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Bennigan’s opens in Thessaloniki November 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste Local.
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Bennigan’s opens resort-style restaurant in Thessaloniki

Bennigan’s Grill and Tavern has broken the mold with its latest international restaurant opening in Thessaloniki, Greece. The 11,000 square-foot beachfront restaurant is a first of its kind for the casual dining chain.

“This is a completely new venture for Bennigan’s,” said Vince Runco, president of worldwide franchising and executive vice president for Metromedia Casual Dining, which oversees the Bennigan’s concept. “The restaurant appeals to local residents as well as vacationers with its resort-style atmosphere and casual dining feel.”

The restaurant overlooks the Aegean Sea and features an outside pool with a swim up bar, a walk up bar, volleyball courts, children’s play area and seating for 400 guests. The restaurant’s interior caters to the city’s lively nightlife with a club-style bar, couches and multiple televisions. The concept was developed by franchisee Crown Resorts, which is a Cypriot owned company, and is the group’s third Bennigan’s location.

This restaurant marks Bennigan’s 51st international location and the company plans to continue expanding overseas. Since 1976, Bennigan’s has been offering customers a diverse food and drink menu with an Irish influence in a classic grill & tavern setting. Headquartered in Plano, Texas, Bennigan’s has over 310 locations in 10 countries, and is owned by Metromedia Restaurant Group (MRG), one of the world’s leading multi-concept table-service restaurant groups. Other MRG concepts include Steak and Ale, Ponderosa Steakhouse, Bonanza Steakhouse and The Plano Tavern. Plano-based Metromedia Restaurant Group has more than 800 restaurants in 16 countries. For additional information visit www.metrogroup.com

Additional information on Bennigan’s is available at www.bennigans.com 

Manos brings Greek flavour into Jericho November 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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Greek-born Manos Vernicos has got used to the English weather since he arrived in the UK 22 years ago at the age of 13. But he still yearned to create the kind of fresh-food bar that he remembers from his childhood in Greece.

Now he is opening one in Walton Street, Oxford, opposite Raymond Blanc’s bistro Brasserie Blanc and a few hundred yards from Mr Vernicos’s other shop, Bunter’s, in Hayfield Road, which was run by his father Nicolas until he died 16 years ago.

Mr Vernicos, said: “In Greece, there are shops on every corner which sell freshly-made trays of food and things like cheese. You can either take it home or you go outside or downstairs to some tables to eat it on the premises. We don’t have a name for it in English, but that’s what I’m creating here. It isn’t exactly a cafe, I think of cafes as selling sausages and chips. We will sell tea and coffee, fresh juice and smoothies and organic products, as well as souvlaki, a wrap with tzaziki, salad and chargrilled chicken.”

As well as the Greek influence, much of the stock will be Polish and Hungarian foods, because Mr Vernicos’s girlfriend, Marcsi Dienes, is Hungarian. The shop is due to be opened on Saturday, December 2, by the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Jim Campbell.

Music from a past era November 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Classical.
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Billed as a journey back to a glorious era, “A Musical Route on Byzantine Traces” takes place at the Athens Concert Hall tonight.

The concert, scheduled for the Friends of Music Hall at 8.30 p.m., features hymns and sounds of Byzantium and works inspired by Byzantine elements in the compositions of leading Greek composers such as Mikis Theodorakis, Nikos Skalkottas and Manolis Kalomiris.

At the Concert Hall tonight, the audience will enjoy a different artistic side of singer Dimitris Bassis, primarily known for interpreting popular Greek songs. He will be accompanied by pianist Tatiana Papageorgiou, baritone His Andrianos, the City of Athens Symphony Orchestra and various choirs.

The concert comes under the aegis of the cultural committee of the Church of Greece and is organized jointly with the Byzantine and Christian Museum. Tonight’s music event was produced by ElisArte Cultural Marketing.

At the Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali Street and Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, tel 210 7282333.

Voice of Cape Verde back in Greece with nostalgic tunes November 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Popular Cesaria Evora to do three shows at Athens club early next month

‘None of this would have happened if the French public had not embraced me. It was the first country that put its faith in me and if I can travel around the world today, it is because of them,’ Cesaria Evora said in a past interview.

