CREDO for baritone, two or three background male vocalists and orchestra (1 flute, 1 flute/piccolo, 1 oboe, 1 English horn, 1 clarinet in B-flat, 1 bass clarinet, 1 bassoon, 1 contrabassoon, 4 French horns in F, 2 trumpets in C, 1 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, 1 tuba, 4 percussion, 1 harp, strings: 8, 6, 4, 4, 2 (or more). Text: The Nicene Creed (in Hellenistic Greek). Commissioned by the Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church, Roslyn Heights, New York for baritone George Dalaras. Duration 10:30 minutes. Available from  PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.

SYMBOL OF FAITH for baritone, two background male vocalists and piano. (same text and music as Credo). Available from  PROMETHEAN EDITIONS.


Credo for baritone and orchestra is the fulfillment of a life-long dream: to have the opportunity to musically collaborate with George Dalaras, one of my favorite Greek pop singers, on a classical composition written especially for his voice. Arguably, George Dalaras is the one Greek artist whose singing career is inexorably connected with the history of Greece of the past forty years. I first heard his songs while still a young man growing up in Greece during the repressive junta years and have kept in touch with his music for many years ever since. It is not an exaggeration to say that for all this time I had almost constantly the voice of Dalaras in my ears. During the sixties and seventies, most of Greece's folk/pop songwriters wrote their best songs for him. Ten years later, Dalaras pioneered all the new trends in Greek popular music, reaching at his peek stadium attendances of as many as 160,000 people for a single event and over 13,000,000 CD sales, an all-time record for Greek music, unsurpassed before or since. His musical tastes have encompassed various genres, such as rebetiko (Greek Asia-Minor blues), folk, pop, Latin, and rock, resulting in collaborations with internationally renowned artists, such as Sting, Paco de Lucia, Al di Meola and others, almost annual north American and European tours and, more recently, prestigious invitations by international luminaries such as Nelson Mandela, who asked Dalaras to sing for his birthday in South Africa, and His Grace, the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Having been introduced by our mutual friend, NY-based producer Kosta Kantzoglou, George and I have known each other for quite a few years but our worlds were so geographically and stylistically different that the possibility for collaboration did not present itself until 2009. Kosta was asked by the Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church at Roslyn Heights, New York, to produce a concert at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center in November 2010 and he in turn asked George and me to be the featured artists. I asked CityMusic Cleveland, a wonderful young orchestra with whom I had worked in the fall of 2009 on a different project to join us in New York City for this event. The concert, a fundraiser for a Greek Orthodox cause, connected us thematically: most of my music of the past three decades is based on religious themes and George, a supporter of Hellenic causes around the world, has in recent years publicly acknowledged religion as a strong contributor to Greek identity, particularly in North America. My own approach to my faith is trans-national, albeit deeply Christian, and seeks to define a wider human identity but, having been born and raised in Greece, I am deeply aware of the struggles of that country and its people which are continuing in our days. I thought, therefore, that the Nicene Creed could serve as a connecting thread between our individual journeys as artists and human beings.

I cannot think of any other text in the past two millennia which has been more influential in the forming and determining of European intellectual history than the Nicene Creed. It has defined the Christian faith from A.D. 325 to our days; wars were fought over it; heresies and schisms caused its wording or were caused by it; it has been the epicenter—the ground zero—of a belief system which has shaken the world and has indelibly influenced western civilization as we understand it. It is a difficult text to set to music: its language is more legalistic than poetic and it is meant to be spoken by a congregation of faithful, not sung. There are several settings of it within the musical traditions of western Christianity, but in the Eastern churches (and to the best of my knowledge) it has never been set to music before, so this setting in Greek will likely have a startling effect on Greek listeners. The Creed and the Lord's Prayer are probably the two texts that every Christian knows by heart, and can follow them easily in a sung rendition. It is also a text which has been invested with such pronounced psychological and emotional energy over the centuries that, in a proper setting, it would feel right when set to music: in the minds and hearts of the faithful, it already possesses poetic overtones. In composing the music, I was constantly mindful of the profound meaning and theological significance of the text but also of George Dalaras' idiosyncratic vocal timbre and technique which have defined him as a singer. Almost the entire vocal line (its melodic turns, ornamentation and cadence) feels as if it is something right out of Dalaras' existing repertory—this is how deeply his voice has permeated my ears and understanding of Greek rebetiko song. I wanted to write this composition for him and, in a sense, offer back to him the songs that he has given us (my generation) all these years. The vocal writing is prosodic, following closely the rhythmic and melodic profile of the spoken text and its syntax, in a style which in Greece is known as entechno laiko ("art popular"). The rhythmic pulse, not withstanding frequent departures, is in the easily recognizable 9/2 meter of zeibekiko, a popular dance in Greece. Conversely, the orchestral writing travels a great distance, constantly commenting on the vocal writing but often juxtaposing on it a more ecumenical sound which crosses borders, genres and theological divisions.


Premiere performance: November 12, 2010. George Dalaras, baritone; CityMusic Cleveland orchestra under the direction of Alexandros Myrat. Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City, NY.
 


Previews, Reviews and Comments:

Mr. Dalaras, who was accompanied by composer Christos Hatzis, emphasized that he considered it “a great honor to be asked to participate in this special musical performance,” to assist in the church’s fundraising efforts. He is particularly happy, as well as touched, said Dalaras, that his “close friend, the superb composer, Christos Hatzis,” had him in mind when he wrote CREDO, and it is a particular honor to perform the composition’s premier.  As well, Mr. Dalaras praised the CityMusic Cleveland Orchestra for its ”activist” approach, its new way of going beyond the familiar, expected symphony orchestra presentation. Vicki James Yiannias, GREEK NEWS (USA) November 15, 2010.

We are just back from N.Y. and I wanted to thank you for your music. We thoroughly enjoyed the concert. Credo is very inspirational with much depth and complexity. The dramatic effects in some of the more spiritually climatic sections of the Creed came through in a kind of transcendental way. R. T. (Toronto)

I was in New York, Avery Fisher Hall, that night. Now I'm back in Germany and still amazed... Thank you very very much for this marvellous concert. A. S. (Germany)
 

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