Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society Newsletter
|PDF version of newsletter|
|Previous issues of Lyra|
|Orpheus Youth: Passing on the Torch of Tradition and Culture|
|Orpheus joins the Chicago Hellenic Choir in Spring Recital|
|Youth Group Musicians Take the Stage|
|Happy 18th Birthday Orpheus!|
|Spotlight on Orpheus Youth Dancer|
Orpheus Takes Greece by Storm... Again!
by Effie Tsaltas
Question: Where can one go to swim in the blue waters of the
Mediterranean, enjoy a tasty honey and sesame pasteli and frolic among
the olive trees?
Answer: The beautiful city of Kalamata, Greece!
Kalamata is home to some of the most stunning beaches, magnificent scenery, and centuries old traditions and history. Soon it will be filled with almost two hundred Orpheans and their families, proudly wearing their specially designed lime green attire, enjoying everything Kalamata and the surrounding towns have to offer.
The last time Orpheus made the journey to Greece was in 1997. That summer, the troupe participated in the 51st Pan-Macedonian Convention of the U.S. and
Canada. A few months later, Orpheus returned to Greece, representing the U.S. at the First Festival of Greek Artists Abroad at the annual Athens Festival.
Highlights from these trips included visiting various museums and archeological sites, a reception at the Governor’s mansion in Thessaloniki, and the rare
opportunity to perform at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theater.
This summer, Orpheus looks forward to surpassing those experiences as many of its members and their families make their way back to Greece.
This time the destination will be Kalamata, the capital city of Messinia, located in the southern part of the Peloponnese. “Kalamata was chosen as the destination
for our trip because many of our members are from that Kalamata and the Peloponnese. This offers the opportunity for many of our members to participate and for their relatives to attend the performances”, says Orpheus president Yannis Economou. The itinerary includes performances in the town of Finikounda, ancient
Messini and at the famous Kastro Amphitheater in Kalamata, as well as dance workshops with the Kalamata Branch of the Lykeion Dance Group.
Orpheus is excited to have choral instructor Eftihia Papageorgiou and members of her Chicago Hellenic Choir joining us on this trip. For over two years, Orpheus
has been working with Eftihia, practicing and presenting a variety of traditional and modern Greek songs, adding another dimension to the dance troupe. Under
Eftihia’s direction, the troupe will perform selections such as “Thalassaki Mou”, “Ston Afro Tis Thalassas”, “Gerakina” and Orpheus’ signature piece, “Tora Pou
Pas Stin Ksenitia”. Yannis Economou observes, “The collaboration for the trip to Greece comes at a good time as it will enhance our presentations there…
Eftihia has added many interesting elements to the folk songs that we are presenting during our program.”
Of course hard work merits some much deserved play time, and there are plenty of adventures waiting for Orpheus members and their families.
The city of Kalamata offers endless opportunities for shopping, dining, a hopping night life and some guaranteed fun in the sun. The excursion agenda includes
visits to natural wonder sites, archaeological sites and, of course, fabulous beaches.
Ancient Messini, near the town of Mavrommati, is another important archeological discovery as Spartans, Athenians and Romans left their mark on this fallen city.
In addition to the theater, stadium, agora and the Arcadian Double Gate, scientists tell us there is still much more to Messini. It is an archaeological work in progress, as excavators are still uncovering sculptures, inscriptions and pottery, learning more and more about the lives of our ancestors.
A few hours drive into Mani, the Diros Caves are a stunning and geologically significant natural wonder. The Paleolithic and Neolithic artifacts found in the caves
led scientists to believe the caves were one of the earliest inhabited places in Greece. The awesome, endless rows of stalagmites and stalactites adorning the caves in the underground waterways are something few people get to experience.
Also in Mani, along the foothills of Taygetos Mountain are the beaches of Stoupa. Known for sandy beaches and clear waters, Stoupa is a favorite destination for
natives and foreigners alike. Besides swimming, visitors can go boating, fishing, hiking, shopping, or simply dine and relax with friends while enjoying the
Principal Instructor Kostas Economou comments on the significance of this trip: “Going to perform in Greece is like ‘completing the cycle’ of what Orpheus’
mission and goal is. All of us feel a special pride that we will have the chance to showcase Hellenic traditions in our homeland.” He continues, “Hopefully it will
instill in all of us a sense of pride, achievement, and camaraderie. It will bring us closer to our traditions and customs, and provide us with strength to continue with
the same zeal in the years to come.”
