Lyra - Orpheus Newsletter                              May/June 1997 Edition

 


Cultural Capital of Europe Welcomes Orpheus!

A team of Orpheus Dance Troupe members will be traveling to Thessaloniki, Greece this summer for a series of performances at the 51st Pan-Macedonian Convention of USA & Canada and the 7th World Convention of Macedonians. Convention delegates will include participants from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany and other countries where Greeks from Macedonia, Greece’s northern region, have made their homes. Both conventions take place in Thessaloniki, Greece every four years and this year’s events will be held between July 19 and July 26. This year’s conventions are especially noteworthy, as the city of Thessaloniki has been awarded the distinction of being the “Cultural Capital of Europe” for 1997. The year-long tribute has included special exhibits and events celebrating the history and beauty of the city, as well as concerts featuring various Greek and international performers.

    The Orpheus Dance Troupe’s participation is being arranged through the Pan-Macedonian Youth Association and the troupe, apart from performing, will have the opportunity to tour sights throughout Macedonia. The program for the participating youth includes excursions to Perea/Agia Triade Beach, Nymfeo, the archaeological sites of Dion at the foot of Mount Olympus, city tours of Kastoria and Pella (birthplace of Alexander the Great), Petralona (one of the most popular cave sites), swimming outings at Kalikratia and Sani Beach in Chalkidiki, receptions with Greece’s governing authorities and much more. The Orpheus Dance Troupe, along with the rest of the youth participants, will stay at Anatolia College which is located in Panorama, a suburb of Thessaloniki. Anatolia College is a highly respected educational institution with a long history in Thessaloniki.
 

    Needless to say, this will be a once in a lifetime experience for the Orpheus members participating in this exciting endeavor. This marks the first time the troupe will perform in Greece and it offers a unique opportunity for its members to demonstrate and experience the folk traditions of their homeland.

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Folk Customs: The Clarinet in Greek Folk Music (Part 1)                  By James N. Stoynoff

  Since few documented sources exist to chronicle the history of Greek folk clarinet tradition, recent studies have had to rely for the most part on the recollections of elder musicians. These accounts would indicate that the clarinet first appeared in mainland Greece around 1830-35. It may also have been introduced to the Ionian Islands from Italy around the same time. Its use here, however, has been confined to classical and marching music as evidenced by its total absence from island folk ensembles. Since that time it has had an increasingly prominent role in Greek Folk music, which hitherto was played on various native woodwinds such as the floyera or shepherd’s flute. In fact, by the turn of the century it had become an indispensable part of the folk music ensemble, all but replacing the floyera as the lead instrument. It is believed that Ottoman Turkish military bands, found throughout the Balkans in the 19th century, introduced the clarinet to this region.  

     During the reign of the reform-minded Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839), an imperial music school was established to train the army in newly-adopted Western instruments and music theory. One of the instructors, known at court as Donizetti Pasha, was in fact a brother of the famous Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti. With military bands attached to garrisons throughout the Ottoman empire, local folk musicians who were mostly gypsies got their first glimpse of these modern instruments including the clarinet. Noted for their keen musical instincts, the gypsies immediately recognized the clarinet’s potential role in folk music and correctly anticipated its acceptance by patrons since anything Western European was considered in vogue. Having greater range, technical capacity and tonal variety, it quickly took the melodic lead, allowing much greater embellishment of traditional folk melodies. Successfully adapting the clarinet (Gr: KLARINO) to this music also meant addressing certain technical difficulties, particularly since the micro-tonal intervals of Greek modes place considerable demands on the “evenly tempered” clarinet--essentially requiring that it be systematically “untuned” to accommodate intervals as small as the Pythagorean coma (1 coma = 23 cents or approximately 1/9 tone). Since some positions on the clarinet are more conducive to producing these effects, players generally prefer certain keys for certain pieces. Consequently, many traditional stereotype phrases developed in a particular key (fingering position) are often only practical in that key. In earlier years the cost and relative scarcity of instruments prompted many players to fashion their own homemade clarinets out of suitable materials such as boxwood. Mouthpieces were also hand crafted occasionally from such exotic materials as elk antlers or the like (a practice still followed by at least one famous player well into the 1950s!).  

     Today, of course, commercially produced reeds and mouthpieces are in abundant use. Without exception, these homemade instruments were modeled after the Albert system clarinets of the era, in some cases having as few as five keys. Since forked fingerings on the Albert system are identical to those of the floyera, players found transition to this system to be an extension of fingering techniques they had already developed for specific ornamentations. This factor, as well as the Albert’s sonority and less cumbersome hardware, explains why it’s still preferred to this day over the Boehm by folk clarinetists in Greece and Turkey, and to an extent in neighboring countries.  
 

