In a certain place in our planet there is a church. And in this church there is a priest. Every evening after all lights are turned off and quietness prevails all around, he gets up to his room, and then, in solitude and serenity, he listens to the one and only music album he possesses. The sounds fill the room and flow out the door and into the church itself…and the priest feels then that he and God are closer to each other…
That album is “Songs for the Months” by Eleftheria Arvanitaki. Twelve songs, as the number of the months, and three short orchestral pieces, two of them are dedicated to the Equinox days. The composer Dimitris Papadimitriou had set music to the work of various poets, beginning with Sappho the poetess from Lesvos, who lived in the 7th century BC, going to the 1920s Kostas Karyotakis and the one who loved him Maria Polidouri, Noble Prize winner Odysseas Elytis, Michalis Ganas, and one folk song.
Here is the opening song by Sappho, and then the song, “The Grievance”, from the cycle:
Here in the middle of the road
time has come to say that
other things are those I love
for other places for other places I set out
Really and not really
I say it and I confess
As if it were another and not me
I marched through life
However much one is careful
However much he chases something
Always always it will be too late
There is no second life
Why “Songs for the Months”? The composer Dimitris Papadimitriou writes that months, not years, are the perception of time to which our experiences, emotions and sentiments are related. Years are chronological units to count time with, no more, he says. Months, however, in their cyclicality, give you the “familiarity of true friends. September will be forever the ‘Grapes Harvester’ and March will be the ‘Flayer’ (because of rapid and extreme weather changes)… and then December with the snowballs… you will sleep with eiderdowns and you will dream August and mackerels and fat months. The months are like statues that watch our steps, observing silently in the squares and main roads of our life… under the same statue every child had passed and now is waiting for the first date. Under another statue he won and then lost a love, a friend. And it was September, yes, September that we were holding umbrellas and the movies were starting… but of what year?
Dimitris says that if we consider months and not years to be the time of the poets and their art, it becomes that a B.C. century poetess can be very close in time to a 20th century one… maybe only one month away… In this way, “poets and musicians, we met in the circle of the months, like children in a garden, at Eleftheria’s garden… we spoke by poems on life, on friends… on love, and we didn’t avoid talking a little about death… fortunately April came then and cut the conversation…”
(Let’s go again to the miracles, press bottom for English subtitles)
I think that this album is a miracle, or rather, a series of miracles. Firstly, in some way it came out of the blue. The year is 1996, a time when setting poems to music had already been unpopular for many years, neglected by creators and performers, as well as by audiences. One can say that the second miracle is that there is no big story behind it. It just happened. Eleftheria heard Papadimitriou’s music to a Karyotakis’ poem and this was the spark that lit the fire. Then came “The Grievance” by Elytis, which the Nobel Prize winner managed to hear short time before his death, and then came another… and another… But the most striking miracle is of course the work itself, with the beautiful lyrical music and splendid orchestration which fits Eleftheria’s voice perfectly, and the magical lyrics; the composer describes them as “pure and clear, significant, simple and explicit”… and above all completeness and the musical balancing of the whole album which gives you a sense of travel on the wave of human emotions to a magic, internal point of the universe in which time has other meaning…
“…And it was all fine and perfect… and Eleftheria began to sing…” and the people loved it… acquiring this album of poems’ music in masses. This was the fourth miracle.
The summer took everything away
“Lianotragoudo”-simple song, with couplets , Lyrics by Mihalis Ganas, in a kind of folk style:
D. Papadimitriou’s sayings are from his notes in the album’s booklet. Thanks to Nata and Shachaf All the video are with English subtitles. You can enlarge the fonts (except in “summer took everything)