I can say without hesitation that 1988 was a turning point both for local musical matters and for an ambitious intellectual initiative in the artistic life of Nea Ionia. Vassilis Gratsounas and Maria Galani founded, through their own personal efforts, the conservatoire En Organis at 9 Isminis St., in the suburb of Perissos. This institution is living proof of how much and how many things are to be achieved by persistence, endurance, hard work and the quiet talent of these two individuals, who, ignoring financial and personal sacrifices, have achieved something unique in the area.
They have managed to create a hive of musical activity and a small concert hall, whence they have caused to sally forth, and continue to pour forth today, a parade of prestigious and internationally recognized artists. And so, the conservatoire En Organis has opened up a unique path to music for hundreds of students over all these years. More than this, however, it has given music-lovers the chance to enjoy splendid musical ensembles and soloists of a rare quality, all for the cost of a very reasonably priced ticket in a warm and hospitable concert hall. He has also managed to create new lovers of serious music.
From the year of its foundation, in 1988, En Organis has continued its unbroken activity up to the present. It is a shining example, both to musical officialdom and to the ordinary people of the area. Happily, it has managed this without the blowing of trumpets and noisy advertising campaigns. It remains the only central, and so far unique, touchstone for serious music in the area.
Pediatrician and writer
I am profoundly grateful to God that, whenever I am about to faint away in horror at the harshness of things, at how evil – which some simply call ‘the system’ with that clever instinct for self-preservation that it has – knows how to thwart us by keeping us continually on the round of the treadmill of daily life, so that we are stymied from doing anything that might threaten its unchallenged dominance, along comes a person, an artistic event or a book about ethical values in art, about quality in education or about the values of Greekness in culture.
Vassilis Gratsounas is utterly dedicated to the world of tradition, an inexplicable survival from better times, in whom we have a serious connoisseur of folk music, a splendid performer on many instruments of folk tradition, an extraordinarily skilled maker of instruments and, above all, a passionate teacher of this music and its culture. Likewise, Maria Galani is his wife and his utterly likeminded companion on this journey of work.
In these two people, in the En Organis conservatoire and in the book we are now holding in our hands, I have been granted everything together, to support me in my heavy trials and in my sadness at the extent of all the compromises, retreats and turmoil we face today.
Well, this is no utopian dream. The conservatoire exists and it teaches children and the young to sing, play accompaniment in a manner completely faithful to the spirit of Greek tradition. Now anybody, and not just their own conservatoire students, who is interested in the study of many instruments that belong to the musical tradition of the east, in terms of performance and song accompaniment (on for example, the Constantinopolitan laouto, the outi, the Constantinopolitan lyra, kanonaki, nei and various types of pipes) has a splendid source of help. This consists of the distillation of the knowledge and experience of teaching that this distinguished teacher possesses.
Composer and Director,
Centre for Contemporary Music Research.