This morning, a joyful mood was immediately set in many Greek homes, as the latest team effort by local musicians spread on Facebook. It’s a performance of a traditional happy Cycladic Balos tune (a rhythm to which islanders make merry with the couples’ folk dance Balos), performed by no fewer than 100 self-isolating violinists.
“Dance in your kitchens!” one of the contributing artists wrote.
Initiated by Giannis Zarias, teacher at the Department of Music Science & Art, University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, who contacted and organized the musicians, the resulting performance features three voices of violin, cello, viola and contrabass – an impressive rendering of a melody that is normally heard played by small musical groups at weddings and panigyria (celebrations for the feast days of local patron saints).
“It’s the first time something like this – a performance of the Balos, one of the most famous and beloved compositions for violin in traditional Greek music, by a very large string orchestra – has been done in Greece, but I think our society is ready to embrace this sort of challenges,” says Zarias. “I’ve actually wanted to make it happen for a long time, though obviously I was imagining it on a live stage, not as a video made in our homes during quarantine. But the funny thing is that if it wasn’t for the quarantine, it never would have happened!”
About a quarter of the musicians in the video are students of Zarias. The rest are his friends and colleagues, and the students of some of them, who joined the effort from their homes all around the country. They have never played all together in real life, as few organizations have the means to support such a large project. You can hear Zarias play live (when concerts are permitted again) at various Athenian venues, as part of the musical groups Rebetien and the Frog String Quartet.
The Balos dance was traditionally a popular, flirtatious “first dance” between new couples, which allowed men to get close to women in appropriate settings. It continues to remain one of the most popular Greek folk dances, with many versions and levels of difficulty.
You can read more about traditional Greek folk dancing here.