Carols are a very old custom and one of the most special types of Greek folk songs, very closely linked to important festivals of the year. In traditional societies, carols were sung on various occasions (Christmas, New Year’s Day, Fota, Lazarus, March 1, etc.), but nowadays only those of Christmas and New Year’s Day are widely spread. From time to time, several collections of carols from all over Greece have been published and notable editions with recordings have been released. These recordings, however, are usually modern re-recordings, often with rich orchestrations and with contributors who do not come from the region of origin of the song. There are relatively few cases where carols are sung by local people, faithfully reflecting the particular musical and linguistic idiom\ of the region and the special character of the custom in each place. This is why the publication “Open your door! – Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Fota Carols / Simon Karas Archive 1958 – 1976” is particularly valuable and of great interest, as it includes hundreds of carols, in recordings made in various regions of Greece (Asia Minor, Western Thrace, Attica, Attica, Crete, Dodecanese, Eastern Thrace, Rumeli, Macedonia, Epirus, Eptanisa, Northeastern Aegean, Peloponnese, Cyclades, Thessaly, Evia, Northern Sporades, and even in Cappadocia), while they are sung exclusively by locals.
The second augmented edition was released in 2019, by KEPEM (Centre for Research and Promotion of National Music) and contains two CDs with all the recordings, which are included in a carefully designed book, which presents the relevant information (the lyrics, history, and custom for each of these carols) in a highly structured and detailed way. The widow of Simon Karas, Angeliki Karas, (who passed away in 2020, at the age of 97 – born 30.11.1923, in the village of Amalou on Ikaria) states in the preface to this great publication… “It has already been 100 years since Simon (ed. Karas) started with passion and perseverance the research and recording of the folk music of our people. From the 1950s to the 1980s we traveled – together – three times all over Greece, recording with great care what we discovered in each place.
Wherever we found ourselves, we collected the songs like a precious treasure. Among them were the carols. A custom that was then still in its heyday. It was not rare to find two or three different carols for the same holiday in one village. Until 1957 we recorded them on paper and later on tape. Thus we slowly gathered hundreds of recordings of carols from all over Greece. But what we were concerned with was not just the recording of songs and tunes. We were mainly concerned about how the tradition would return to the people who gave birth to it and how it would become the property of the young people. That’s what the radio broadcasts were for. That is why the titanic effort was made with the School of National Music, where thousands of students were introduced to our musical culture. And as for caroling, that’s what we were concerned about. How they would continue to live, not only in the villages but also in the modern cities.”