James N. Stoynoff is a native Chicagoan of Greek Macedonian background who began studying the clarinet in 1962 and since that time has specialized in the research, performance and preservation of Greek Folk Music, with particular emphasis  
on the regional Folk Clarinet styles of Greece and Turkey.  These unique and highly embellished musical motifs have proven virtually impossible to transcribe accurately using basic music notation.  They have, however, managed to survive to this day 
as part of a rich oral tradition -- having been handed down from generation to generation.  In this regard Jim was fortunate to have studied such masters as Anestopoulos, Stamelos, Halkias,and Saffet, who not only taught him the "secrets" of their artistry, but also provided a deeper insight into the historical evolution of this music.  Jim performs regularly in Chicago at major functions within the Greek community and has appeared throughout the U.s. as well as in Greece. In addition to recording and TV/Radio productions, he also gives lectures/performances and contributes articles on Balkan folk clarinet to various publications. 

     

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Orpheus Visits Socrates School

     What comes in small packages, has a lot of energy and a lot of spirit? The children of Socrates Greek American school. Over 200 students and their families enjoyed the Greek Independence Day Celebration at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Chicago on March 25th. During the last hour of the celebration, the Orpheus Dance Troupe was invited to perform and lecture on Greek folk dancing.

     The students were very entertained by the colorful costumes and dances performed by the troupe, as well as the troupe’s educational presentation which described the origin and history of the costumes and dances showcased for this event. Socrates student Maria Seretis noted “I loved how the costumes looked and I want to learn [how to dance] Dimitroula.” At the end of the performance, the junior high school students joined the members of Orpheus to sing and dance “Kamakaki”[dance from the island of Salamina]. Second grader Lambros Floros commented, “I want to dance just like that, it’s really cool!”. At the conclusion of the event, members of the Orpheus Dance Troupe spent time with the students to encourage their interests in Greek Folk dancing and express the importance of learning about their ethnic culture and heritage through folk dance and song.
 
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Concordia University

On May 5th, the Orpheus Dance Troupe conducted another presentation of Greek folk music, costumes and dances at Concordia University in River Forest. The presentation was part of Professor Harrison’s class, World Music and Cultures, which brings area ethnic musicians and dancers to the lecture room and allows students to experience first hand what is covered in their textbooks. This marked the fourth time that the Orpheus Dance Troupe has visited Prof. Harrison’s class accompanied by Jim Stoynoff and the Hellenic Five orchestra. Mr. Stoynoff and company conducted a musical journey of Greek musical elements and later accompanied the Orpheus Dance Troupe during their dance presentation. The troupe’s appearances at Concordia University has attracted considerable attention from the local and university press. In particular, a picture of the troupe was featured in the Concordia University 1996 Annual Report accompanying an article on Prof. Harrison’s class. Similar coverage has appeared in the university’s alumni and student newspapers. The Orpheus Dance Troupe always looks forward to appearing at Concordia University, and together with Jim Stoynoff and the Hellenic Five orchestra, is proud to support the efforts of Concordia University to promote and preserve musical traditions and customs from around the world.
 
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Personal Announcements
 

 
The Orpheus Dance Troupe welcomes Elia Christopoulos,  
Carol Kotsiopoulos, Valerie Maglaras, Mike Mandas,  
Magdalene Pipiros, Barbara Roumeliotis and Polytime Vellos 
who joined the troupe in April. 
 
Congratulations to Sophia Prassas for her first performance 
with the Orpheus! 
 
Congratulations to Andy and Mary Pagones for the birth of their 
second child Elias Andrew, born April 1st. 
 

 

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Spotlight On Orpheus Dancer...

Happy Birthday to Katerina Economou, daughter of John and 
Elizabeth, who will celebrate her first birthday on May 11th.
Kathy Tomaras

Mt. Prospect, IL

 

Parents/
Family From: 
Agios Petros, Tripoli (Greece) 
Occupation:
High School Student
Years Dancing
With Orpheus:
Two years 
Thoughts on Dancing:
I feel that dancing is a way to show your feelings. In this case, for the first time I feel like I’m part of
a group. I believe that when we all work together, we are making a difference in the community.
Favorite Dance:
Pentozalis [Island of Crete].  I like the upbeat 
and fast dances the most. 

Most Vivid Orpheus Memory:

My most vivid memory was my first performance. I danced at our society’s dinner dance in front of people I knew. I was extremely nervous. It is also my most vivid memory because it was the last time I saw my uncle before he passed away. The thing he liked most about my sister and me was our dancing. He promised me when I first joined the troupe he would be at my first performance and he flew from Greece to be here. 
 
Where I Heard
About Orpheus:
I first saw Orpheus perform at the St. Haralambos festival, but I joined after my sister joined the troupe.

 

 
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