On Sunday 30 October, Australia's premiere Greek and Jewish choirs, the Australian Hellenic Choir (AHC) and the Sydney Jewish Choral Society (SJCS) united their voices in the Clancy Auditorium at the University of New South Wales, delivering a sold out performance of the extraordinary Ballad of Mauthausen with lyrics by Greek poet Iakovos Kambanellis and music by world acclaimed Greek composer, the late Mikis Theodorakis.
The powerful 4 song cycle performance, a narrative of peace between cultures within a background of the horrors of war, was arranged for the Hellenic Choir by Leon Vitogiannis, AHC’s Music Director.
Mr Vitogiannis arrangements for the choirs were an Australian first. Theodorakis set the 4 poems, written by Iokovos Kambanellis, to music. Kambanellis was a prisoner of war at the Mauthausen concentration camp where, there, he fell in love with a Jewish girl. 20 years after his release he wrote his memoirs of life in the camp.
The Choirs performed to a full house of over 700 people, at the Sir John Clancy Auditorium at the
University of NSW, and to a number of dignitaries, including Archbishop Makarios, Rabbi Dr
Benjamin Elton, the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Mr Ioannis Mallikoutis, The Ethnic Communities Chair, Mr Peter Doukas, Mr Themos Mexis, Music Director of the Metropolitan Choir, Mr Bill Skandallakis, President of AHEPA, and Mr Keven Sumption, CEO of the Jewish Museum.
The concert was a collaboration initiated by Mr James Tsolakis, President of AHC, who worked with
Mrs Anne Spira, Chair of the SJCS to bring this event to life. Sung in Greek by both Choirs with
surtitles in English, the audience was visible shaken by the words. The words in these songs are real
life events filled with both love and the atrocities of war.
The concert concluded with an encore of Giuseppe Verdi’s Va pensiero sung in Italian conducted by
Music Director of the SJCS, Rose Grausman.