Concert Review: Yanni

Concert Review: Yanni

The King of World Music takes Newport News by storm.

This past Monday, the Greek superstar Yanni (real name Yiannis Chrysomallis) brought his spectacular live show to Newport News’ Ferguson Center for the Arts. Yanni’s eclectic concerts, which feature some of the most virtuoso instrumentalists and vocalists in the world, continually thrill audiences of all ages. His style blends contemporary instrumental music with world music, often performing updated versions of famous classical melodies. A world-class performer, some of his most famous recordings have been at the Acropolis in Athens, El Morro in Puerto Rico, and the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. After reading his biography and researching his live shows, I knew that this performance was one not to be missed.

One of the challenges with a concert based in world music is how much of the world to represent in the program. That being said, Yanni’s eclectic setlist drew influences from France, Italy, and his native Greece, with a hint of Middle Eastern influence as well. Yanni uses his performers to display the broad spectrum of world music to an advantage. His two superb vocalists, Lauren Jelencovich and Lisa Lavie, are extremely versatile, capable of singing classical as well as popular styles. The merge of these two styles was epitomized in their duet “Aria,” an updated worldbeat version of the Flower Duet from Delibes’ opera "Lakme." While Delibes’ melody is not as instantly recognizable here, Yanni’s vocal arrangements allow for the two voices to mesmerize even the farthest corners of the venue. Jelencovich’s big vocal moment came when she sang Yanni’s fan favorite “Nightingale.” Inspired by a trip that Yanni took to Venice, “Nightingale” has been performed in past years with a Chinese flute playing the melody. However, Jelencovich replaces the flute with her soaring soprano voice. Her ability to sustain sixth-octave melodies would give opera singers such as Natalie Dessay and Diana Damrau a run for their money. Meanwhile, Lavie brought down the house with a stirring rendition of Yanni’s “Niki Nana (We’re One),” a thrilling uptempo song about how we are spiritually connected as humans. The combination of the prominent brass chords, the disco-like drumbeat, and Lavie’s complex vocal runs á la Celine Dion lifted the audience to its feet for an irresistible dance party.

The talent, however, was not limited to the vocalists. In fact, two of Yanni’s longtime fellow performers, harpist Víctor Espínola and violinist Samvel Yervinyan, were two of my favorites in his ensemble. In numbers such as the fast, danceable “For All Seasons,” the instrumentalists display their solo talents one after the other. Yervinyan’s solo was the most exciting since his virtuosity is unrivalled against any other violinist I’ve seen live. His agility and delicate approach to seventh-octave harmonics is spellbinding. In the same number, Espínola’s harp skills were as ferocious as they were mind-blowing, spanning everything from syncopated plucked chords to bullet-fast arpeggios and glissandi. With the force he exerted onto his instrument with his fingers, it’s a wonder to me how the harp’s strings did not snap. Elsewhere in the ensemble of honorable mention was the drummer Charlie Adams, who showcased his virtuosity during the number “Marching Season.” His drum solo, which lasted for seven minutes, encompassed various time signatures at breakneck paces, in addition to a vast array of dynamics and magnificent crescendos.

Another reason why Yanni’s shows are so great is because of the interaction between him and the audience. His unexpected one-liners in between songs kept the audiences entertained, and his charisma is impossible to dislike. I did not immediately realize how broad the age range was at the concert, and many concert-goers appeared to be longtime fans of Yanni. Some fans would stand up and dance the whole way through during the more uptempo numbers. This notion was especially in the concert’s closer, “The Storm,” based on “Summer” from Vivaldi’s "Four Seasons." For this encore, the entire audience clapped in tempo to each soloist’s final virtuoso passage. Clearly, the unbreakable dynamic between Yanni and his fans remains the Greek musician’s forte (pun intended.)

One feature that I wish had been different was reducing the use of keyboard substitution for more exotic instruments. In certain numbers, the sound of a sitar was often replaced as a patch on an electronic keyboard. Although the electronic sound was still identical to a real sitar, I would love for Yanni to find an actual sitar player. Having one would enhance the all-encompassing nature of his take on world music.

Overall, Yanni's concert was an experience like no other. The millions of fans who have experienced his shows should consider themselves fortunate to have such a brilliant figure unite cultures through music. Yanni will return to the United States this summer, starting June 18 in Houston, Texas.

Cover Image Credit: 2 Down Front

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The Top 5 Most Adorable TV Characters

They Have Ruled Our Hearts, Gave us Tears of Joy, as well as Hysterical Fits of Laughter with their Charming Screen Presence

Well, they have ruled our hearts, gave us tears of joy and hysterical laughter with their wit and charm, so let's take a look at some of the most lovable TV characters.

1.) Stewie Griffin ("Family Guy"):

He's a baby, everybody loves babies, you might think that but it's not that simple. He's got the IQ of a rocket scientist, devilish designs, and his heartiest wish is to kill his mother, so he's nothing like a baby. He shares a beautiful bond with his dog which is heartwarming to watch. There are so many interesting angles to his personality which makes it worth it to root for him despite his primal instinct - kill his mother and world domination.

2.) Jake Harper ("Two and a Half Men"):

We have another kid, but he's completely from another dimension. This one can win a contest for the dumbest yet cutest kid. He was the half man from the title but had an equal share in making this show what it was - watchable. He was the butt of many jokes in the show due to his general lack of smarts, understanding of words, and self-confidence, as well as being oblivious to the fact he was being made fun of.

