As if Astoria weren’t Greek enough — a team of talented singers and musicians added a bit to the Greekness by spreading traditional Greek holiday cheer on Sunday, December 22.
The group spent the day in the heart of Astoria visiting various Greek-American owned businesses which opened their hearts and doors, allowing the musicians to perform and raise money for a charitable cause.
Led by Ereni Sevasti, a professional singer from New Jersey, and John Themelis, a talented musician who plays multiple traditional Greek instruments, the team performed traditional kalanda (Christmas carols) from various Greek regions such Ikaria, Crete and Pontos, among others — a well as the mainstream Christmas and New Year’s kalanda.
Traditional instruments like the violin, bagpipe (tsambouna) and laouto were the main accompaniment to the beautiful vocals.
The various restaurants provided a festive backdrop for the musicians, whose traditional songs were complimented by classic Greek holiday decor such as “karavakia” (boats). Melomakarona and kourambiedes could also be seen prominently on display inside bakeries throughout the area.
But for the musicians, the day represented more than simply carrying on Greek traditions and sharing holiday cheer; it was about giving back and giving financial support for disenfranchised and at-risk children their ancestral homeland — Greece.
The team dedicated their performances to the Greek America Foundation, a New York-based non-profit, and its #ChildrenOfGreece campaign which supports six accredited children’s charities in Greece.
When all was said and done, the team raised nearly $2,000 — a large portion of which came from restaurant-goers and passersby whose cash and check donations filled up the team basket.
Other donations have come from social media platforms such as Facebook, where live viewers donated remotely to support the cause.
The group is still collecting donations via the Greek America Foundation website.