Friends, family and fans from around the globe came together in Montreal City Hall on Oct. 19 to officially launch a musically narrated Greek children's book that is slated for international distribution this month. A tri-generational choir, comprised of children and adults from around the region, highlighted the celebration with a performance.
"The Little Fugitives and the House in the Forest," composed in Greek, will be will be accompanied by a musical narration CD and distributed across North America and Greece. The narration, done by Christos Tsagas, is backed by a unique blend of symphony and vocals. The symphony is from Athens, but all the vocalists are from the Montreal region. The choir is comprised of 38 students from 11 different schools around Montreal and Laval. There are also 26 singing adults in the choir that include parents, grandparents and veteran choristers.
Celebrating Montreal's sisterhood with Athens, the production is a product of international collaboration that brought Montreal, Laval and Athens together with families, friends and organizations both local and afar. The vocalists, unified by Dimitris Ilias and his wife, Maria Diamantis, were part of a transatlantic team that gave life to the fully illustrated book.
"It seemed only natural that we celebrate this book's inauguration here at city hall," said Park Extension's City Councilor Mary Deros, who helped coordinate and promote the event. "To me, it fits right in with the agreement we have with Athens and I couldn't be more proud of this couple for not only developing music that entertains both children and adults, but also introduces local youth to music.”
A story with music
Written by George Papadakis, a childhood friend of Ilias, the book is a tale of four young adventurers who set off exploring without their parents' permission and get themselves trapped in a soul-devouring haunted house. The accompanying CD allows readers to hear the story put to music while flipping through page after page of elaborate illustrations. Most of the handpicked vocalists come from Socrates Schools of the Hellenic Community of Montreal and although all the vocals were recorded locally, the music, played by the Athens Youth Symphony, was imported from Greece.
"This project illustrates beautifully music's incredible ability to bring people together across continents, across languages and across generations," Deros told the audience. "In a city like Montreal, the presence of citizens from all around the world is an invaluable asset and it is no accident that here in Montreal culture, in its many forms, is so vibrant and so diverse."
The sizable crowd was treated to a choir performance that filled Montreal's 136-year-old city hall with the harmonious sound of voices young and old. A long list of city officials and fans flew in from Greece, courtesy of the city of Athens, to celebrate the book’s launch alongside the local community. Spectators heard from Deros, Ilas, Papdakis and more. The guest list even included Spiros Bibilas, a famous Greek actor, who is helping to promote the project.
"It was a great, great adventure and a lot of fun," said Ilias, who thanked Montreal and Deros for being able to use city hall as a launch pad. "This was a tremendous project to put together ... There are so many people that participated. There were hundreds of people who worked for hundreds of hours to put this together. There were three different studios in two different parts of the world, Athens and here."
One of the many speakers was the Padelis Chatzilakos, the book's publisher, who flew in from Greece for the launch. He said, "To all the kids and their dedicated parents, this is now your book. I am very proud of what the Greeks of Montreal have done and this is only the beginning."