Symposion - a new beginningBy:
In 2011, we were presented with a remarkable opportunity to take on the interior restoration of a 13th century Venetian tower in the crumbling castle of Akrotiri, Santorini. Our idea was to create a workshop, exhibition and performance space to showcase our beloved instrument – the Greek bagpipe – the tsabouna.
A year later, we managed to do just that. In the tower’s main chamber we created a unique exhibition of Greek bagpipes that highlighted the skilled craftsmanship of makers from Santorini and the Aegean region. The main chamber also hosted Yannis’ daily musical presentations and La Ponta’s highly successful evening concert series. On the second floor we created a workshop, where Yannis constructed the tsabouna and a wide range of Greek wind instruments, and passed his skills on to others. La Ponta’s revival of the tsabouna has brought the musical traditions of Greece from the past into the present and shared them with locals and global travellers alike.
Our work in the tower gained pace as we invited local school children to participate in workshops and reconnected locals with their shared musical past, helping to revitalise a valuable island tradition. Global travellers also flocked to the tower and over the next five years our work at La Ponta received coverage from ET3 (Greece), OTE History (Greece), BBC Scotland, Chanter, National Geographic Traveller, Songlines Magazine, VIV2 (Vietnam), NDR (Germany), RAI 3 (Italy) and TV5 (France), to name but a few.
Last year, at the height of our success, we received the unfortunate news that our lease in the tower was not going to be renewed. However, we knew that we must continue our work – as pillars of the community and as representatives of a global cultural heritage. We soon seized on an opportunity to purchase new premises in the ancient village of Megalochori: a 605 square metre, turn of the century, winery that had lain empty for fifty years. We have called this project SYMPOSION
Symposion comes from the word sympinein - ‘to drink together.’ In ancient Greece, people would drink during a banquet accompanied by music, dancing, recitals and conversation. Their wine was carefully cut with water so that they could maintain lucidity and gain inspiration from the nine muses. When we entered our new premises we were struck by one thing – the nine holes suspended above the main entrance. Our first thought: here are the nine muses that can guide our work and inspire us and our guests to new heights of listening, engagement and understanding! Symposion will be dedicated to music, art and mythology – and to introducing its visitors to age-old narratives that offer new insight.
Not only will our new premises allow us to continue our work – in time it will enable us to extend the reach of our educational programming, and expand our workshop, instrument exhibition and concert series. In the future our new premises can also house an annual artist’s residency program, artist’s residence, art installations, a library, storytelling forum, lectures and conferences, interactive exhibits, as well as a Homeric Wine Café situated in the Mythological Botanical Garden in its open courtyard.
As we secure the funds for refurbishing the premises in stages, Symposion will continue to serve the residents of Santorini with innovative musical and educational programming and, over the coming years, become a global destination for cultural tourism - fostering new approaches to the appreciation and study of Greek culture, enriching the musical traditions of the present day and creating new connections between artists, musicians and storytellers from around the globe in a sustainable, community oriented space for all ages.
You are most welcome to help SYMPOSION come to life in 2018 by supporting our funding campaign. To find out more about our project and how you can contribute, please visit our website at www.symposionsantorini.com.
Ian Clabburn writes: I paid a return visit to La Ponta in September and was privileged to have a guided tour of the “new” premises. This will be a special place with massive potential for further development as funds become available. The first stage will be to convert the vaulted wine cellar into a performance space and to establish the garden. Their plan is very ambitious, but knowing Argy and Yannis and having seen what they have achieved before, I am in no doubt that 2018 will see the opening of a unique venue, which will quickly establish itself at the heart of the island’s cultural heritage.
*Editor’s Note: Yannis Pantazis is an old friend of the Bagpipe Society and, as anyone who has met him will confirm, he is an inspirational man and musician and together with his wife, Argy, they make a formidable team. We wish them every success with this project. To this end the Bagpipe Society Committee has agreed to pledge the sum of £1000.00 towards bringing Symposion to life. The project fulfils all the requirements of the aims of The Bagpipe Society; it is doing vital work to not only uphold the culture of the tsabouna and other Grecian bagpipes but it will also be an important education resource for both the local population and visitors to the island. *