Cesaria Evora, one of the contemporary world music scene’s most talked-about rags-to-riches stories, returns to Athens for three shows, from December 4 to 6, and is certain to please her considerable following with her rare talent and delightful yet melancholy work.

On this latest visit, Evora, whose previous visits have included a fabulous headline performance at a WOMAD festival three years ago, is back with a new album, “Rogamar” which includes a bilingual duet with seasoned and popular Greek songstress Dimitra Galani, in Portuguese and Greek.

Now 10 albums into a major career that did not get off the ground, abroad, until she was in her 50s, Evora, now 64, has remained true to her musical roots, those of her native Cape Verde, where the artist continues to reside.

“This is the music that is familiar to me. This is what sings in my soul: loss, return, nostalgia, love, exile. I cannot imagine leaving my traditions behind me,” Evora said in a recent interview on the occasion of her new album’s release. “I grew up with this music and I feel it is my duty to preserve it. It is older than me and will be alive long after I’m gone. I am too old to change; not that I’d want to.”

Evora had spent decades singing for the locals on Cape Verde before she was discovered by a Paris-based scout and successfully introduced to French listeners. Prior to that, Evora’s singing had not reached the ears of audiences in other lands. News of her breakthrough in France swiftly spread to other parts of the world to establish the mature talent as an international star.

Not unlike the Icelandic pop star Bjork, whose success helped put the international spotlight on her out-of-the-way homeland, Evora’s popularity has shed streams of light on her previously neglected country. Even today, the singer remains grateful to French audiences for their initial acceptance.

“None of this would have happened if the French public had not embraced me. It was the first country that put its faith in me, and if I can travel around the world today, it is because of them,” Evora recalled in the interview. “Rogamar” which means “odes to the sea” is an album about the sea, “a frequent source of inspiration for poets,” Evora said. Most of the songs were written by two of her regular associates, Manuel de Novas and Teofilo Chantre.

The quality of her albums has, so far, earned Evora three Grammy Awards, between 2000 and 2004. Her artistic class is also obviously clear on stage. The Cape Verdean’s headline performance at the WOMAD festival back in 2002, a definite highlight at that event, underscored her natural talent and ability to connect with the masses, even during silence. Taking a short break from her enchanting set, Evora made lighting a cigarette and sipping from her drink look like she were in her living room with a friend or two, not before several thousand people inside a concert arena.

She had had a tough life, both emotionally and financially, before international success came out of the blue late in life. Divorced three times, Evora has placed her faith in music, which she says has “never disappointed me,” and in her children and grandchildren. The mother-grandmother is all theirs, she said, when not touring or recording. “I cook whatever they want, I do their shopping, I even go out to buy their cigarettes,” Evora remarked, adding that she reserves the nights for herself.

Asked whether she had ever contemplated giving up music before stardom arrived, Evora replied: “Not for a single moment. I never lost faith because I never expected anything. You can only be disappointed if you expect something.”

Ath the Iera Odos Club, 18-20 Iera Odos Street, Athens. Tickets, priced between 45 and 10 euros, from Virgin Megastores or online on www.ticketnet.gr. For further information, call 210 8840600.

Wanted: Original, exciting films November 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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Christine Vachon, president of the jury of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival which is currently under way and runs to November 26, is intimately connected to the development of modern independent American cinema.

Within the past 11 years, Vachon has participated in the production of some 30 feature films with her company Killer Films. Among those are Kimberly Peirce’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” which earned Hilary Swank an Academy Award; Todd Haynes’s “Far From Heaven;” John Cameron Mitchell’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch;” Larry Clark’s “Kids;” and Mary Harron’s “I Shot Andy Warhol.”

Vachon’s work with Killer Films has established her as one of the pillars of progressive cinema today and she was recently honored with a retrospective exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The American producer has also received a slew of awards for her work as an activist, particularly on human and gay rights issues.

Prior to her arrival in Thessaloniki from New York, where she lives and works, Vachon talked about the criteria she applies when selecting films and on the future of cinema.

“Whether we like it or not, the future of cinema will be less and less on film and the public’s experience of it will increasingly take place within the home,” she says. “I have a feeling that the trend will be for us to watch fewer movies at the theater and that more movies will come out directly on DVD. How will studios make a profit from this? If this is how things turn out, studios will find another way to make the films profitable,” she added.