Performing in Greece means something different to all involved. Arguably, the most resonant theme is the sense of immense pride the performers and their families
are experiencing. Youth Group Coordinator Bessie Grosso and her family will be performing in Finikounda, near her mother’s home town of Lahanatha. Like many
of our ancestors, Bessie’s mother left Greece decades ago and made the long, difficult journey to Chicago in search of a better life for her and her family. Now
history comes “full circle” as Bessie and her family will be back performing in the region her mother once called home. “I am going to dance like never before and
be proud of who I am and proud of everyone coming. Meet me in Kalamata on July 23rd and don’t forget your fousta, shoes, and of course your bathing suit…I
don’t think Kalamata will ever forget us!”
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The Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society’s end of the year youth event
demonstrated once again that traditions of Greek song and dance are
flourishing in the
Chicagoland area. As guest speaker Dr. Angelyn K. Balodimas-Bartolomei, associate professor in the School of Education at North Park University, vividly
described the historical background of Greek dance through the ages, she noted “…dancing is divine in nature and is the gift of the gods…given to some select
mortals, who in turn taught their dancing to fellow men and women”. Indeed, these gifts have been passed down through all levels of OHFS’ youth group.
One of the highlights at this year’s performance was the use of live music played by youth members. Using the toumbeleki and violins, Paul Grosso, Izaki Metropoulos, and Katerina Economou performed “Mes tou Aigaiou ta Nisia” (Issios from Kalymnos) and “Ksekina Mia Psaropoula,” a Kalamatiano in the island style syrto. This new element of live music, along with choral instruction, will continue to be developed within the youth group, thus propagating yet another
cultural tradition valued by the ancient Greeks.
Youth from three levels of experience performed dances from Chios, Thraki, and Northern Greece. Opening the celebration, accompanied by Izaki on violin and Paul on toumbeleki, the youngest group danced and sang “Ksenitemeno mou Pouli,” an immigration-themed folk song. Next, they traveled to the eastern Aegean, stopping by the island of Chios, known for its epic poets. Youth members skillfully demonstrated their knowledge of Greece’s geography as each dance was introduced. Keeping the history and dances alive and well, members performed Pyrgousikos from Chios and Thracian dances Xysyrtos, Dentritsi, and Mantilatos.
Following the fresh talents of the youngest dancers, the intermediate group brought family and friends back to Northern Greece, performing dances from Macedonia, Epiros, and Thraki. Raikos, Dimitroula, and Kori Eleni challenged performers with rare time signatures and step variations from Macedonia, as did Karsilamas, a dance performed in couples, from Thrace, and Zagorisios, a popular dance from Epiros.
Proud to introduce the highest level of youth accomplishment, 27 youth, including 10 graduates who already augment the adult group in community performances, presented a Thracian suite including Sygathistos Syrtos, Mantilatos, Koulouriastos, and Sihtir Havasi. With the quick tempos and energetic leaders in each of these dances, the audience responded with equal enthusiasm and pride.
Throughout the event, youth members reflected on their own personal discovery of Greek music and dance traditions (speeches may be found at ohfs.org in their
entirety.) From the first Palamakia danced, to the more complicated Pentozalis, Connie discovered that Greek dance not only allows self-expression, but also
strengthens her bond to the Greek community. Connie has danced and performed with the youth for the past 5 years and is graduating to the adult group.
Another five-year veteran and graduate, Zacharias, stated, “I suddenly realized that I had left the minors and joined the pros. I realized that there is more to Greek
dancing than Kalamatiano.” Performing for others is one thing, but Zach reflected on his love of Greek dance for its own exhilaration. He shared, “I will
never forget the first Vasilopita party where my friends and I danced together for hours, not for an audience, but for ourselves.”
