This will make you happy.
Well, happier, anyway, and who doesn’t want that? Research at the University of Missouri has definitively proven that listening to classical music with the intention of lifting your spirits actually works: participants reported a marked increase in ‘feeling happy’. Now, add to that the transcendent benefits of being in nature (another recent study from the University of Utah suggests interacting with the natural world results in marked improvements to both physical and mental health) and you’ve got a month-long event series which is certain to Make You Happy…
This is the International Pharos Chamber Music Festival, one of Europe’s preeminent musical gatherings and acknowledged all over the world as Cyprus’ most important annual classical music event. For 19 years now, it’s been delivering quality concerts in enchanting settings, attracting renowned soloists, chamber ensembles and well-known orchestras from all over the world. Along with the talent, we get international audiences too…
Those of us who have easy access to the year-round Pharos programme often don’t realise just how lucky we are. There are people around the globe who make a point of flying in especially for the Chamber Music Festival – arriving from France, America, Britain, even Japan!
“Over the years, the festival has created an unprecedented relationship with thousands of audience members,” says Pharos Foundation’s Artistic Director Yvonne Georgiadou. “These are cultural tourists who come to the island purely to be part of this exceptionally uplifting music experience. It might,” she adds, “sound simplistic and inexplicable to some, but good music, especially classical music, really does have the potency to make people happy, or at the very least happier!
“There is a wealth of important neurophysiological studies and research out there which has proved beyond any doubt that classical music makes people more content, and in the long-run happier and smarter,” Yvonne continues. “Even when one simply listens to classical music on a regular basis and for a continuous period of time, one can expect to enjoy significant benefits on a mental and emotional level: not only is music related to memory and our social connection, it’s a great mood enhancer and behavioural tool. We feed our brains with sounds on a daily basis, so classical music can be perhaps paralleled as the fruit and vegetable of our auditory world –imperative in preserving the health and balance of our mental functions, aiding in self-healing, reducing anxiety and promoting productivity. There’s a good reason,” she smiles, “that Plato considered music to be the most important parameter of the education system in Ancient Greece – placed higher than maths, physics, philosophy and astronomy!”
So, if music of any sort is generally beneficial (though the jury’s still out on heavy metal!), and classical music is generally acknowledged as the best of the bunch, then classical music brought to you by world-class talents will assuredly lift those spirits. As will the ticket costs because, as a non-profit foundation, Pharos has been intentionally keeping those prices nice and low.
“Pharos wants more people to have the opportunity to benefit from such concerts,” says Yvonne, explaining the eminently affordable €15 entrance charge. “For us, it’s all about community service, about making chamber music more accessible to the general public – from the thousands of local students who benefit from our free educational and outreach programme, to our appreciative audience members who hail from diverse ethnic, social and academic backgrounds.”
While Yvonne suggests it’s the quality of the performances which make the festival so special and its audiences so content, it’s the unique venues which really ice that musical cake! The festival opens on Tuesday May 14 at the Pharos Arts Foundation’s urban recital venue, Nicosia’s Shoe Factory, with a concert by the renowned Belgian ensemble Het Collectief and the celebrated soprano Katrien Baerts performing a programme which blends French chamber and vocal repertoire by Ravel, Debussy, Dutilleux and Philippe Gaubert interspersed with pieces by Finnish Kaija Saariaho. The same unique venue sees a second concert on May 22, a collaboration with the Keyboard Charitable Trust in London presenting award-winning pianist Jiyeong Mun in a formidable programme of works by Beethoven, Ravel and Chopin.
From June 1 until June 4, the festival is off to the Royal Manor House in Kouklia – one of the finest surviving monuments of Frankish architecture in Cyprus and a Unesco World Heritage site – for four concerts with some of the world’s most celebrated and finest soloists. Against a backdrop steeped in history and culture, we get Sergei Babayan (one of the most notable names of the great Russian piano school and winner of prestigious competitions), sensational violinist Christel Lee (first-prize winner of the 2015 International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition in Helsinki), violinists Anna Tifu and Doriane Gable, and pianist Olga Zado (all three of whom number among the leading female musicians of their generation), the giant of the Nordic viola Lars Anders Tomter, eminent pianist Ashley Wass, and the unmatched talents of violist David Abrahamyan, cellist Alexander Chaushian, and local soprano Zoe Nicolaidou.
The festival’s finale takes place on June 6 at The Olive Grove in Delikipos with many of the soloists joining forces to create an evening of music and magic and bliss. Set in the midst of nature, this concert will be the stuff of which Mediterranean dreams are made: effortlessly enjoyable and timelessly tranquil. The gentle strains of Mozart wash over you as you languish on the grass, glass of wine in hand. A soft breeze cools the air; twilight fades and stars light the warm night sky. And here you are, in a silvered olive grove on a Mediterranean island at the grand finale of the island’s most delicious classical music festival feeling really, truly happy…
The 19th International Pharos Chamber Music Festival
From May 14 to June 6 at venues across the island. Entrance €15 / €10 (Concessions, Members of the Pharos Arts Foundation) per concert. For a full programme and more information call 22 663871 or visit www.pharosartsfoundation.org
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