George Dalaras Down Under

349327849 244591711551104 5731896115508068586 n

The legendary Greek singer, George Dalaras, has just completed a hugely successful tour in Australia with concerts held in Melbourne and Perth and concluding with an epic concert on 26 May in the iconic and heritage-listed State Theatre in Sydney.

George Dalaras, whose first ever concert down under was in 1980, is arguably one of Greece's most famous singers and performers, with a distinctive voice and embracing various genres of music and folklore from Greece and Asia Minor.

349313907 1433567677461284 7367015497605461881 n
George Dalaras in concert at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney in 1980 (photo by George Vardas)

The historian Ross Thorne once wrote that the State Theatre is a great escapist cinema that has become the “Australian symbol of the great era of the picture place”, presenting patrons with a sequence of spatial experiences from Westminster Gothic through Empire style to the grand opera house types of stairway in the lofty rotunda, through low foyers to the vast, coffered-ceilinged auditorium, lavish with coarse, plaster, period ornamentation, drapes and chandeliers.

349193881 272246161917725 8970220801566145822 n
Image credit: George Vardas

It was therefore only fitting that another iconic artist would grace the stage of this emblematic theatre.

Yannis Maniatakos Prox
Image credit: Yiannis Maniatakos Prox.

The legendary singer, accompanied by two young and emerging singers in Aspasia Stratigou and Alexandros Tzouganakis, son of the well-known Cretan singer, Mihalis Tzouganakis, and an eclectic 10-piece band, captivated the audience with a beautiful array of songs, both traditional and contemporary.  At times the State Theatre also resonated with the beautiful folkloric sounds of the audience singing along with the famous Greek singer and his fellow musicians in melodious harmony.

The audience reacted with passion as they were transported back in time to a Greece that we, of the diaspora, have always loved and will continue to embrace.

349989385 276680391370299 4229138340445794269 n
Image credit: George Vardas

George Dalaras has an abiding love and admiration of the “beautiful country” that is Australia and of the Greek-Australians of the diaspora. As he told an interviewer of the Greek national broadcaster ERT just before his departure for Australia:

"Every time we met - not only on stage as an artist and as an audience - but also with the friends I have made there, they have all but convinced me that Greece is not what we live every day here, with the turmoil we create between us, in our everyday life. Homeland for them is something very powerful, it's a huge piece of mixed things: philosophy, emotions, memory."

At the same time, Dalaras candidly admitted that "sometimes it is difficult to describe your feelings ... it's better, if you can't say them, to speak in song".

And in that regard, George Dalaras did not disappoint. George Dalaras and his band delivered a consummate performance on a stage with brilliant acoustics, great lighting effects, and a resounding Greek ambiance.  Each song was sung with pathos and the audience encouraged to join in.

For this writer, one of the highlights of the concert was a stirring rendition of the composer Yannis Markopoulos' immortal song, Μαλαματένια λόγια (Malamatenia loyia/Golden words):


Another highlight was the song Στα ψηλά τα παραθύρια (Sta Psila Ta Parathiria/ High above the Windows) which was announced by a virtuoso performance by Ilias Mantikos on the kanun (kανονάκι), a traditional Middle Eastern and Greek string instrument in the shape of a trapezoid box, before Dalaras and his band launched into this traditional song:

As the well-known Greek-Australian broadcaster and artist, Christine Gazepis Stavropoulos, wrote:

“That unique and powerful voice of George Dalaras, the impeccable and flawless band, the crystalline voices of Alexandros Tzouganakis and Aspasia Stratigou, transported us on an unforgettable musical journey none wanted to end.”

For another local artist and designer, George Karantonis, who in 2022 performed a dedication “George Dalaras 40 Years” to the legendary singer, it was also an opportunity to meet his artistic mentor in person.

349834853 1308336583054467 913154417068519394 n 2
George Dalaras with Christine Gazepis Stavropoulos and George Karantonis (credit: Christine Gazepis Stavropoulos)

George Dalaras expressed his profound admiration for the achievements of the Greeks of Australia and singled out the impressive Hellenic Museum in Melbourne, which operates in collaboration with the famous Benaki Museum in Athens, as testimony to the flourishing spirit of Hellenism in this country.

He also paid tribute to Sam Pambris of Encore Productions, who promoted the concert (in partnership with the Greek Festival of Sydney), for the seamless organisation of the event.

Dalaras also paused to honour the great conductor, Mikis Theodorakis, who sadly passed away in 2021 and with whom Dalaras worked on many projects.  Mikis' memory remains eternal.

DSC 0600a
Image credit: Vasilis Vasilas
DSC 0756a
Image credit: Vasilis Vasilas

During one of the encores, Dalaras and his group beguiled the audience with another classic and emotive composition by Yannis Markopoulos,  Παραπονεμένα λόγια (Paraponemena loyia/Grieving words), which again saw a spontaneous audience duet with the visiting musicians and artists.

As expected, George Dalaras' feelings for his country and the diaspora were brilliantly expressed in song and music. It was a night to remember with one of Greece's finest sons as the heartbeat of Greek music pulsated within the Gothic splendour of the State Theatre.

349308067 1231532054417878 1448475900357076019 n
Image credit: George Vardas

Until we meet again.


George Vardas is the Arts and Culture Editor

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024