Katerina expressed gratitude toward her instructors and friends for sharing themselves and their culture. She will also be joining the adult group and shared, “I am ecstatic to begin the adult group, knowing that it will be just as wonderful as the youth group. It has been a large stepping stone in my life, and I will never forget
what I’ve learned and who I’ve met.”
Finally, although Alexander has been performing in the community for some time, this year he achieved a level of dance skill and expression that moved him to the
front of the robust Orpheus Tsamiko. He developed not only an individual style, but also a greater connection to his Orpheus friends. The assertion of an identity
that is both unique and cultural, is the odyssey of every young Greek-American, whether the dancer joins the line at the end, the middle, or performs tsalimia at the
Similar to the Orpheus youth reflections, Dr. Balodimas-Bartolomei’s professional observations of both Greek and non-Greek cultures described dance as a celebration which allows one to express their feelings and traditions. She noted that “…it is good for both the body and mind (the same thing that our Greek philosophers believed); children need to learn ethnic dances so they won’t forget our culture; they will learn who they are and where they came from.” She further emphasized that their “participation ensures that our beautiful Greek dancing and traditions will continue to be passed on to other generations.” Indeed, this is the torch of tradition and culture that is being passed on to each youth member while they are a part of the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society.
The event concluded with the presentation of the “Dina Sianis Merit Awards”. This was the second year awards were given to several graduating youth members that exhibited an extraordinary sense of dedication during their years with the youth group. The awards honor the late Mrs. Dina Sianis who was a cherished and enthusiastic supporter of Hellenic culture, especially in the folk arts and crafts. She was involved in many causes, but one of her favorites was assisting the Orpheus Dance Troupe. Members of the Sianis family attended the event and Dr. George Sianis presented the awards and congratulated the recipients as well as
all of the youth members.
The Orpheus Youth Group concluded the 2006-07 year with another successful event and demonstrated their great potential for the future as guardians of Hellenic
Following are the speeches that four Youth members gave during the End of the Year celebration
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Orpheus joins the Chicago Hellenic Choir
in Spring Recital
For the second year in a row, members of Orpheus performed with the
Chicago Hellenic Choir during their Spring Recital at Northside College
School in Chicago. Under the direction of Eftihia Papageorgiou, members
sang popular works of Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hatzidakis, two of
greatest modern composers whose works are considered classics in Greece.
The repertoire included “Tora Pou Pas Stin Ksenitia” (Now that you Leave
Foreign Land), “Odos Oneiron” (Street of Dreams), and other famous
contemporary pieces. The acoustics of the beautiful auditorium were
remarkable and the audience was appreciative.
During the intense practices for the recital, some of the singers seemed more familiar with the Greek language than others. Due to regional dialects, even
“old-country” veterans came across a few expressions they had never heard before. Beginning Greek singers tried, through many repetitions, to begin lyrics with “ks” and “ts” sounds, which are virtually unheard of at the beginning of English words. For some members, having Hellenic roots seem to provide new and
challenging situations which always prove to be worthwhile no matter how difficult. One thing is certain: it’s never too early or too late to appreciate the gifts of the
Ms. Papageorgiou established the Chicago Hellenic Choir in 2004. It is a program offered by the Odeion School of Music. The Chicago Hellenic Choir consists of a junior group, a youth group, and an adult group. The choir performs its repertoire at two annual recitals, a winter and spring recital, during which the different groups perform both individually and jointly.
The opportunity for both groups to sing together again will present itself this summer in Greece. Over 80 members with their families from both Orpheus and the Chicago Hellenic Choir will embark on a weeklong tour of Messinia. The Spring Recital served as a good practice run for the program in Greece. Both folk and modern songs have been added to the already impressive program, which is sure to please everyone.
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|Youth Group Musicians Take the Stage|
voice is the soul of music, its heart is musical accompaniment. This
year musicians have begun giving a live vibe to Orpheus youth
performances. Under the direction of adult members and other volunteers
skilled with instruments, the youth group musicians have been practicing
a variety of Greek folk songs and dances in order to convey an authentic
experience not only to the audience but the dancers as well. They have
been studying especially hard these last few weeks sincethey will
complement the series of performances in Greece this summer. The
ensemble consists of Katerina, Christina and Izaki on the violin while
Paul keeps the beat on the toumbeleki.
