An Afternoon of Greek Music at East Flushing Library

by Catherine Tsounis

"The beauty of Smyrna was not the houses or streets. The beauty of Smyrna was us, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Smyrneoi. The beauty of the Greeks was not the locations or the marbles. It was the bravery (Leventia) they had in their souls," said author Angela Papazoglou. The Greek soul, that has one foot in the East and the other in the West, was heard at the East Flushing Library. GRIGORIS MANINAKIS & THE MIKROKOSMOS ENSEMBLE presented an “An Afternoon of Greek Music” on Thursday evening, June 27th.The Ensemble features: Grigoris Maninakis, leader/lead vocalist; Glafkos Kontemeniotis, keyboards; Kostas Psarros, bouzouki and Megan Gould, violin. The free concert attracted over 100 persons.

Persons of all ages with Grigoris Maninakis and the
Mikrokosmos Ensemble. Photo courtesy C. Tsounis.
One person From the St. Nicholas Church community came one hour early to reserve seats. “I see the whole St. Nicholas Church choir here today,” said Maninakis. Mrs. Chris Arlis, former Principal of William Spyropoulos School, said “I would not have known of this wonderful event if I didn’t receive a flier on my email. My Mother was from Evia and husband from Chios. Listening to this music is enriching.” Very Rev. Paul Palesty is the Protopresbyter of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Shrine Church of Flushing, New York. Memories and a deep psychological peace were evoked by music of Theodorakis, Hatzidakis, Loizos, and Kilaidonis. Maninakis concluded this trip into the Greek soul with Pantelis Thalassinos’ “Ta Smyrneika Tragoudia”.

“Rebetiko originated in the music of the larger Greek Cities, most of them coastal, in today's Greece and Asia Minor,” said Maninakis. “In the wake of the population exchange of 1923, huge numbers of refugees settled. They brought with them both European and Anatolian musical elements and musical instruments. These Greek musicians from Asia Minor were highly competent, educated musicians. The 1930s-1950 was the classical period of Rebetika, fusing Asia Minor, Greek folk and Byzantine music. Manos Hatzidakis and Mikis Theodorakis were the prime movers of the "Éntekhno" song. Éntekhno (art song) is music from Greek folk rhythm and melody. Its lyrical themes are often political or based on the work of famous Greek poets. Modern Laïká or Laïko-pop is currently Greece's mainstream music in today’s nightlife.Over the years, the aim of Greek music scene is to have musicians and expressive singers to entertain the Greek audience.”

East Flushing Library Branch Manager Florence Leung
organized the event (standing, left), saying “his music is
calming, cheerful and happy,” as Grigoris Maninakis and
Mikrokosmos Ensemble listen. Photo by C. Tsounis.

The Greek music culture is a part of Greek culture in Greece and the Diaspora. Grigoris Maninakis has appeared at Carnegie Recital Hall, Alice Tully and Merken Halls of Lincoln Center, the Maliotis Cultural Center, among others. He currently chairs the Arts Committee of the Hellenic Cultural Center of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of New York.

“My mother was born in Tseme (Asia Minor coast opposite Chios) and father from Crete,” said Maninakis. “Smyrna, prior to the 1922 holocaust, was a preeminent international center of business in Europe. Its beauty and intellectual centers were celebrated through the world. My parents would sing songs to the early hours of the day. Rebetika (Greek Blues) is not about jail and misery. They are more of a sing-along.” Maninakis has close ties with the island of Limnos, where he spent his youth.

“Greek music is beautiful and similar to Chinese music,” said President Irene Cheung of the Chinese American Voters Association of USA Inc., (CAVA). “The Maninakis’ music is calm and serene. We have just sent a student to participate in the 2011 DIAS International Academic Studies Summer Program stationed at the University of Crete. We, as the founders of Eastern Civilization have a unity with Greece, the basis of western Civilization.”

East Flushing Library Branch Manager Florence Leung organized the event. “His music is calming, cheerful and happy,” Mrs. Leung. “Without the talent of Maninakis’ Ensemble, one hundred persons would not have come into my library. Programs bring people into the library. Live culture programs show the support of the community. The Greek-American community came out in force on Thursday evening. We will invite GRIGORIS MANINAKIS and the MIKROKOSMOS ENSEMBLE next year. That will be his fourth year at East Flushing library.”

A packed library. Photo by C. Tsounis.

In this time of economic crisis, the middle class is forgotten. East Flushing Library did something special June 23rd evening. The East Flushing Community Library is located at 196-36 Northern Blvd. Flushing, NY 11358.For more information on events at the East Flushing Community Library, email: or call 718 357-6643.

Links: East Flushing Library East Flushing Library - Facebook - website – rebetiko, Maninakis -Pantelis Thalassinos, Ta Smyrneika Tragoudia.

(Posting date 22 October 2011

HCS encourages readers to view other fine articles ( ) penned by Dr. Catherine Tsounis and press releases about the Modern Greek Studies program at St. John's University, where she is an adjunct professor. For more information about Dr. Tsounis, see her biographical sketch at

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