Popular Greek singer Yannis Kotsiras was the new guest star during AKTINA‘s Greek Music Journey 2015 concert on April 17 at New York’s landmark theatre, the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. Kotsiras was welcomed on his first personal performance in the U.S. by a full house of AKTINA supporters and his fans from all walks of life and ages, Greek and non-Greek. The concert, produced by Elena Maroulleti and co-presented by the non-profits AKTINA Productions and CYPRECO of America, was given to benefit public service media AKTINA FM and AKTINA TV on WNYE 91.5FM and channel 25 respectively.
The multi-talented Kotsiras who is also a musician and composer, performed playing the guitar and the harmonica at times. He was accompanied by three talented musicians with whom he collaborates for many years. Vangelis Machairas on the bouzouki, tzoura and mandolin, Akis Katsoupakis on the piano, keyboards and orchestrations and Kostas Michalos on the electric and classic guitar. His performance included a wide variety of his most loved and popular songs that mark and highlight his career over the years, songs from his latest album, “Oti Thymase Den Petheni” as well as songs by great Greek composers such as Mikis Theodorakis and Stavros Xarhakos. He opened his program with his everlasting hit “Efta Potiria” (Seven Glasses).
In his welcoming remarks, Kotsiras said that he felt exceptionally happy and honored for being invited to perform and for visiting once again, however, as he noted, this time around “on my own,” meaning giving his first personal performance. Referring to the concert, he stressed that “it has a very special meaning” since its core mission is to support AKTINA and its media outlets, noting that “every Greek voice outside of the boundaries of Greece is extremely important.” After introducing his musicians, he expressed exceptional thanks to AKTINA for inviting him to perform and share his music. “We truly thank AKTINA for giving us the opportunity to also gain something, and that is to play our music, for the opportunity to travel and discover new places and more importantly during a time of need, for giving us the opportunity to also contribute in this benefit cause, thus we truly thank AKTINA,” he stressed.
Kotsiras also paid a special tribute to Maroulleti by dedicating his great hit “Handra Thalassia” (Blue Charm), a sweet song that says to always wear a blue charm to avoid the evil eye. “This woman has truly given her soul so that this concert is successful and she also offered us an exceptional hospitality. Myself and my musicians dedicate this song to Elena Maroulleti from the bottom of our hearts,” he said as he presented the song.
The organizers also bestowed a special honor and a surprise for Kotsiras. He was honored with AKTINA’s Distinguished Artist Award in recognition of his important contributions to Greek music and for supporting the organization’s non-profit mission with his participation in this benefit concert. This award is presented to selected artists who participate in AKTINA’s Greek Music Journey concert series. The first recipient was legendary singer/songwriter Lavrentis Machairitsas who was AKTINA’s guest star in November 2013.
The evening also included honorary presentations from Astoria Council Member Costa Constantinides, who awarded Proclamations on behalf of the City of New York to AKTINA Productions, Inc., recognizing among other, “22 years of excellence in preserving Hellenic identity and culture” and to Kotsiras “for his outstanding and enduring artistic contributions to the Hellenic world.” During the presentation, Constantinides highly praised AKTINA for the important and valuable work it produces through its highly rated programs, AKTINA FM and AKTINA TV, as well as through its “worthy” cultural performances and urged everyone in the audience to continue their support.
AKTINA’s new concert with Kotsiras was extremely successful and captivating. People were engaged from beginning to end, clapping and singing along. At times it seemed that the audience, who had become a big back up chorus, had rehearsed the songs and they were part of the program. The experience was amazing for everyone. For the organizers, the artists and above all for AKTINA’s fans who packed the theater to enjoy a one of a kind performance. Kotsiras also stood out for his exceptional talent and character. He embraced the audience with warmth, establishing a very friendly and family oriented environment during which he made important references to the songs, shared unique stories and even some jokes. In return, the audience rewarded him and his musicians with very loud and non-stop applause and cheers.
Kotsiras was so moved from the whole experience that at the end of the show he decided to treat organizers and audience with a spontaneous rendition of Frank Sinatra’s legendary song “New York.” “Following all these honors,” he said, “I have to give back something. Tonight I will do something I never did before… I will exercise my English,” and then took off with the song, which at the end turned to the renowned Mikis Theodorakis instrumental “Zorba the Greek,” something that truly lifted the audience.
Greek Music Journey 2015 was made possible thanks to the generous support of Arch Capital Group (US), The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Investors Bank, Ammos Restaurant, Bayside Diner, Koralli and Madison Restaurants. It was also supported by media sponsors, the Greek weekly “I Efimerida Tis Neas Yorkhs” and Mega Cosmos satellite channel. A team of very dedicated AKTINA and CYPRECO volunteers worked tersely for this benefit concert, among them Elena Maroulleti, concert Executive Producer, Tom Stouras, videography, Caroline Ioannou, Sr. Production Assistant, Penny Chapman, Vlassis Anastasiou, Kosmas Vrakas and Polys Kyriacou, Front House and Operations Assistants, Anastasio Mentis, Photographer, Tania Moutaftsis and Irene Constantinou, Interns. The amazing sound and lights was handled by the talented Kaye Playhouse technical staff and the acoustic guitars for the performance were courtesy of local musician/singer Elias Makrinos. A Playbill with biographical information was distributed for free to all in attendance.
AKTINA’s Greek Music Journey 2015 continues on Friday, November 6, also at the Kaye Playhouse, with Lavrentis Machairitsas who returns to New York for yet another memorable and unique performance. He is accompanied by his band and renowned singer/songwriter Miltos Paschalides. For tickets, call 718-545-1151 or visit Titan Foods at 25-56 31st Street in Astoria. For more information visit www.aktina.org.
Enjoy a video of Lavrentis Machairitsas from AKTINA’s November 2013 sold out concert:
AKTINA TV Report on Greek Music Journey 2015 With Yannis Kotsiras. Report includes 9 music videos and interview with the artist:
(Photos by: Anastasio Mentis Photography)