Symi FestivalSymi Festival 2009 › Looking Back at the 15th Symi Festival 08/10/2009, 22:55

Another Symi Festival has ended, with beautiful performances that kept people entertained during the whole of the month of August. The official premiere on the 1st of August was a concert by Eleni Tsaligopoulou who, together with the composer Giorgos Andreou and the bouzouki player Manolis Karantinis, presented a programme with folk, popular and traditional music. The concert was less high-profile and more business-like compared with other premieres, with Tsaligopoulou singing along with the audience, walking among them or sitting on the edge of the stage, and with subdued lighting and less volume from the speakers.

There were many concerts this year. Christos Dantis excited young and old people alike with his familiar rock sounds in one of the best concerts of this summer. Kaiti Garbi was worshipped from a packed square in Yialos that hadn’t been so crowded in years, though at the end of the concert many were displeased that it had only lasted an hour and a half, leaving some wondering whether such a short concert was worth the amount of money that had been spent. The concert of Giannis Mathes attracted many children (especially young primary school children), but otherwise the number of spectators was less than expected. Maybe this also had to do with the extremely loud speakers that often made watching the concert painful, not only in the square but also in the surrounding bars and restaurants where many were complaining. As we later found out, the volume level had been demanded by the singer himself and, with hindsight, it was maybe something that should have been refused. The speakers were also just as loud during the concert of the band of Kostantinos Matsikas with “Back to Basics” playing mainly rock and heavy metal. Especially when the band’s female singers were on stage, many were wondering whether it was the quality of their voices or the distortion of the sound by the speakers that made it sound so bad. The group Domenica played Greek rock music and entertained the (unfortunately) few spectators at their second appearance at the Symi Festival.

The last big concert was by Mary Linda who excited young and old alike with her songs and her performance. Many from the audience got up and danced, asking for old, favourite songs. However, the concert may be remembered more for the complaints by Ms Linda herself on stage about the quality of the sound. It is true that there was one microphone that wasn’t working and the sound was quite loud, but maybe a professional singer should not have complained continuously to the sound technicians for sounds that she (and nobody in the audience) could hear on stage, with angry stops in the middle of songs while the festival technicians were running up and down trying to satisfy her. Despite this, all seemed fine come the end and she apologised for her “extra word or two” and promised to come again to the most beautiful island in Greece!

There was lots of dancing too in this year’s festival. It started with the “Gastronomic evening” in Horio where dance groups from the Women’s Association of Tsaritsani in the Prefecture of Larissa in the mainland and the Women’s Association of Symi presented traditional dances at the main square in Horio which was transformed into a dance floor with many people dancing for hours. A few days later in Yialos, we admired the young people of Symi and the dance demonstration by the groups of Irene Milonaki who, once again, presented traditional and contemporary dances and a special presentation regarding Giorgos Zambetas. A week later, it was the turn of the Women’s Association of Symi to present traditional dances from the Dodecanese, Asia Minor and Northern Greece accompanied by the band of Mihalis Missos, as always under the brilliant guidance of the president of the association, Sevasti Nikoli. The dance performances ended with traditional dancing from the Cultural Association of Loutsa from the Municipality of Ioannina in the north west of Greece.

In this year’s festival there was also an evening with Cretan music with Kostis Avissinos and his band which unfortunately didn’t attract a lot of people to the square in Horio, lectures, book presentations, a beautiful pre-festival concert by Manolis Karpathios, a wonderful evening in St John’s yard under the August full moon dedicated to the poet Yiannis Ritsos and a theatrical performance by the Symiot Theatre which, as every year, filled the square in Yialos with a “musical” performance that riveted the spectators for 2.5 hours.

Like every year the festival ended with the two-day event dedicated to Peace organised by the Municipality of Symi in collaboration with the Municipality of Datca in Turkey. On the first day, Greek and Turkish swimmers took part in the Peace Swim where swimmers left Symi and Datca at the same time, swam about 5 miles, and met in the middle of the sea to be greeted by applause, hugs and flag-waving in a symbolic and commendable gesture of friendship and peace. Unfortunately, the Greek swimmers were only accompanied by the boat “Triton” with just nine people on board (including the crew), a port police vessel, and later on a small speed boat with the Mayor of Symi and his team, while on the other side there were at least 10 boats with more than 100 people creating a beautiful atmosphere in the middle of the sea. There may, of course, be other (mainly political) reasons why our neighbours take advantage of events such as these, but on the other hand maybe more of us should participate in events such as this, and accompany the swimmers each year. The festivities continued that same evening in Symi and the following in Datca with music and dance from Symiot and Turkish bands.

This year’s festival was a success and proved once again that it is a vital part of Symi’s summer. Many things improved this year such as, for example, the use of fewer plastic chairs, especially in St John’s yard (with visibly fewer “accidents” when they broke in the middle of a performance), daily information about festival events with well-written press releases that were sent to all media, and the Municipal Police who were present at the major concerts at least, trying as much as possible to control or remove the young children that disrupted performances. However, something really needs to be done to stop the annoying and rude (to the artists and spectators) racing of children in front of the stage. Maybe this could be achieved by preventing anyone crossing the square in front of the stage, by using barriers at the two openings on either side…

A retrospective review of the festival should end with the best. Despite the difficulty (and risk) of picking the best performances of this year, if we had three (subjective) awards we would give them as follows: the classical music night by Duo Nota Bene in a packed St John’s Yard that fascinated everyone and proved that classical music has a place in the festival (and hopefully next year there will be more events of such quality), the dance performance by Ballet Tan who danced to Vivaldi, Radiohead, Kraounakis, Spanos and Loizos, the Beatles and Queen in spectacular choreography by Giannis Margaronis, and to the musical performance “The Seas of Kavadias” by the group “Night Government” with the words of the poet Nikos Kavadias.

Until next year…

Christos Byron
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