NEWTOWN: More than 350 mesmerised audience members, swayed, clapped in time and sang along with internationally-acclaimed Greek singer and musician, Dimitris Basis in his second collaborative concert with Newtown High School of the Performing Arts (NHSPA).
“You are home,” NHSPA Principal Sharon Roberts said to Mr Basis after a standing ovation affirmed the stellar performance on June 8 – her remark summing up the closeness sparked at his first concert with the students in 2019, which had made him a cherished member of the NHSPA family.
Fifty-eight students from the NHSPA orchestra, 37 from the school’s specially formed choral ensemble, and four NHSPA alumni accompanied Mr Basis to pay tribute to 200 years of Greek music and the inspirational musicians that had shaped it.
Other musicians performing on the night included George Doukas (guitar and musical arrangements), Thanasis Pylarinos (bazouki) and Paul Meader (bass guitar), George Karantonis (singer) along with staff members Ynping Mak (choral director), Deborah McGowan (violin) and Philip Podreka (clarinet).
Musical Director Emlyn Lewis-Jones received a warm embrace from Mr Basis who said that, despite their inability to speak each other’s language, the pair had formed a deep connection through their love for and performance of fine music.
Concerts with the talented students and teachers at NHSPA, he said, were firmly embedded in his heart and soul and cherished as career highlights.
Mr Basis’s silky and commanding voice led the audience through 22 songs which charted the history of Greek music over last 200 years and the Greek people’s struggle for freedom and independence from the Ottoman Empire.
The works showcased genres of Smyrneika (19th and 20th Century), Rembetika (turn of the 20th Century to the 1950s), Laika (1960s and ’70s) and more contemporary styles for theatre and cinema.
Renowned Greek artists whose songs featured in the concert included Vasilis Tsitsanis, Manos Hadzidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, Stavros Xarhakos and Dimitris Mitropanos.
Crowd favourites on the night were “Pame Mia Volta Sto Feggari”, “Rosa”, “Zorba” and “Sinefiasmeni Kiriaki”.
An encore of “Spasmeno Kavari” was a rousing finale.
Festival committee member and careers advisor for NHSPA Ula George told the South Sydney Herald that while Covid-19 had disrupted plans for NHSPA musicians to travel to Athens in 2020 to work with Mr Basis and young people studying at the Athenian Conservatoire, the plan had not been forgotten and would be revisited when borders opened and travel was safe again.
“We will ride on the coattails of tonight to give us energy – and do whatever we can to ensure the students get there! Their love of Greek music, so evident tonight, will blossom in its ancient birthplace.”