4, December 2012 § Leave a comment
23, April 2012 § Leave a comment
Michael Butler, curator of the Sidney Cooper Gallery at Canterbury Christ Church College in Canterbury, England recently visited Greece and dropped by the Aegean Center. Traveling with his wife, Claire, they felt the need for some sunshine and came to renew their acquaintance with the landscape which Michael had backpacked through many years ago. Michael was introduced to John Pack when the exhibit, The Greater Journey, with John’s photographs and poetry by Peter Abbs, was hosted by the Sidney Cooper Gallery in 2008.
We urged Michael to give us a short talk on whatever topic he wished. We were treated to an abbreviated summary of his career choices (as a youth he sang with Benjamin Britten), an inventory of suggestions for artists when approaching a gallery, and a lovely song which he adapted from Purcell’s Fairest Isle and to which he wrote new words reflecting his Paros stay. He sang this a cappella in a lovely high baritone. We include his lyrics here:
All dreams excelling
Source of beauties
And of love.
The Gods’ own blessings
Fell upon it
Crowned with glories
Wreathed in light.
Artemis and Apollo’s
With statues bold.
Speak of times where
Chimed in union
With this world.
His best advice: your CV is not a list of what you have done but an invitation to live fully and fill in the blank spaces as you go.
Thank you, Mike.
– Jane Pack
22, May 2011 § Leave a comment
“And yet, Courage is me, courage friend! The world is lovely, and not at all fearful to the bold man. What then is music? Music is a sacred art which brings together all varieties of courage like cherubim around a shining throne, and for that reason it is the most holy among the arts.”
Courage. When one thinks of courage, the picture is usually of a hero going into battle, a knight, a policeman, James Bond, swords, guns, knives. Courage to me is a brush, a pen, a voice that breaks the silence, the click of a shutter, an empty canvas with endless possibilities. When I think of courage I think of people who follow their dreams, even if the path might be a little unorthodox. The Aegean Center is a haven for these people. To be part of the Aegean Center is to be surrounded by people who ride on the shoulders of Hope and reach their goals by these means, a great family of optimists who add color, depth and meaning to this world. People who create, and those who encourage creation. These are the heroes in this world.
It is in homage to the creators, to the dreamers, to every student and faculty member who has ever been a part of the Aegean Center, to every person who strives to add beauty to this world, not because he hopes to be acknowledged and praised, but because he can no more imagine a world without art and music, than a world without light or air, that I offer this concert as a gift of deepest gratitude from the bottom of my heart.
I have selected the music based on texts which I felt best illustrated the connection between the art forms, which at times seems almost cyclical, even eternal. Because my gift is music, I open the concert with the composer’s aria from Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss from which the above quote is taken. The Poulenc Le travail du peintre (The works of the painter) with texts by Paul Éluard illustrates the connection between painting and poetry, and poetry and music. The Respighi songs with texts by Antonio Rubino illustrate how one can see art and hear music in life and in nature, and how each sound, color and smell contributes to the music of our lives. The Jake Heggie song cycle, Statuesque, talks about life from the points of view of five different sculptures, and what they might feel when they are being gawked at by people who have little time to truly see them, only to admire their beauty with fleeting glances, and “What a Movie!” from Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti,” is, in the context of the opera, a piece about an unhappy woman’s escape into one of America’s most popular art forms, film.
The entire process of planning, organizing, researching and rehearsing this concert has been painstaking and tiresome, but in the end so very enjoyable. This is a chance I have been given to truly express unbridled joy for an art-form I find practical, necessary, and essential for the survival of a truly wonderful world. Thank you to John and Jane Pack, Jeffrey and Liz Carson, Orfeas, Jun-Pierre and the Aegean Center for helping me make this concert a reality. Courage is in me! Courage, friend! And I owe a very large part of that courage to the time I have been fortunate enough to spend at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts in Paros, Greece.
Thus begins new life, and I for one cannot wait.
3, November 2009 § Leave a comment
My name is Stephanie Dissette, and I’m here at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts this semester to study with the vocal ensemble. I’m also studying painting, drawing, art history, photo history, writing and literature.
I met Orfeas the day I arrived in Italy to join the program. I was incredibly excited but a bit intimidated by this man who knew more about music than anyone I had ever met. I went to a really competitive high school, even within the music program, and so even though I have a great base knowledge in vocal music, I know that there is still so much to learn, especially from Orfeas, who is so well educated in many different kinds of vocal music.
I am one of three students involved in the singing program, not counting the Parian residents in the ensemble, most of whom are originally from elsewhere in Greece or from other countries including Germany, England and Holland.The environment in the studio the first day we all sang together on Paros really impressed me. I’m used to a bit of tension, maybe even a competitive edge, but this group made me feel immediately comfortable and just happy to be singing. Within a couple of rehearsals, I was already able to joke and talk with the other members and trust them, as they trusted me, with questions about the music.
The other students and I are the youngest of the group so it’s been really nice to learn from the more mature sound of the older, more experienced members. I’m really impressed that they are able to dedicate themselves to singing even with all the pressures of their everyday lives, at work and at home. I hope to one day follow in that tradition. I also really appreciate having two of my teachers in the ensemble, Jane Pack and Jun-Pierre Shiozawa. It’s been a unique way to get to know them in another environment, something that not all the students here get to do.
