A week at the music village

The village

Besides being the home of the mythical centaurs, Pelion is widely considered one of the most beautiful Greek mountains. It is known for its unique combination of thick forests, hiking trails, natural springs, streams, gorges and amazing beaches, making it a highly popular attraction all year round.

Perhaps not as well-known is the annual “Music Village” event which takes place every August in Agios Lavrentios, a small village situated at an altitude of 600 metres on Pelion’s southern slopes. A place that seems untouched by the passing of time, Agios Lavrentios captivates you instantly with its traditional Pelian architecture, intricate web of cobblestone alleys, and fascinating vistas of the surrounding landscape.

Moreover, thanks to its natural location and the total absence of motor vehicles, it is marked by a special ambience of serenity that invites you to wind down and enjoy the overflowing tranquility. Until the festivities begin, that is.

The music

This year marked the 10th consecutive edition of the Music Village, adding a festive flavor to the event’s already celebratory and Dionysian nature. A combination of daily workshops, organized events and performances, as well as spontaneous jams and all sorts of music-related happenings, the festival takes on a dynamic character that transforms the whole village into a vivid, pulsating arena of continuous artistic activity.

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Throughout the two periods of the Music Village, the various instructors, students, visitors and even village residents all participate in a prolonged musical feast, where learning from one another and enjoying music all together becomes a daily routine.

Every morning I would walk down to the central square of Agios Lavrentios, where the sound of violins in unison would slowly wake me up over a cup of coffee. After tuning in to the village sounds (the murmuring of purling water, a clarinet playing from inside a nearby building), I would move towards the court of St. Athanasios Church (dating from 1777) where our instructor and master percussionist Kostas Anastasiadis would talk to us about the harmony of rhythm.

The rhythm of nature

Listening to Kostas and learning from such a great musician was a privilege: over a period of just a few days, he was able to initiate us into the world of Indian polyrhythmic techniques (some of the new words I learned include tihai and chakradhar), analyze complicated rhythmic patterns and show us how to best tackle them, and -perhaps most importantly- share some of his insights into the philosophy of music and how to become a better musician not by mindless practicing but by listening to the others and help them sound and perform better. For music is not just notes on paper, but the interaction between players, the spontaneous response of the performer to the stimuli he receives from his bandmates and the audience.

Finally, I shall never forget how he kept time to the singing of the nightingale, thus demonstrating that nature is really the most perfect metronome of them all. Machines, after all, are only around for a few hundred years, while nature has been singing long before man started to imitate her…

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