Second Voice Program Concert of the Weekend Includes New Translation of Greek Folk Songs

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Voice Program students will perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in Fletcher Music Hall. The program will feature several students with varying repertoire. For singer Nicolette Mavroleon, it’s all Greek to her.

Cinq Melodies Populaires Grecques, by Maurice Ravel, is a collection of five Greek folk songs, which he produced in French. Having a strong family tie to Greece, Mavroleon decided to retranslate the work of Ravel back into the language of the song collection’s origin.

Mavroleon said that set was Ravel’s first attempt at folk music, and it’s composed of traditional Greek folk songs.

“When I showed my cousins from Greece, they immediately recognized some of them,” she said. “That was very nice to hear.”

Even though there was already a Greek text, Mavroleon wanted to tweak the translation from French herself, to make sure it was correct.

“I did a little switching of syllables and alignment and it worked out fine,” she said. “There are only some slight variations in the translations.”

Mavroleon started singing this set about five years ago, near the end of her high school experience.

“I don’t speak the best [Greek] but enough to make Giagiá proud,” she said.

She said ever since the songs were recommended to her, she has only performed them in Greek, because “if you can, why wouldn’t you?”

“These songs are very comforting to me because I love singing in Greek,” Mavroleon said. “The language is just very bright. The vowels are very open and pure. The consonants don’t get in your way, they’re just at the tip of the tongue. It’s a very fun, playful language.”

Ravel’s work was originally written for piano, but Mavroleon’s performance will be accompanied by harpist and Music School Festival Orchestra student Grace Cross, instead. Before now, she has only ever sang with piano.

“This is my first venture with harp,” Mavroleon said. “It’s been a very seamless collaboration. It sounds so much more mystical with harp, it just sounds like we should be on top of Mount Olympus.”

Voice Program head coach Don St. Pierre said Mavroleon’s take on Ravel’s work is beautiful music.

“I much prefer them with harp, even though I am a pianist,” he said. “I think it works better, it’s more colorful.”

Sunday’s program will also include performances by Erika Baikoff and Kristina Brost, Jean-Philippe McClish, Vartan Gabrielian, Michael Powell, Kathryn Henry, Sarah Wofford and Michael St. Peter.

Andrew Manzella

The author Andrew Manzella

Andrew Manzella is a reporter and feature writer from western New York. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in journalism from SUNY Buffalo State.