By Fotis Kaliambakos – Special to the Hellenic News of America
After Manolis Mitsias’ spectacular concert at Queens Theater, a celebratory dinner at Dionysos Restaurant followed, honoring artists, organizers, and sponsors who supported the Department of Greek and Byzantine Studies at Queens College and the Hellenic American Project. Philip Christopher expressed his gratitude to Mitsias and all attendees, setting the stage for a delightful, unexpected night.
Soon, musicians and Mitsias himself were on stage, with Mitsias warmly addressing the audience, singing beloved songs, sharing stories behind them, and taking requests from an engaged audience. The intimate atmosphere and connection to the songs and artists evoked memories of the vibrant nightlife in Plaka during the 1960s and 1970s, often reminisced about by Mitsias in interviews.
Mitsias sang “Eleusina Mia Fora,” a song pivotal in making him a household name in Greece. He shared anecdotes, like when the iconic song “Tsamikos” by Manos Hadjidakis and Nikos Gatsos was suggested to be sung in schools as a quasi-national anthem upon its release.
The night’s atmosphere mirrored the nostalgic vibe of entertainment centers known as “Ta Bouzoukia” of yesteryears. The presence of an exceptional soloist, Iraklis Zakas, who was prominent in the concert earlier, further enhanced the night’s enchantment. He showcased his musical prowess as Mitsias spontaneously began singing a song by Mikis Theodorakis a cappella, with Zakas and the orchestra seamlessly joining in.
Nana Binopoulou’s dynamic and captivating performance, coupled with her stage presence and interaction with the audience, added to the magic of the evening. Iraklis Zakas also displayed his vocal talents, contributing a new dimension to his musical repertoire. Towards the night’s climax, Angelos Papadatos delivered renditions of his favorite pieces, including a first-time performance of “O Monachos O Anthropos” by the unforgettable Nikos Papazoglou.
The night, unfolding with unexpected moments and extending possibly longer than the initial concert, was unforgettable, and no one wished for it to conclude. Just days before, Professor Nikos Alexiou had explained the difference between entertainment and enjoyment in the same venue. Little did anyone know both would be offered so generously in one evening, especially by an artist of Manolis Mitsias’ stature!
Philip Christopher, the driving force behind the event, not only pioneered organization but also led in entertainment and dance, followed by Professor and Director of the Hellenic American Project, Nikos Alexiou, who distinguished himself with his Zeibekiko dance. People of all ages, from teenagers to seniors, participated in the dance, immersing themselves in the magic of a unique and unforgettable night.