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 audience.
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.
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