The great master of Greek folk music, Chronis Aidonidis, “departed” from this world today at the age of 95 (December 23, 1928 – October 23, 2023), leaving behind an immense void in the culture of Greece, one that is impossible to fill. He is one of the greatest figures in Greek folk music and culture in general. His work is invaluable and will remain in history for the way in which he preserved and interpreted the folk “treasure” of his homeland, Thrace, and other regions, but not only. Special mention should be made of his deep love for Byzantine music. He often repeated the phrase of Polydoros Papachristodoulou, who greatly assisted him in his early musical endeavors: “Thracian song, Byzantine hymn,” emphasizing the special connection between the musical tradition of his birthplace and Byzantine music.
Chronis Aidonidis was born on December 23, 1928, in Karoti, a village near Didymoteicho. He was the son of priest Christos and Chrysanthi Aidonidis and the second of five siblings. In Karoti, he spent his childhood and adolescent years, where he learned his first songs and was initiated into the world of traditional music, first by his mother and then by the local musicians who played at the village’s celebrations. Even as a student, he learned Byzantine music from his father and later from the first cantor Michalis Kefalokoptis. After completing his studies at the Octaxio Gymnasium in Didymoteicho, he was appointed as a community teacher in a village near the Bulgarian border, Petrota.
In 1950, he moved to Athens with his parents, where he continued and completed his studies in Byzantine music at the Hellenic Conservatory under the guidance of the great teacher Theodoros Chatzitheodorou. In February of the same year, he was employed as an accountant at Sismanogleio Hospital, where he worked until his retirement in 1988.
At Sismanogleio, a significant encounter changed his life. In 1953, the renowned folklorist Polydoros Papachristodoulou sought him out and proposed that he participate in his radio program “Thracian Echoes” on the state radio (EIR), with the aim of presenting to the world a repertoire from Thrace that was unknown until then. Although Chronis Aidonidis hesitated at first, saying, “Forgive me very much. I know these songs, I love them, but… I’m ashamed to sing them. They will make fun of me,” the encouraging words and advice of the great folklorist influenced him and encouraged him to dedicate the rest of his life to promoting and disseminating traditional music. From then on, with the help of Polydoros Papachristodoulou, he participated in his broadcasts and soon became a soloist in Pantelis Kavvakopoulos‘s choir. “Thracian Echoes,” which initially featured only 30-40 songs from Eastern Thrace, became known worldwide for the first time through his voice, introducing songs from Western and Northern Thrace, as well as many others from Eastern Thrace that had never been heard beyond the region’s borders.
Later, he joined Simonas Kara‘s choir, and from 1957, he hosted a regular weekly radio show, promoting the musical treasure of Thrace. He continued to participate in numerous concerts throughout Greece and to record music. In 1990, his collaboration with Giorgos Dalaras marked a significant milestone in his artistic career. The album “The Nightingales of the East,” featuring some of the most beautiful traditional songs and with the participation of Giorgos Dalaras and Ross Daly, was loved even by people who had not previously been interested in this genre of music. Joint concerts with Giorgos Dalaras, accompanying the release of the album, confirmed its great success. The public’s interest in traditional music, particularly from Thrace, through the voice of Chronis Aidonidis, was further validated with the equally successful double album “Songs and Melodies of Thrace,” curated by the University of Crete Publications in 1993.
Chronis Aidonidis has a rich discography (around 450 songs) featuring the most beautiful songs from Thrace, both northern, eastern, and western. He participated in hundreds of concerts, both in Greece and abroad (America, Australia, all the states of the former Soviet Union, Europe). Thrace’s song, with his exquisite and melodic voice, was cherished in every corner of Greece. For this reason, he was chosen to represent our country in two of the biggest events in recent years: the international televised millennium celebration program in 2000, where Greece welcomed the new millennium with his voice at Sounion, and in 2004, when he performed the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games with the touching seated song, “My Friends, Welcome,” spreading the sacred music of Thrace to every corner of the world. In 2004, he realized a youthful dream, recording Byzantine ecclesiastical hymns for the first time on the double CD “When Paths Meet,” in collaboration with his student, Nektaria Karantzi.