What criteria does Vachon use when selecting films for her production company and what will she be looking for in Thessaloniki?

“This is the first time I will serve as president of a jury and I am very excited. I’m hoping to see original, exciting films. I would like to see the work of directors I don’t know. In the United States, we don’t often have the opportunity to see films from Europe,” she admitted. “The criteria in Thessaloniki will be the same as for the movies I produce. I want to see original ideas, sometimes provocative ones, that also have potential commercially. The audience has become mature enough to accept provocative films. The more good movies are out there, the greater the audience’s expectations become,” she added.

On the current crisis that appears to be facing independent American film production, Vachon is optimistic. “Every two years or so people say that independent cinema is no longer as interesting as it used to be or it is becoming more dependent,” she said. “Then, suddenly, a movie comes along out of nowhere and wows everyone. There is always something new to be said and I hope that somewhere out there, there is a new, powerful cinema being developed that I know nothing about,” she added.

A multimedia tribute to the multifaceted Brecht November 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece.
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Thessaloniki Concert Hall’s audiovisual commemorative show
‘Bertolt Brecht: Everything is Changing,’ which combines music, dance and screenings that will include 1923’s ‘Mysteries of a Barbershop.’

A large audiovisual performance to commemorate the 50 years since the death of German dramatist and poet Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) is being staged by Georgia Syllaiou and Sakis Papadimitriou at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall on November 30.

Titled “Bertolt Brecht: Everything is Changing” the production is directed by Akis Kersanidis and brings together music, songs, film screenings, slides and photographs that are designed to send the audience back to the interwar years.

Other than the poetry, lyrics and music of Brecht, the production also includes highlights of his collaborations with Kurt Weill (“The Threepenny Opera” and “Happy End”) and composer Hanns Eisler (selections from “Four Lullabies for the Working Mother,” “Song of the Moldau” and “Ballad for Marie Sanders”), as well as featuring original compositions by Papadimitriou with impromptu improvisation by the members of the performing ensemble.

The production also includes a screening of the 1923 silent movie Brecht directed along with Erich Engel, “Mysteries of a Barbershop,” in which Karl Valentin plays an idle, barbarous barber who would rather laze around than tend to his heavily bearded customers. There will be live music accompanying the screening, as well as a showing of extracts from Walter Ruttmann’s documentary “Berlin: Symphony of a Big City.”

Syllaiou and Papadimitriou, who have been creating productions inspired by or dedicated to Brecht since 1998, including the album “Pirates’ Ballad” have, for this show, composed a spectacle of contrasts, where poetry coexists with political commentary and love is entwined with subversiveness.

Thessaloniki Concert Hall, Eikostis Pemptis Martiou street (Paralia), Thessaloniki,  tel 2310 895938/939.

Greece’s rich culture fails as vigorous economic product November 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Greek Culture.
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Almost 100,000 work in sector, but value of cultural product is low

The Greek cultural product’s added value is 1 percent of its GDP, the third lowest in Europe. Greece produces remarkably little in a field where it has a lot to offer, culture.

Apart from being a somewhat abstract notion, culture is also an economic activity that benefits large countries with advanced economies and is vital to a small country like Greece with a dearth of exportable resources and an abundance of cultural treasures.

An extensive report by the European Commission has measured and evaluated how much each EU member state has converted its cultural resources into an economically active product. The result for Greece is disappointing, with the country coming close to last on the list.

The added value of the Greek cultural product is just 1 percent of its GDP, the third lowest in Europe, and less than much smaller countries such as Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta. At the other extreme, France draws 3.4 percent of its GDP from culture, which corresponds to more than 80 million euros, or more than 10 times the amount for Greece.

The Commission employed a fairly broad definition of culture that includes, along with museum and archaeological sites, activities such as cultural tourism, the sale of cultural products, theater and dance, publications, audiovisual material, and even architecture.

Using that broad definition, the report estimates that Greece employs almost 100,000 people in the culture sector, a relatively high number by European standards. But the economic output is way out of proportion. What is not lacking is the cultural heritage, which in Greece absorbs 50 percent of total state funding for culture, a proportion similar to that in France and Italy. State funds, useful though they are, do not bring about the same results in all countries.