Katerina is eleven years old and has been studying violin for seven years. Her father, Yiannis, is one of the lead dance instructors of Orpheus. Her father’s family
is from Thessaloniki and Athens while her mother’s family is from Cuba. She speaks English, Greek and Spanish. Katerina visits Greece every year, where she
spends time on the islands of Paros and Thasos.
Izaki is also eleven and has been playing since he was five. His yiayia is from Neda in Messenia and his papou is from Vasta in Arkadia. Izaki especially enjoys
playing Ikariotikos on the violin. He also studies American fiddle and Western classical violin; he has been practicing “Swinging Fiddles” and Vivaldi’s “Four
Seasons.” His trills and ornamentation add maturity and depth to his performance. His favorite pieces are from the Greek islands because of their flow and speed.
Izaki says, “I really liked how it sounded. This year I started listening to that really fast Greek music.” He also digs deep into the strings for Pentozalis and a Sousta
Christina, sixteen has been playing the violin since she was 4. She also plays the piano and sings. Christina says, "It's fun to try different songs you thought you
couldn’t play" such as the theme to Star Wars and Cretan music.
Christina's brother Paul, fourteen, plays toumbeleki, bouzouki, and violin. This trip to Kalamata is in essence a return “home” for Paul since most of his maternal
family is from Messinia. Paul’s mother Bessie is also a dance teacher for Orpheus. This is Paul’s seventh journey to Greece.
Having live musical accompaniment not only provides a new appreciation of the culture, it also makes the dances and songs more enjoyable and meaningful.
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The definition of "odyssey" given in the dictionary is "an intellectual
or spiritual wandering or quest." Many Orpheans will be doing just that
this summer as they
journey to Kalamata to visit their parents’ homes to strengthen their roots by practicing the Greek language and participating in folk dances and songs. Several sets of teenage siblings are among these travelers.
Connie and Jamie’s family is from the village Kerasea just outside Tripolis. They learned Greek at the Athena Greek School and from their parents. The sisters
look forward to seeing their cousins in Glyfada and Tripolis, where they enjoy strolling the platia to shop, eat ice cream and drink coffee. This will be their third
journey, and they are looking forward to seeing the Kalamata Branch of the Lykeion Dance Group and learning dances from them. From past odysseys, Jamie’s favorite site was Agamemnon’s Tomb in Mycenae.
Dean and his sister Vicky have graduated to the adult performing group. Their father is from Kalavrita and their mother from Argos. Dean is looking forward to
seeing his cousins. He attended Athena and the Hellenic American Academy, where he learned Greek. Dean says, “It’s important to know where you’re from,
to know about yourself and who you are.” He wants to see the Parthenon and theaters but is looking forward to exploring how modern Kalavrita has become. "At night everyone is out eating at the local restaurants and walking up and down the streets with their friends," Dean says. He has been dancing with Orpheus for five years, and his favorite dance is Tsestos. Vicky’s favorite dance is Ikariotikos, and her favorite song is “Tora Pou Pas Stin Ksenitia” in which she sings alto. “It’s
our signature song,” she says, and she enjoys how the the soprano and alto parts come together.
Peter and Spiros’s parents are from Ahladokambos and Ayios Vassillis near Tripolis. The boys speak Greek at home and started dancing in Greek school at St. John the Baptist church in Des Plaines. Peter is front man in the adult group’s Tsamiko, and “Enas Aetos” (An Eagle) is his favorite Tsamiko. Peter says, “We’re looking forward to the trip to Greece because the trip is going to be amazing, but you can’t enjoy it without the surroundings: the people from Orpheus will make it a trip you will never forget. I’m looking forward to the paniyiria afterward, swimming at the beach, hanging with my friends and doing what we love to do.” His favorite historical site is Thermopylae.
Catherine and Christina, whose grandmother is from Lahanada near Finikouda, Messinia, look forward to parasailing, enjoying authentic Greek cooking, shopping, going out at night, getting a tan, and making new friends. Catherine’s favorite historical site is Knossos, the Minoan civilization in ancient Crete. Catherine and
Christina love the Cretan dance Pentozalis.
