade: