Stella Tempreli – Anastenariko (Thrakian Fire Dance)

By Sotiris Bekas

Attempting to reinterpret a very old folk song, let alone a folk fable carrying an entire story with it, is a challenging endeavor, with many challenges that a musician must face. Perhaps the first of all is to wonder how well one has understood the essence of the specific song and how ready one is to render the musical core, while simultaneously proposing their own approach that will breathe new life into the piece.

Stella Tempreli and Thanos Stavridis delivered a very successful example today, based on the above premise. It is “O Konstantinos o Mikros,” the most famous song from the “Anastenaria,” this particular folk custom, mainly expressed on May 21st, the feast day of St. Constantine and Helen, in the wider region of Macedonia and Thrace, culminating in the fire-walking that completes the ritual cycle of the Anastenaria.

Stella Tempreli (cello) and Thanos Stavridis (arrangement) manage to delve deeply into the melodic and lyrical core of the song, conveying the myth-making and dramaturgy with a very targeted musical interpretation. Quite rightly, a very simple musical approach has been chosen, with only the cello as an interpretive instrument, which has a range from very high to very low notes. This range is wonderfully utilized by Stella Tempreli.

The almost two-minute introduction colors a landscape of mystery and brings us to the theme with a soundscape that at one moment surrounds us with a simmering intensity and turmoil, and at another spreads a veil of melancholy. Elements that are very basic to the tragic and metaphysical story of “Konstantinos.”

Stella Tempreli (cello) and Thanos Stavridis (accordion)

In the second section, the theme shifts to lower notes that convey the sense of epic (as it is an akritic song), and also suggests the notion of battle, the anguish of a brave man. This melodic line holds just enough to convey the superficial meaning of the story, as the immediately following section bursts in with a completely different musical character, expanding the drama without implications. With continuous trills and a fast pace, Stella Tempreli brings us to the dramatic development of the story, which rests for a while to return to the main theme of the song, “Little Konstantinos, Little Konstantinos, Little one, my mother raised you, little one engaged, Little one was sent a message to go to war.

The song, as part of the Anastenaria, is based on the elements of tension and repetition because concerning the custom, its role serves to immerse the Anastenari in the depths of tragedy, preparing them for the cleansing and overcoming of the Fire-walking.

Very characteristic and intelligent is the musical moment that interrupts the flow of interpretation, and the bow strikes the cello strings, like a percussion starting a countdown and conveying bad tidings. In a second interpretation, one could attribute it to a lamenting bell.

Anastenariko (Thrakian Fire Dance)” concludes with a turn to the nine-beat “Down in Ayia Marina,” which is heard in the Kosti of Eastern Thrace, also as part of the ritual in the Anastenaria.

This particular piece was initially written for solo cello, to be performed by Stella Tempreli at her recital examinations at the University of Macedonia, but here it proves to be a very interesting arrangement, which hopefully will serve as the basis for the creation of an entire album based on this idea.

Stella Tempreli was born in Thessaloniki in 1992. She is a graduate of the University of Macedonia, Department of Music Science and Art, specializing in cello under the instruction of Dimitris Patras, with honors. In 2022, she completed the postgraduate program in “Musical Arts” at the University of Macedonia, specializing in cello performance. She studied cello at the “Music College of Thessaloniki” under Dimitris Alexandrou, from whom she received her cello diploma with honors, as well as advanced theoretical studies. She participated in the European Erasmus program at the ArtEZ Conservatorium in Zwolle, Netherlands, under the tutelage of Jeroen Reuling and Karlien Bartels. She has attended numerous seminars and has participated in concerts both in Greece and abroad. In 2011, 2012, and 2014, she won the 3rd, 1st, and 2nd prizes respectively in the Chamber Music Competition of the University of Macedonia. Together with Thanos Stavridis, they have created the duo “Tales from the Box,” with which they have performed many concerts both within and outside Greece. Since 2015, she has been teaching cello in music schools and conservatories across Greece, and since 2021, she has been working as a permanent professor at the Music School of Athens.

Thanos Stavridis was born in Lagkadas, Thessaloniki. He took his first steps in accordion at the age of 6. He studied advanced music theory and holds diplomas in Harmony, Counterpoint, and Fugue. He has also studied saxophone, reaching the diploma level. He graduated from the Department of Music Studies at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, specializing in ethnomusicology, with a thesis titled: “The Accordion and its Technique in the Folk Bands of Eastern Romylia in Greece.” He began his career during his early years as a student, working as an accordionist in rebetiko clubs and various other music venues in Thessaloniki. He also delved into the traditional music of Greece and the Balkans, researching the use of the accordion as a solo or accompanying instrument. He has participated in many folk music festivals both in Greece and abroad. He founded the choir of the Cultural Association of Lagkadas in 1999, which he has been directing ever since. He teaches accordion in music schools in Thessaloniki and the surrounding region, and he has conducted seminars on Greek traditional music abroad, including the accordion festival in Syros where he taught in the summer of 2015. He has been teaching accordion at the Department of Folk and Traditional Music of the University of Ioannina since 2010 and also teaches at the postgraduate level at the University of Macedonia. He has collaborated with many artists from both the classical and jazz scenes, as well as various theater groups. Some notable collaborations include: Euanthia Remboutsika, Alkistis Protopsalti, George Dalaras, Sokratis Malamas, Thanasis Papakonstantinou, Matoula Zamani, Makis Seviloglou, Estudiantina, Gerasimos Andreatos, Manolis Mitsias, Estudiantina, Theodosii Spassov, Peter Ralchev, Kostas Theodorou, Floros Floridis, Pantelis Stoikos, and many others.

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