23, April 2009 § Leave a comment
“Melody is the golden thread running through the maze of tones by which the ear is guided and the heart reached.” – Anonymous
The journey began in Italy during the fall of 2008. Then followed a blur of training, technique exercises, rehearsals, foreign languages, music notes and performances! It is now springtime in Paros, Greece, 2009 and it’s all coming back to me.
This past fall I had the opportunity to sing with The Aegean Center’s Vocal Ensemble and had an incredible experience performing on the island with fellow students and a number of locals (including John Pack’s lovely assistant, Stella Skordalellis). This spring I am back to singing with the ensemble and am also taking individual vocal training with Orpheas John Munsey, the ensemble’s director. This means that not only do I have a handful of choir concerts to perform at the end of the semester, but there will also be a solo concert in which I will be performing two baroque arias (Marco Antonio Cesti’s “Tu Mancavi a Tormentarmi”, and a gorgeous Handel aria), and three Francis Poulenc pieces (“La Reine de Coeur”, “Montparnasse” and “Hyde Park”). All are very different in feel.
The Handel piece is exquisite and wonderful to sing, but takes much technique and support “from the gorilla!” as Orpheas tells me. By this he means to sing higher notes from the lower half of the body – to get grounded in that primitive, muscular half of our form and allow its strength to support the air and diaphragm as notes jump up and down. So began the process of being trained to effortlessly and automatically draw from that incredible support when I sing.
It started with a heavy metal folding chair: as I approached a high note I was having difficulty supporting, I was instructed to slowly raise the chair with my arms out in front of me until it was at its highest point as I hit the highest note. This process engages abdominal muscles and forces these muscles and the diaphragm to work together to support the air that produces sound, my sound, a sound that, with the help of a chair, miraculously, became much easier and free flowing.
Another similar technique I was introduced to, one which I prefer, is even more entertaining. I place a pillow between my knees (this sounds interesting, no?) and as that familiar high note approaches I squeeze the pillow as hard as I can, really engaging the powerful, supportive lower half, and out comes a beautiful sound – a note that flows from the toes and effortlessly fills the room.
Physical technique issues aside, I have also discovered other, more artistic difficulties – the expression of the music itself. Once the technique is there, what’s left is the interpretation of the music and lyrics and the task of conveying to an audience the emotion and feel of a piece. Each song is like a piece of theatre and a new character has to be embodied and expressed accurately with feeling.
As I mentioned before, the Handel aria is an exquisitely beautiful piece, but it is also quite difficult. Singing gorgeously the praises of love, this piece requires a great deal of support – I think this song is the reason for that pillow – and resonance. Down right screechy at first, I’ve now managed to get the sound to seem more natural and supported, but a lot more work is needed before I will be able to do the composer any justice at all come May.
The gorgeous “Tu Mancavi a Tormentarmi” is a lament sung by a haunted and heartbroken woman. It’s a challenge technique and performance-wise (the pillow often comes into play here!)
“La Reine de Couer” is smooth and sultry, and is a lot of fun, though not easy, to sing. The text is a french poem by Maurice Careme and Poulenc has beautifully interpreted its calm, seductive feel. My challenge lies in giving colour to the text and the higher notes as well as maintaining breath through the phrases.
“Montparnasse” is an imaginative, almost dreamy poem by Guillaume Apollinaire and is the longest of the Poulenc pieces. It is very artful, full of odd dynamics and phrasing such as building up to a high note, only to pull way back at the last moment to sing as softly as possible.
“Hyde Park”. Honestly, it’s crazy. At about two and a half seconds long, it is probably the most difficult piece I have, seeing as the vocal line, full of odd, jumping notes, tends to go where ever it likes while the piano does its own thing underneath, all at a breakneck pace. Another poem from Apollinaire, it’s supposed to remind one of a bustling street: cars driving and honking, people walking briskly about. Well, Mr. Poulenc, success.
With only about two months or so to performance time, I’m feeling the pressure and believe it’s time to get to some serious business. To be honest, I feel like I have a lot to do on every single piece I have and it’s a bit overwhelming at times, but I try to remember that this is why I am here, why we are all here at the Aegean Center – to be pushed to grow and learn. As anxious as I am about that night in late May, I am also very excited, excited to finally see all the hard work pay off and to be back here on Paros, doing what I love.
23, January 2009 § Leave a comment
I am thrilled to finally report on the Aegean Center Benefit Concert held in Los Angeles in June 2008. To share my experience of the Center with nearly 200 attendees through song was an incredible gift. The event raised just short of $10,000 for the Center and helped launch the Aegean Endowment Fund. One of the many surprises that afternoon was the presence of Marc Novak, a former student from the early 80s!
Here is a review of the June Benefit Concert published in the Hellenic Journal:
…the Greek community was recently treated to an afternoon of beautiful music, a generous reception in a warm and friendly atmosphere. The venue was the venerable Wilshire Ebell Theater and the occasion was a musical benefit for the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts on the island of Paros. Maria-Elena Kolovos, who had studied for two [terms] at the Center, presented a program of songs from Monteverdi to Villa-Lobos which show her range, pure clear soprano voice and understanding and love of the music. Four Greek songs completed the program but not before her father, George Kolovos, came up on stage to join in the final song and show his joy in dance. The audience was delighted!
If you would be interested in holding an event to benefit the Center, please email me at mekolovos at gmail dot com. I am happy to share ideas or assist in any way.