Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Sacramento Greek Festival and a Master Musician - Opa!

                           
                       




Those of you who visit my blog often know how much I love travel and other cultures, whether  I physically travel to another country, vicariously travel through books or go to local multicultural events. The Sacramento Greek Festival on Labor Day week-end is one such event. I always call it my "free trip to Greece." Above, you can see some of the displays of Greek costumes. This is probably the closest I will get to Greece, but I've always been charmed by it ever since reading and seeing the movie, Zorba. What I am most pulled by is the music. It's so haunting. It lingers in your mind afterwards. Those minor notes . . .




At the Greek Festival,
 there is also an agora (marketplace) where you can shop for anything from imported clothing, jewelry, art, ceramics, etc. And a little garden shop.





The food is also delicious. (See how contented these diners look?) There are also Greek cooking lessons. Wine and beer 
are also available, as well. (Where else can you get an intriguing retsina--that resin-flavored wine I really enjoy) than at the festival? And displays are set up to celebrate Greece's history.
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A big event each year is when the noted artist, Greg Kondos, shows up. To support the event,  Kondos usually donates prints to the Festival to sell; those who buy one can get his autograph. We missed seeing him this year, but we have two  autographed prints from other years that have pride of place in our home. 

An important feature of the festival is the performance by young people of traditional greek dances--by age group, from elementary school age, middle school, high school, and finally the college group that performs late in the evening, choreographing their own special performance at a facsimile of a Taverna. Unfortunately we didn't stay for this part of the program, as we had to leave early the next morning for a trip we were taking. And pictures we took at earlier festivals print -- digital ones-- got accidentally erase (evil computer problems.) But we have more or less watched a whole generation grow up, advancing from group to group. (We've gone to the festival for about 32 years!)

A live band plays later in the evening, and between sets, Demetre Paraskevas, the DJ and host of the evening ,usually plays taped music while people get out on the dance floor and circle dance, if they know how. If they don't, as the evening wears on, Demetre gives free dance lessons. You can go to the Greek Festival site to see and hear more HERE



But now I'm coming to the real treat for us this year--a concert by two musicians, one playing the bouzouki, (a Greek stringed instrument that looks somewhat like the Portuguese guitar I've mentioned in earlier posts about Fado) and the other playing an acoustic guitar. Both instruments blend so beautifully.

I've always loved acoustic guitar, but the bouzouki just swept me away, and Rajan as well. We felt so lucky to have come early! The bouzouki player's name is Orestis Koletsos, and he records with his trio, HOLAX. Last Friday he explained to the audience that the bouzouki expresses the soul of the Greek people. I can believe it. There was so much fire, excitement, sadness, happiness, conveyed by turns on this marvelous instrument. I wish I could share the sounds of it right here on the post. The best I can do is send you to his website HERE  His trio also includes a violinist. The three instruments together just take you to a different world, and the guitarist, in addition to playing so beautifully, is a fine vocalist as well. You can hear some of their songs on YouTube HERE and HERE. You can also follow Orestis on Facebook HERE.

Check out these sites, including the Greek Festival. I'll close with the one Greek word I know--Opa--which means, I've been told, a great many things. So that, frankly, I'm still not sure what it means. If  you can find out, please let me know.

How about you? Are you smitten by travel? Have you always wanted to go to Greece? What is your favorite Greek novel or movie?



16 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

I fell in love with Greece via Zorba and Nikos Kaznzakis's other books. There is a yearly Greek festival in nearby Asheville but I've never been, due to a serious dislike of crowds. I should make the effort . . .

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Oh, Vicki, I think you would really like a Greek festival. It's really so nice. And the crowds aren't bad, at least as this one. They're happy crowds. (I, too, am not crazy about crowds, which is one reason I don't like shopping.) What time of year is your Greek festival?

Rosi said...

This sounds like a terrific festival. I will have to try to get there one of these years. Thanks for all the photos and information.

Geo. said...

Elizabeth, thanks for posting this excellent and lively account of this year's Greek Festival, which I unfortunately had to miss. But I did draw a picture of the goddess Hygieia and post it at "Trainrides" on Tuesday. All my best wishes to you and Rajan.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Rosi, you would really like it. They are changing the dates next year. Usually it has been on Labor Day Wee-end, but Demetre said next year it will be in October so that people who have other Labor Day plans can come to it.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Thanks for stopping by, Geo. I went to your Train ride site and saw the picture. I didn't realize you're and artist as well as gardner and poet. The picture is terrific! For other visitors to this blog, go have a look: http://trainrideoftheenigmas.blogspot.com/

Natalie Aguirre said...

Sounds so much fun. One of my critique partners is Greek and she's writing a historical YA novel. So I'm learning a bit of Greek from it.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Natalie, thanks for stopping by. It really is a fun occasion! Find out from your critique partner, if you think of it, what does Opa really mean?

Kenda Turner said...

Great account of the festival--sounds wonderful :-) We went to a Greek festival here once tho it wasn't anywhere near the scale of yours. But we enjoyed watching the dance program and ate delicious food! Like you, may never travel to the real thing but always love experiencing different cultural events...

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Kenda, thanks for stopping by. Your comment made me realize how big a role books play in the life of travel lovers. Thanks to them, we CAN travel virtually. Likewise, when there are cultural programs that bring a taste if the far away to share with others.

Tanya Lynne Reimer said...

I love to travel. I love the smells of these places, the colours, the service, the foods... the world of difference each place is from my little prairie piece of heaven. Enjoyed how you captured the magic in your photos.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Tanya, yes it's all those sensory details we writers are so attuned to, isn't it! They give you the world. Have a nice day.

Crystal Collier said...

I travel online for now. Or through books. You know how it is when the kids are young and every day places a hundred more demands on you than can ever be fulfilled. But one day...

S.P. Bowers said...

I have always wanted to travel. Someday I hope to be able to do more of it but for now, with small kids, it's just not an option.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, S. P, I can certainly understand that family matters put off things like travel. That's what's so wonderful about cultural festivals, though. I'd take advantage of any in your area. There might be Italian festivals, Octoberfests, Irish dance groups, Hmong New Year celebrations, Chinese New Year etc., I look upon those as free trips, and at least one gets a taste of the food, the music, the handicrafts, and a bit of the culture.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

WE also have a Latino/Hispanic festival here in Sacramento called "La Familia".