Keeping the Flag Flying...

Keeping the Flag Flying...

Friday, 25 July 2008

Nana Mouskouri's Farewell Concert - A magical evening full of nostalgia, memories and beautiful melodies in the place where it all began - Athens!

How does one describe a feeling? It’s hard unless you are a poet! Well, I would have loved to have been one on Wednesday 23 July as we sat in the ancient Herodes Atticus theatre or the Herodeion as we call it, waiting for Nana Mouskouri to start what was to be her final concert after 50 years of enchanting audiences all over the world.

There, below a gleaming Parthenon set against a brilliant blue sky which slowly acquired dusky hews we watched thousands of people streaming into this magnificent ancient theatre to take their places. It was a wonderful sight - people of all ages happily assembling to pay tribute to one of
Greece's best known ambassadors. The younger generation of singers and artists like Maria Farandouri, Nikos Alliagas and Sakis Rouvas were also there to pay tribute to this great lady.

Just after
9 pm it was time for the concert to start and the screens which had been set up above the stage came to life, projecting scenes from Nana's life - pictures from childhood on, with people she loved and who loved her. Symbolic in a way because it was in the outdoor cinema where her father worked as a projectionist, as she told us later, close by in the suburb of Koukaki, that she began dreaming...dreams that would take her around the world and into millions of homes and hearts over the years ahead. One of those homes was ours...
As Nana's voice filled the theatre, memories came flooding back...

Memories of our Mt Victoria home, loving memories of the whole family, Mum, Dad, my sister Pagona and myself, with some of the usual visitors to our house sitting in front of the television to watch her BBC show every week as she sang and danced with her many and varied guests, from George Chakiris to Shari Lewis, Julio Inglesias and Marinella!
Our father adored her and had every disc he could get hold of in his record collection, and my sister and I inherited that adoration. Somehow we managed to pass it on to my 8 year old daughter, so here we all were with our good friend Maria, also from Wellington, sitting in this magnificent ancient theatre below a now illuminated Parthenon waiting for the concert to begin. (July is a month of sad memories in our household... it is the month that our father left this world, so we decided that our 'memorial service' to him and our mother this year would be to go to Nana's farewell concert.)
Those weekly 'concerts' in our living room were in both our thoughts as we sat and listened to this amazing lady give her last performance...

Memories... of my sister Pagona's weekly radio show, 'Kalispera Sas' on 2ZB, for the Greek Youth Association, GOYANZ, also featured heavily in our thoughts. Pagona played a lot of Nana's music on Kalispera Sas and she used to get lots of letters from listeners all over NZ saying how much they enjoyed the music she played...

Memories... of the Victoria University Greek Club and the flowers that we sent to Nana to welcome her on her first visit to New Zealand, even though she didn't come to Wellington on that first trip. She made up for it years later by visiting
Wellington - twice!
Memories… of the French Department at Victoria, a lovely old house on Kelburn Parade, now replaced by the Von Zedlitz, and the Language Lab, where we listened to Nana singing 'Plaisir d’Amour',' Rose Blanche de Corfou' and countless other signature tunes – all designed to assist us in becoming more fluent. Memories of Jean-Philippe and Claire Jugand, Ms Piper, Dr Vrolyk , Mme Mortelier, and many others who taught us to appreciate the finesse and beauty of the French language through its Literature, Art and Music.

Honoured by Athens , the city she sang about so eloquently, earlier in the day, Nana's first song was indeed "Athina". Obviously moved, the emotion was apparent in her voice, and it brought the house down. The applause was deafening. (The last time I heard this song at a concert was at the Closing Ceremony of Athens' Unforgettable Olympics in 2004! What a year that was for Greece and what a fantastic homecoming for the Olympic Games after over 100 years. It really was very sad that they couldn't find a place for Nana at the Closing Ceremony - as the music for 'Athina' filled the Olympic Stadium that magical night in August of 2004, I remember thinking that if the songs that she made famous and had taken Greece to every corner of the world were there, then she too had every right to be part of the greatest celebration that Greece would ever host!)

As Nana went from song to song, everyone sang along with her. Standing ovation followed standing ovation, with PM Karamanlis standing up several times to applaud her. This was definitely an evening of symbolism, starting with the date. Exactly 24 years ago on the 23 of July of 1984, she gave her first concert ever at the Herodeion, in the presence of then President Konstantinos Karamanlis. 24 years later, another Karamanlis was in the audience to welcome her-his nephew, Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis who visited New Zealand last year and enjoyed the visit very much.

Nostalgia and sadness alternated with happiness and joy as she sang everything - from traditional Greek songs to Jazz, from country and western to 'Ta Paidia tou Peiraia' (Never on Sunday) to Beethoven's 9th Symphony-Song of Joy! As Nana tirelessly went through a programme of some of her most well-known and popular songs, songs that had the audience clapping, singing and foot-tapping for most of the three hours that she was on the stage, 'I didn't want to tire you' was her comment when the audience asked for more towards the end of the evening!
Thunderous applause followed every encore – the audience enchanted by her melodies and the memories she so generously shared with us refused to let her go and after coming back on stage several times, Nana thanked us all graciously and the Herodeion filled with the haunting lilt of her final song -'Hartino to Feggaraki' or 'Paper Moon' - the legendary Hadjidakis-Gatsos song that she first recorded in 1960. Nikos Gatsos, the poet, was her mentor, a man who taught her a lot, and told her to always look for the Moon and the Sun - the Sun so that she could always see the truth and the Moon so that she could weave her dreams …those dreams that she shared with us and for which we thank her…

THANK YOU, NANA, FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS!

THANK YOU FOR A TRULY UNFORGETTABLE EVENING.

THANK YOU FOR A WONDERFUL, NOSTALGIC CONCERT FULL OF MAGIC, BEAUTIFUL MUSIC, BRILLIANT SETTING... ONE OF ATHENS' MOST BEAUTIFUL, AND A FITTING TRIBUTE TO GREECE'S SONGBIRD.

THANK YOU FOR THE JOURNEY, THE DREAM AND, ABOVE ALL, THE MEMORIES!!...

Read more about Nana Mouskouri at Wikipedia

1 comment:

MEDITERRANEAN KIWI said...

a wonderful to nana - my parents also looked forward to seeing the bbc show, but being greeks, they were disappointed when she sang in a language other than greek; i can still picture my mother's anticipation for the next song; maybe that one would be greek? she was thinking...