Sunday, May 10, 2009
Today was the first time I’ve had Holy Communion in Greece without any problem or embarrassment. (Mind you, I don’t receive it as often here as at home, for that reason and because I can’t get to confession with an English-speaking priest as often.) I remembered that here, the priest isn’t going to take that spoon out of the chalice until your mouth is open wide. (In Richmond, you don’t open your mouth until the spoon is already out.) I remembered not to wear lipstick. The priest didn’t ask me if I were Orthodox. He didn’t even ask me my name, probably because the churches here are crowded and the number of communicants is large. An adult acolyte, hand on my neck, pushed my head down to the level of the chalice (for the priest was short); I opened my mouth, the spoon was put in; the acolyte bobbed my head down to the red cloth so my lips touched it.
We ate our usual Sunday morning breakfast of bougatsa, then rested during the afternoon, in preparation for the concert in the evening.
There were two choirs performing. One was from Canada and the other was the women’s and children’s choir directed by Manolis’ daughter, Maria Melingopoulou. This is a choir that has won many international awards.
We arrived in time to greet Manolis and Vasilea and to find good seats. The only problem was that in my (limited!) experience, Greek audiences seldom know how to behave. They move around all over the place, even, sometimes, during the performance.
Maria is such a masterful conductor; you can tell even just by her movements. She’s also gorgeous, with huge brown eyes and blonde hair, almost shoulder-length. The music she had chosen was just right for the choir, and they performed wondrously. The children sang separately some of the time and I have to tell you, they sang just as well as the adults. I don’t know how you teach children to do that well.
During the intermission, Vasilea brought Maria to our seats, so we were able to congratulate her very warmly.
Then came the Canadian choir. “They will be very lively,” Maria had told us, “and they will interact with the audience.” That didn’t sound very encouraging to us, and we were right.
The first piece was the only one we liked, and the one everybody else liked least. “We are going to sing a Sixteenth-Century French piece now,” the conductor told us, “and it’s noisy. It may not be beautiful; it’s – it’s – French.” (Wild applause.)
The Canadian choir sang Gospel music. I like Gospel music, but I have this theory that a predominantly black choir probably performs it better. Also, I like older Gospel music better than contemporary.
This stuff involved as much hip-swinging, hand clapping, moaning, and jumping up and down as singing. There was one piece, composed by the choir’s conductor, which even involved about two minutes of nothing but clapping in a fancy rhythm.
They brought down the house with “O Happy Day”, with the audience singing (and clapping) along. They received two standing ovations.
Afterwards, I told Demetrios I thought Maria’s guiding principle was to maximize beauty, while this other conductor’s was to maximize fun. “To maximize sensation,” he said, meaning sensory experience, “which some people consider fun.” Right.
I called Mom after the concert, early evening her time, to wish her happy Mothers Day. Wendy was there for a couple of days, which pleases me, so I got to speak with her, too. Good to hear voices from home!
Friday, May 15, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009