His name is 100 percent Greek, but singer / songwriter George Perris is as much French as he is Greek. Born in Athens, George grew up immersed in both cultures. His diverse background and beautiful voice make him an international standout on the music scene.
In 2008, George had great success with the release of “Perno Anasa”. He’s currently working on his third Greek CD and a French album. He was recently honored with an invitation to work alongside world famous vocalist Lara Fabian at the Zenith arena in Paris, and has performed with prestigious orchestras such as the English Oxford symphony.
Proud of his Hellenic roots, George is performing with world-renowned tenor, Mario Frangoulis, on “The Light of Greece” tour in North America. These special performances will feature Greek music and poetry, which everyone knows is at the heart of our heritage.
We recently had a chance to chat with George and found it’s easy to love him in any language.
Your father is Greek and your mother is French. Talk a little bit about your background and involvement in both cultures.
I grew up in a funny way; at school everything was Greek: friends, lessons, history, everything! Then as soon as I went back home it was the exact opposite. French music, cuisine, children’s books, and of course I would only speak French with my mother. I feel very lucky because I have had the chance to combine elements from both cultures and this wealth has allowed me to broaden my horizons and perspectives. Above all, it has determined the choices I’ve made in my life. Sometimes it can be less amusing, as for example in Greece, they consider me “too French” and then when I’m in France they tell me I’m “too Greek”! I do however feel that the duality of my identity has played a major role in the making of who I am. I am equally proud to be Greek as I am to be French.
Who were some of your musical inspirations growing up?
My first idol was the great Greek singer Nana Mouskouri. She was my first influence and it was because of her that I wanted to become a singer. Later on when I was 12, I discovered Maria Callas and suddenly everything stopped. It was as if I was receiving all the wisdom that an artist can transmit through music. I have also admired Chopin since my early childhood and he is the reason I learned how to play the piano. Lately, a great influence has been Lara Fabian, one of the greatest French-speaking divas, who composes and writes her own songs, and with whom I recently had the chance to tour in France and Belgium.
You’re currently working and touring with Mario Frangoulis. Would you consider him a mentor?
Mario has always been an inspiration to me, even before I met him. I have always admired him for his voice of course, but also for his artistic choices. In a way he has served as a mentor to me, but above all he is a great friend who supports me, and is always there to give me advice. I will always be grateful to him for his generosity, for allowing me to be on stage who I really wanted to be, to sing the repertoire that I felt comfortable with, but also for teaching me how to never make concessions in my art. It is always a great pleasure to work and be on stage with him.
Tell me about “The Light of Greece”. What will the program incorporate?
This program is a journey in time through all the great poets that Greece has given birth to. From ancient Greece and Aristophanes, to Kavafis, and to Seferis and Elytis who won the Nobel Prize. At the same time, however, it is also a homage to some of our greatest composers who have composed music for these great poets such as Manos Hadjidakis who won the Oscar Award for “Never on Sunday” with Melina Mercouri and Anthony Perkins, and who worked with very accomplished musicians and producers such as Quincy Jones, or Mikis Theodorakis who composed “Zorba the Greek” and “Axion Esti”.
I am also very happy to be performing for the second time with some great Greek-American musicians who have worked hard to preserve the greatness of these songs.
Why is it so important for you to keep your Greek culture going?
Because I owe a big part of my identity to my Greek culture. As an artist of the younger generation, I feel I have the duty to preserve it, and of course transmit it to people in my age group, so that they can realize the depth of our civilization and culture.
I believe that the role of the Greek Institute is extremely important in preserving and transmitting our culture, and I would like to thank them for inviting me to be part of these concerts. They had invited me last year to perform in Boston and I was amazed at how active and serious they are at promoting our true culture. It’s not by chance that they are closely affiliated with Harvard University. My wish is that more and more young people appreciate and learn our history and culture, as this could be their greatest asset against the difficult times our world is facing.
Your fans will be happy to hear you’re working on a new album. What can we expect?
The next project I am currently working on is a French album! It consists of original songs that have been written for me by some of the greatest French and Canadian songwriters such as Stephan Moccio (who composed “A new day has come” for Celine Dion as well as the music for the Vancouver Olympics), Daniel Seff (a great composer who has written songs for Claude Francois, Lara Fabian, Joe Dassin, etc.) and Vincenzo Thoma (his single “J’ai zappe” for Lara Fabian has sold more than 2.000.000 copies!!). It is going to be released in Canada first, then Greece, France, Belgium and Japan.
“THE LIGHT OF GREECE” WITH MARIO FRANGOULIS AND GEORGE PERRIS
PERFORMANCES: SUNDAY, APRIL 18, 2010 AT THE NORTHSHORE CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, SKOKIE, ILLINOIS;
FRIDAY, MAY 7, 2010 AT THE SANDERS THEATRE, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, CAMBRIDGE, MA.