3.) Sheldon Cooper ("The Big Bang Theory"):

You have to give it to the 22-year-old theoretical physicist who played this character to perfection. He is freakishly genius and he knows it, but most importantly he doesn't mind letting others know even if its a cop, a judge, or his friends who suffer the most by his quirky mannerisms including his love for "his spot", details, and trains. His devotion to science is so deep that he is oblivious to social cues, women, and even sarcasm. Although these traits make him intolerable for his friends, strangers or even anyone who crosses paths with him, the same faults make him the reason to watch this show.

4.) Barney Stinson ("How I Met Your Mother"):

We have the man himself - Barney Stinson, the guy who eases "awesomeness" and "legendary" into his character and the show like butter onto bread. He's not just a man- he's a religion, he has his own set of rules, codes, costumes, and theories... about getting laid. He's a God to every loser who sees himself dominating/ pretending to be an Alpha male of society- the man that every girl desires to be with. He is immune to disease, fashion disasters, and even a bad photograph. He has crazy theories that he backs up with fake history tales lied to perfection. His concept of lie is something which defines how awesome he is- "A lie is just a great story ruined by truth."

5.) Joey Tribbiani ("F.R.I.E.N.D.S"):

It wouldn't serve justice to this listicle or to the word adorable if I didn't include Joey Tribbiani- the man who made " How you doin'?" what it is. He is the only person who can be dumb, cute, and funny all at the same time. He was the only character out of the six who had a smile on his face no matter what the situation was. He also senses the emotional needs of his friends and does everything possible to fulfill that need. He is the best character to be with when the chips are down, he can cheer up even Droopie. Joey is funny and he doesn't have to put in any effort to be just that. Maybe the fact that he owns an array of expressions which spill out humor and pour directly into our hearts, is the reason he doesn't have to try to be our favorite.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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Everything To Love About "Love, Simon"

"Everyone deserves a great love story."

Love, Simon, a film based on the book, “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli came out on March 16th. Since then, it has received an overwhelming amount of positive reviews from movie goers. I went to see the movie last week and was extremely impressed. This movie is exactly what our society needs.

Years ago, the concept of being gay was a taboo and anything involving homosexuality carried a strong stigma. Many creative closeted individuals did not have the freedom to write stories or screenplays with queer characters. After members of the LGBT community became more normalized in society, we started to see the slow rise of films with characters reflecting different sexualities. I have watched multiple movies with queer characters, and ALL of the other ones I’ve seen have been tragedies.

While it is true that the process of coming out and living an authentic life can be difficult for queer people, it is not always tragic. Watching these movies makes people feel like non-heterosexual people cannot have happy endings. Imagine being a 14 year old kid in the closet and watching all these films that end with suicide, depression, or murder. It is easy to see why someone would not want to come out after being exposed to such horrific things. LGBT movies have also always been highly sexualized. Most of them center around the sexual relationships and lack substance. I feel like the writers think that the only appeal LGBT movies can have has to be sex.

The beauty in Love, Simon comes from the fact that none of the things I mentioned above were in the movie. Instead, it was hilarious, emotional and real. The story was raw and relatable for so many people. Simon was a normal high schooler, with best friends, a loving family, and homework to do. He did not fit the “gay” stereotype at all. His clothes were masculine, his voice was deep, and he didn’t love shopping. Simon was not the “Gay best friend” he was just the best friend. Simon was fortunate enough to have all these positive things in his life, which not everyone has. I think that this presentation of his life shows people that their coming out does not have to be tragic.

Simon’s coming out could not have been more realistic. He was outed to his school on an online platform, something that can happen easily in our technological age. He was very affected by this and knew he had to come clean to his family. His sister asked him if he wanted to deny it and he said he was tired of hiding.

His announcement shifted his family for a bit, something completely normal. Some movies have kids come out and show the parents instantly start a pride parade. This is usually not the case, especially when loved ones do not suspect anything. Love, Simon showed his parents trying to adjust to the news. They did not love him any less, but they needed some time to process the information, so that they could do their best for their son. There were days of silence in the family, but the silence was broken in memorable ways.

Simon’s talk with his mom had me in tears. His mom told him that for the past few years, she had felt like he was holding his breath, and tells him, “You can exhale now, Simon.” He could finally breathe and she was letting him know that she wants him to be happy and himself. His father apologized to him for making a lot of gay jokes before his coming out. He did not realize that his words may have been hurting his son, and he tears himself down for not realizing his son was gay. Simon tells him that he has nothing to be sorry about, because his coming out was something that could not be assumed.

Simon’s friends did not treat him any differently after his coming out, meaning that they did not give him any special treatment. They were upset with him for things, and worked it out later. His sexuality was not the issue.

At school, he was bullied by idiots, but he stood up for himself. I think that is something so important for the youth to see. Movies typically show gay kids cowering in a corner while being made fun of. Simon and the other out gay kid (a black character) in his school both stood up for themselves repeatedly, throwing out witty remarks and comments on occasion.

Simon’s online relationship with the other closeted kid in his school exemplified many relationships today. Kids will go online to search for people who they can relate to. With the touch of a button, they can connect with millions going through the same things they are. When Simon meets the person behind the screen, everyone is overjoyed.

The entire film was a masterpiece. Two LGBT characters were people of color. The rest of the cast was diverse as well. The movie did not feature an array of white people, like most movies do. Although there were many serious scenes that had me in tears, there was plenty of levity. The humor was current and made the entire theater laugh.

The representation for queer people in this movie is superb. Multiple members actually came out during the filming of this movie. If that doesn’t show you how positive and powerful this movie is, I don’t know what will. This movie is exactly what LGBT kids needed and I applaud the talented cast, the writers, and everyone else who had anything to do with the creation of this life changing movie.

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