Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society Newsletter
Winter 2006
PDF version of newsletter
Previous issues of Lyra
Tarpon Springs Marks Centennial Epiphany Celebration
Island of Thassos
Orpheus Benefit a Big Success!
Spotlight on Orpheus Youth Dancer

Tarpon Springs Marks Centennial
Epiphany Celebration
Click here for more pictures...
This year marked the 100th year anniversary of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Tarpon Springs, Florida. It also marked the centennial anniversary of the Epiphany ceremony which now takes place at Spring Bayou. Local teenage boys, ages 16-18, dive for the honor of retrieving the fallen cross in its waters.

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was present for this historic occasion and presided over many of the ceremonies and events that took place that weekend. Accompanying him were His Eminence Archbishop of America Demetrios and all the Metropolitans from the United States, including His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago and His Eminence Metropolitan Nikitas of Hong Kong, who is a native of Tarpon Springs. Metropolitan Nikitas is also the brother of John Lulias, the chairman of the annual Winter Dance Conference, which took place in Tarpon Springs during the same period.

The Winter Dance Conference includes a series of workshops on Greek folk traditions in the areas of dance, music and costumes. The workshops are conducted by renowned instructors from Greece, the U.S. and Canada. This year, registration reached capacity as over 250 participants visited this historic Greek community. Conference members, apart from attending all day workshops and enjoying folk music and dance during the evening events, participated in many activities surrounding the Epiphany centennial celebrations. Among the participating groups was the Orpheus Dance Troupe of Chicago. On Epiphany day, dance groups, dressed in folk costumes, marched down the streets of Tarpon Springs along with marching bands and other groups. They all converged at Spring Bayou, where the official ceremony took place.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the dance groups performed Greek folk dances for all the guests at the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs. The tradition of sponge diving was brought to this area by early 20th century Greek immigrants who were primarily from the island of Kalymnos, where they were known for their sponge diving trade.

The day following the Epiphany ceremony, international recording star Mario Frangoulis gave a concert honoring His All Holiness Bartholomew. Mario Frangoulis remarked that it was an honor to perform for the Ecumenical Patriarch because he is a symbol of love to our community. The concert also benefited St. Nicholas Orthodox Parochial School in Tarpon Springs. The event took place at the Sun Bowl arena of the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. It featured the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Andrew Lane, soprano Deborah Meyers, the Archdiocesan Metropolitan Youth Choir under the direction of Maria Koleva and the dancers from the Winter Dance Conference. The dancers performed Zorba the Greek and a typical Syrto dance, dressed in full costume attire, adding a special flavor to the concert.

For additional pictures from the Epiphany and Winter Dance Conference events click here.
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Island of Thassos


The island of Thassos could easily be a subject for trivia enthusiasts, with questions such as, “Which is the most northern island of Greece?” or “Which is the only island that belongs to the region of Macedonia?”

Thassos is an island bearing a rich history since antiquity. It is said that traces of human civilization were present as early as 3,000 B.C. At one point, around 500 B.C, when the island and its colonies were major commercial centers, it may have had over 60,000 residents. The shape of the island is almost circular, with a perimeter covering about 65 miles. The interior of the island is very mountainous, while the coastal areas offer some breathtaking sights and beaches.

Currently the permanent population of Thassos is around 15,000. Most residents work in the tourist industry, which has been rapidly developing since 1960. Unfortunately, rapid tourist development has altered the traditional elements of the island with regards to its architecture, occupations and other customs. These changes are especially apparent along the coastal areas, which attract the majority of the tourists. Some mountainous villages, however, still maintain their original settings and are a pleasure to visit.

Presently, local dances and songs are no longer performed at feasts, panegyria, public or private social functions. In his book, Folk Songs of Thassos, Giorgios Avgoustidis states that the 1980s marked the end of hearing local songs at public occasions. The end of the island’s folk era was not anticipated even a couple of decades prior to that. The local songs are not even heard at weddings, glentia, clubs, coffee shops or homes in Thassos. An event that makes it more obvious that these songs are not part of every day life is when young men join the Greek army for their mandatory military duty. In the old days, all the young men, prior to their departure, would gather and sing their local songs, accompanied by the popular accordion player, Mitsaras. In present-day Thassos, one does not even realize when someone leaves the village to join the army. One reason that Mr. Avgoustidis provides for this change in custom is the rapid development of tourism that has encouraged locals to be more interested in western European trends rather than local ones.

Nevertheless, there are a few exceptions where one might experience a few folk traditions, such as the carnival events that a local cultural organization may sponsor. In addition, the custom “Gia vrex Aprili m’” still takes place the Tuesday after Easter in the area of Kalyvia, located adjacent to the town of Limenaria. There are many songs that have come to the island from neighboring areas, such as Macedonia, Thrace, Asia Minor and other islands of the northeastern Aegean Sea, which have been adopted and established as part of the local tradition. One example is “Vre Kehagia Perifane”, which is mostly identified with the island of Limnos, and is danced as a couples’ dance. In Thassos it is danced as a Kalamatianos. The main meter that is dominant in the songs from Thassos are, 2/4, 4/4, and 7/8, 8/8 and 9/8.

