Feature: Building bridges with music -- Greek symphony orchestra tours China
2020-01-29 18:26 | Xinhua

ATHENS, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Weeks after their China tour, members of Athens Philharmonia Orchestra, a private orchestra aimed at introducing Greek classical music to the world, are still immersed in the unique and unforgettable experiences.

"I was impressed with the excellent concert halls they have created. In most cities they have great concert halls with a capacity of 1,000-1,200 or 2,000. We would envy them in Athens and several European cities," said Nikos Maliaras, founder of the orchestra.

Invited by the Chinese Ministry of Culture, the orchestra performed 11 concerts in 10 cities from the south to the north, in its first major international tour abroad from Dec. 21, 2019 to Jan. 8, 2020.

The program in China included music composed by Greek, European and Chinese composers.

"Every day was a test. Indeed each concert was a challenge to win the audience," said Maliaras, who is also chairman and professor of musicology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.

The professor who visited China for the first time commended local authorities for offering free tickets to Chinese citizens for such cultural events.

The Greek musicians received a warm welcome and had the chance to delve into Chinese music as well, they told Xinhua after returning from the trip.

Flutist Theodora Iordanidou had never performed in a big concert hall like the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where the orchestra gave a performance on New Year's Eve.

"It was a great challenge for musicians, a very big tour, a great feat which does not happen often. I am talking about Greece. Such a step always takes us forward," she said.

"The audience was really interacting with us. They would applaud us, very enthusiastic. When the concerts would end, there were people who would come onto stage to congratulate us," she added.

Michalis Economou, the conductor, said: "For all of us it was a journey of a lifetime. Greek orchestras do not get the opportunity often to go on such great tours. It was a combination of stamina and artistic performance I will never forget. I think that we all emerged stronger from this and we now believe we can do anything."

It was also his first trip to China and Economou was amazed with the connection he felt with Chinese culture.

"This civilization is so ancient like the Greek and indeed Greece and China I believe have so much in common regarding cultural heritage. Undoubtedly, there are so many elements connecting us," he told Xinhua.

For Maliaras, the founder of the orchestra, investment in culture going hand in hand with economic development is the best way forward for all nations.

He founded the orchestra in 2016 with the help of friends like conductor Byron Fidetzis, who serves as artistic director. It is financially supported mainly by a Greek private school.

Fidetzis said he is "convinced that Arts generally are connecting peoples, they are the way of communication between peoples, even when they cannot understand a language. People can get enthusiastic with the same music, they can get emotional with the same piece of music, and therefore it brings people closer. Music always connects."

During the tour, Maliaras signed a Memorandum of Understanding on future cultural exchanges with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, said a press release from the orchestra.

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