Greek composer and performer Pericles Kanaris returned to the New York music scene with his first concert since the pandemic, playing songs based on the poetry of Constantine P. Kavafy, T.S Eliot, and others.
Titled “Up for Air,” the June 8th concert at Symphony Space in Manhattan presented songs by the composer by a variety of poets. Included on that list was Manos Eleftheriou and the younger generation of Greek poets, as well as songs from other Greek and international artists who Kanaris said provided him with inspiration over the years. He presented the pieces in his own orchestration.
Special guests included baritone Nektarios Antoniou and bouzouki master Agapitos Magkanaris. Kanaris’ band includes New York mainstay musicians like Gary Schreiner (accordion, harmonica, keys), Richard Hammond (bass), Peter Douskalis (guitars, laouto, assistant director) and Giancarlo DeTrizio (drums/percussion).
Some of the notable guests in the Greek-American community included Greece’s Consulate General in New York Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, New York University Deputy Provost Dr. Katherine Fleming, and Vasili Tsamis, chief administrative officer of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
“Playing again after two and a half years was at the same time a challenging and liberating experience,” Kanaris said.
“What we took for granted in the past as normal is something that we now have to fight to reestablish and we did just that. The reaction of the audience at the end justified it all and we could not have asked for a better reward.”
When COVID-19 began taking hold in spring 2020, Kanaris, who is also a lecturer at NYU, wrote a song dedicated to those fighting the virus titled “Hang In There.” He dedicated it to all those deeply affected by the virus.
Kanaris Dedicates Concert To Greek Consul General
Kanaris dedicated the June 8th concert to Koutras, who will be departing his post as Consul General. Kanaris said that a few years ago Koutras invited him to a discussion about Greek culture in New York.
“I was impressed with [Koutras’] dedication to explore possibilities for turning the Greek Consulate in New York into a cultural as well as administrative hub,” Kanaris said.
Kanaris created and taught an NYU course titled: “Songs of the Underdog—American Blues meets Greek Rebetiko.” It was the first multidisciplinary academic course to compare the two genres of Greek and American music. The class is part of NYU’s Alexander S. Onassis Program for Hellenic Studies in 2020. Fleming is the Alexander S. Onassis Professor of Hellenic Culture and Civilization at NYU.
In relation to this month’s concert, Koutras called it a “musical feast,” and added, “I am certain that his stellar journey will become even brighter in the near future.” Koutras said he gratefully accepted having the concert dedicated to him. He said it was “the recognition of the tireless efforts of my team at the Consulate, in collaboration with Pericles and many other representatives of the Greek arts and letters with one common goal: [t]o shed the rays of Greek culture on New York City.”
Kanaris said he is planning on more performances in New York in the fall while also recording and releasing a new album. It will include many of the songs he performed at Symphony Space, he said. He is also collaborating on a project with a variety of artists from the theater and visual arts that is expected to premiere in New York next year.