Due to its proximity to Macedonia, the Macedonian bagpipe (gaida) was said to be one of the main folk instruments of the island, but that is not the case anymore. Sometimes, two violin players may accompany the local songs, where their parallel execution closely imitates the sound of the Macedonian bagpipe. Now, there are very few local musicians left and even they have abandoned the authentic folk instruments. They now prefer to play more popular instruments like the bouzouki, guitar and sometimes the clarinet, as more moneymaking opportunities are presented to them, especially during the summer months when the tourist season is at its peak. Other instruments, in addition to the violin, used in the recordings of the local songs are the lute (laouto), accordion, santouri (dulcimer), toubeleki (percussion), guitar, clarinet, taboura and others.

In terms of the island’s dance repertoire, Ms. Roula Loukoumi, a native of Thassos, has produced and sang in two albums with folk material from Thassos. The style is unique. The main component of the dances is what is called “Varys Syrtos”. These dances vary from the traditional island Syrto dances, as they are danced using “Sta Tria” step structure or have their own steps. Although they may not possess some of the fast paced rhythms found in the dances of other northern Aegean islands, they present the dancer with the challenge of executing their characteristic deliberate style. Some of the most popular dances from the island of Thassos are: Ahi-Vahi, Ola ta Poulakia, Ola ta Melahrina, Hrysos Aetos, Mazou ta Peristeria sou, Prasino Dentri, Lagadi Xerolagado, and various songs are performed in the typical Kalamatiano steps.

It is becoming more challenging to find the appropriate sources from which to learn these dances as they are not performed in every day functions. With the passing of older generations, it it up to all of us to keep our Greek folk traditions alive and seek opportunities to document regional music and dances.

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Orpheus Benefit a Big Success!

Click here for more pictures, video clips, program book
On Saturday November 6th the Chateau Ritz Banquet Hall was filled to capacity as close to 700 guests were present at the Benefit organized by the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society. The evening included music, dance and choral presentations by the Orpheus Youth and Adult dance groups as well as the Orpheus Music Group. A silent auction complimented the activities as guests browsed through a wide variety of gifts. A special program book was issued for that night, which included highlights of the history of the Orpheus Dance Troupe over the last 17 years, as well as announcements and greetings from businesses and individual donors.

All proceeds will support the programs of the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society.  Click here to view a retrospective video clip that was prepared by Alex Kapotas and Voula Drougas, the program book and additional pictures. Many thanks to all the individuals that helped make this event such a success! 

Spotlight on Orpheus Youth Dancer...
Christina Grosso

Chicago, IL.

Parents/Family From:

My mom’s family is from Messinia, Greece, Yiayia is from Lahanatha (near Methoni), and Pappou is from Starasa (outside of Koroni). My dad is from Chicago, but my grandfather is from outside of Bari, Italy.

Time Dancing with Orpheus Group:

I have been officially with OHFS for 5 years, but, unofficially, I have grown up in Orpheus since I was 4 years old.

Thoughts on Dancing:

One of the things that plays a big part in my life is dancing, especially Greek dancing. I love to dance!!!

Favorite Dance:

My favorite dance is Baidouska because it is a very high energy dance. I also love learning new dances of any kind.

Most Vivid OHFS Memory:

Boca Raton Winter Dance Conference, hanging out at the pool. I loved dancing and singing in the water. I also loved walking around the sponge docks and dancing in Tarpon Springs with Mario Frangoulis.

Favorite Greek Dish:

Saganaki, I love when they light it on fire and we always scream, “Opa!” Anything my Yiayia cooks is the best!!!

Favorite Place in Greece:

The beaches in Finikouda, Messinia. I can walk around and everyone knows me. I get a lot of free ice-cream!

Hobbies/Sports/Other Interests:

Dancing, shopping, Greek drama, soccer (I play defensive midfielder.), music (I have been playing the violin since I was 4.) and singing in both Greek and English.

Best Childhood Memory:

I love going to my yiayia and pappou’s cottage and hanging out with my cousins.

Dream vacation/the perfect weekend:

I would like to go to Italy to find my dad’s family.

Favorite building/spot in Chicago:

Navy Pier, going on the rides.

I'm currently looking for/forward to:

The Folk Dance and Choral Festival in San Diego..

I stay home to watch:

The OC.

Prized possession:

My family and friends.

Where I heard about Orpheus Dance Troupe:

It has always been there for me!!!!

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Last revised:
01/06/2013 12:40 PM