The Greek Chamber Music Project Founder Ellie Falaris Ganelin seeks to promote classical compositions rarely performed, as well as a mix of folk and popular Greeks songs presented in a new way.
The project’s goal is to support young artists who perform and record this type of music, and to give worldwide exposure to the music of Greek composers.
Those words may conjure different images to different people, but music of The Greek Chamber Music Project will transport you to another place, and time. For me, it took me seaside. The beautifully arranged pieces bring nostalgic thoughts of Greece. The works mirror life: at once calm and peaceful, then a bit moody, but we’re always brought back to that peaceful, beautiful time. Read on to learn how this project came together.
Ellie Falaris Ganelin
An accomplished flutist, Ellie Falaris Ganelin grew up listening to Greek music with her family. Born and raised in Delaware, she traces her Greek roots to Thessaloniki, and is the first of her family born in the US. Ellie went on to study classical music, and earned double degrees in music and journalism from the University of Maryland. Later Ellie would explore other styles of music, including recording with indie pop band 1959 Hat Company, and appears on the Hearts Intersect EP. She’s also been involved in projects that bring classical music to fun, informal settings, with groups like Opera on Tap and Classical Revolution.
Ellie is also a communications professional, with extensive promotional experience in the healthcare industry, as well as in the performing arts, and with startups. This work, as well as her music, has been very rewarding, but still, something was missing.
“Until the Greek Chamber Music Project, I’d never been able to marry my Greek heritage with my music, and align them on a parallel path. It was my biggest challenge,” Ellie said.
Greek Chamber Music Concerts
Though not of Greek descent, Karen was familiar with this style of music, having performed in a local orchestra that once played music by Greek composer Andreas Makris. She also performed at in the first Greek Chamber Music concert.
Ellie contacted the Department of Modern Greek Studies at University of Michigan, and they enthusiastically co-sponsored the first concerts in Ann Arbor.
Then Ellie and the project relocated to the Washington, DC area. There she met pianist Mary-Victoria Voutsas, who has been integral to the project.
“Mary and I got together, and she immediately said, ‘When can we do a concert?’”
This partnership led to a collaboration with Anna Matijasic Hennessy, a classical violinist with a folkloric style, which Ellie said, translates well to Greek music. The trio came together, and reimagined popular Greel songs, and performed more contemporary classical compositions. Many of the works hadn’t been performed in years, and in some cases, were relatively unknown.
“We played classical works, then changed it up with popular folk songs the audience knew, but arranged in a new style. Many of the classical selections have a folk influence, but are a bit more modern-sounding. We tried to balance the repertoire,” Ellie explained.
Finding the “Lost” Music
She began gathering this difficult-to-find sheet music, directly from living composers, plus at music publisher Philippos Nakas and the Lilian Vourdouri Music Library, an archive of the works of many Greek composers.
“In 2013, I went to Greece. I bought a stack of sheet music. I grabbed whatever I thought might fit what we do, focusing on piano and flute. At Lilian Vourdouri I did some digging. The music isn’t digitized yet; I browsed the stacks. In some cases, this is the only place you can find this music; composers have passed away, and their music is preserved there. The music is hard to find; there isn’t a centralized location for this music, but this place is the closest thing. So I want to promote this for the Greek music circles.”
Hellenic Song: A Musical Migration
After a successful series of concerts, Ellie worked with Mary to capture the magic on CD. Released this past May, “Hellenic Song: Musical Migration”, has been very well-received. A special concert on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center commemorated the release. The concert was free, and it was live-streamed on the Kennedy Center website.
The works of five Greek composers were selected for the CD, including Joseph Benakis, Yannis Constantinidis, Manos Hadjidakis, Vasily Kalafati, and Mikis Theodorakis. Each lived abroad for some time. With performers Ellie and Mary both born to Greek immigrant parents living in the Diaspora, the theme of migration seemed appropriate.
“Mary and Anna added their own diverse influences to these songs, particularly to those by Hadjidakis. The arrangements are a nod to the composer and his cherished songs of the past, and also an outlet to propel the Greek musical tradition forward.”
Each song has something unique, with arrangements modernizing compositions that are more than 50 years old, but with respect to the integrity of the music and the composer.
“People were very excited about the project. We sold a lot of CDs.”
This rendition of Hadjidakis’ Θαλασσα Πλατια (Vast Sea) gives me chills.
A New CD, and More
The next CD from the Greek Chamber Music Project will be released in October, and will be commemorated with a concert at the Kennedy Center on October 21. Live stream the concert. Titled “The Moon is Red: A Tribute to Manos Hadjidakis,” it will feature piano works as well as Laika songs, arranged in a new style. Piano, violin, and flute will accompany the vocals.
“I’d love to work with some composers on original music. I’m more of a performer than a composer. I’d love to commission some new work, to support young artists. I hope that Greek American musicians are inspired to produce their own projects with Greek music; I hope to support then in some way. This is why I started the record label, and to help artists to record, distribute, and promote their music.”