Homer tells us about the great Corfiot musician, the blind gleeman
Demodokos, who made Odysseus to weep with his song in the court of king Alcinous.
Since the time of the bards though, that sung the deeds of the mythical heroes
in the palaces of the kings, until the 19th century Corfu had traveled a long
way for the biggest part of which very little is known.
During the 6th century B.C. Cofru experienced a high economic growth
and as a consequence a favorable climate was created for the cultivation of the
arts and the cultural maters. Professor Theodore Pappas informs us that even during
the 2nd century B.C., with the aid of sponsors, theatrical and musical performances
were held preserving a longstanding tradition.
Later, during the Byzantine era, that ancient musical tradition is
interrupted. The rise of the Christendom meant that anything connected with the
ancient Greek religion had to be abandoned. The Byzantine theocracy and the Eastern
Church applied a relentless persecution of the instrumental music with the result
the evanescence of the polyphonic music and the growth of the eastern monophonic
music. Because of this preference it is fully understood the furore of St. John
Chrysostom against the instrumental music, something that has stamped the Greek
music until today.
After 1204 the Eastern influence on Corfu gradually disappears. During
the whole of the Foreign Occupation until the Union with Greece, the Western Lord's
influence on the local artistic production will increase. During that era the
Corfiot musical tradition will fuse with that of the refugees from the Greek mainland,
the settlers from the southern parts of Italy, the Western polyphony and later
with Belcanto. The consequence of this was the development not only of the popular
song and of the 'cantada' (always with a strong Western influence), but mainly
the cultivation of a musical life that was the spark and the force behind the
development of the Eptanisian Music.
The ecclesiastic music could not escape that influence, but the Greek
Orthodox Ecclesiastic Dogma remained untouched. During the Renaissance period
Corfu was on the route from Venice
to Crete and undoubtedly was
informed about the new literary and musical trends, but remained in the shadow
of the great creators of that time: Cornaro, Theotokopoulos and Leondaritis. When
in 1669 the Cretans found refuge in the Venetian occupied Corfu and the rest of
the Seven Islands, they brought
with them their original musical tradition. Singers, musicians and chanters influence
the musical tradition not only of the urban but also of the rural areas. The psalmody
of the Seven Islands with byzantine melodies and triphonic improvised accompaniment
until today is called 'Cretan melody'.
The construction of San Giacomo Theater in 1690 was decisive for the
musical matters and the further development of the westernized musical tradition
of Corfu. A lodge for the Nobles at first, transformed into a theater in 1720,
starts to accommodate opera performances in 1733 and becomes the oldest and most
important musical cradle of the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean, the fruits
of which Corfu enjoys until today.
The great Eptanisian Musical School with composers like Mantzaros,
Xyndas, Liberalis, Lambelet and Samaras were the peaks of this longstanding musical
tradition during the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Corfu and the
rest of the Seven Islands did not only offer the first Greek composers but the
first music teachers and the first professional musicians. In that time the Corfiots
became opera-mad and obtained a high standard artistic criterion. New buildings
were constructed (Municipal Theatre) to house the constantly increasing public
Today the Philharmonics of Corfu, that were established from 1840
onwards, are worthy holdovers of the local musical tradition. The numerous musical
bodies that exist today on the island: Philharmonics, Choirs, Odeums, Municipal
Symphonic Orchestra, and Chamber Music keep unbroken the ties with the musical
tradition of the past.
The creation in the last decade of the Musical High School and Lyceum,
and the Musical Department in the Ionian University came as an aid to the preservation
of the Corfiot musical tradition, which constantly gives artists and performers
to the rest of Greece. The creation of several Cultural Bodies and Unions, of
privet initiative in their majority, offer a constructive support for the present
and prepare an optimistic future for the Corfiot musical tradition.
This text is cited May 2003 from the Municipality of Kerkyra URL below, which contains images.