This is the second trip to Greece for Felicia and her sister Maria. Felicia wants to site-see the villages, especially Perdikovrisi near Tripolis.
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|Happy 18th Birthday Orpheus!|
the Orpheus Dance Troupe was a person, then it would be eligible to
vote! Yes, Orpheus turned 18 years old this past May! During its
“infancy” and “toddler
years”, Orpheus faced a tremendous challenge as it began to establish itself as a new and upcoming cultural program within the Hellenic community. Since that
time, Orpheus matured into a flourishing organization that has been recognized for its quality, commitment and character.
As Orpheus members gathered to blow out the candles that were placed on a delicious birthday cake, it was almost impossible not to think of all the
accomplishments that have been attained over the last 18 years. But as Orpheus approaches its “adult” years, the challenges remain the same. What does the
future hold and how can Orpheus plan for long-term growth and survival? Maintaining and promoting the strengths of the group and strategizing for the next 18 years remains an exciting challenge.
It has been very rewarding to see so many Greek American youngsters join the group and watch their appreciation and attitude grow in a positive way, with
respect to their Hellenic culture. A new window of opportunity to look at the land of their parents and grandparents is offered to them, and they like what they see!
The days where parents had to drag their youngsters to participate in Greek-related activities are long gone, and now the dance floor instantly fills with youth,
dancing to the sounds of Pyrgousikos, Pentozalis, Pousnitsa and Mantilatos. Somehow the map of Greece no longer looks the same! A different sense of familiarity and belonging has appeared through the myriad of dances that are learned from each region of Greece. There is no better way to celebrate a birthday, other than taking a group trip to Greece!
Happy Birthday Orpheus!
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|Spotlight on Orpheus Dancer...|
Northern Chicago Suburbs
My mother was born and raised in Zimbabwe, though her parents came from Athens, Greece, and my father and his family are from Tripoli, Greece.
|Time Dancing with Orpheus Group:|
|Thoughts on Dancing:|
I really cannot choose one dance because I love them all, but if I had to choose I would have to pick Ikariotikos because it is such a lively dance.
|Most Vivid OHFS Memory:|
My most vivid memory with Orpheus was when the group participated in the Folk Dance Festival in San Diego, California in February of 2006. While we were backstage waiting to enter for our performance, we put our hands together in a huddle and whispered 'good luck' to each another. Although this moment does not involve any singing or dancing, it has been instilled in me because of the immense amount of love and support I felt from the group at that moment. This same feeling is always present in the Orpheus group and it is what makes dancing here such an enjoyable experience.
|Favorite Greek Dish:|
|Favorite Place in Greece:|
Since I have never visited Greece, I cannot choose a favorite place just yet. This will be my first summer in Greece and I am very excited because I have heard wonderful things about how beautiful Greece really is!
I enjoy singing, playing the piano, and volleyball.
|Nobody knows I:|
Love playing volleyball
|Best Childhood Memory:|
My favorite childhood
memory would have to be going to my grandma’s house after Easter every year
and having the whole family together.
|Dream vacation/the perfect weekend:|
My dream vacation would be
taking a 16-hour road trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with my family
where we spend many summer vacations.
|Someone I'd like to meet:|
I would love to meet
William Faulkner, who wrote one of my favorite books, The Sound and
|Favorite building/spot in Chicago:|
One of my favorite spots in Chicago is Michigan Avenue because it always
makes me feel so lively since there are so many people walking around. I
also enjoy visiting Millennium Park because it is a one of a kind
attraction that is unique to the city of Chicago.
|I'm currently looking for/forward to:|
I am very excited to have this once in a lifetime opportunity to perform
with the Orpheus group in Kalamata this summer. I know it is going to be
an unforgettable experience for everyone!
|I stay home to watch:|
“I Love Lucy” reruns
My first pair of ballet slippers when I was three years old.
|Where I heard about Orpheus Dance Troupe:|
Friends that I had in the group encouraged me to come and the rest is history!
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01/02/2013 10:21 AM