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Konstantios Giorgos | Lemnos | Biographical data
• Place of birth

Kaminia, Lemnos
• Short biography

Giorgos Konstantios was born in 1915. He was a professional musician and played the clarinet from 1933 to 1975. As well as playing music, he also worked on the fields and kept farm animals to support his family. In 1940, he opened a cafe in Kaminia with his son, Andreas, who is also a musician: «I taught him [Andreas], I sent him to Kastro [Myrina], to a teacher, and he learned music. He can read music, and he’s also good on the accordion [...]. He reads the notes easily.»

Konstantios himself began learning the clarinet through practice in 1933, with the music teacher Ioannis Pantzaras, from the village of Korno: «He taught for money, we paid two hundred and fifty [250] drachmas at the time, but the drachma was strong. I stayed for three months. He showed me the ‘sounds’, in practice [...]. Anyway, I stayed there for three months, but then the man said to me, don’t think you’ve learned now. [Giorgos Konstantios believed that lessons weren’t enough to learn music. You also needed to work with other musicians, to gain a deeper knowledge of both the instrument and the repertoire:] Ioannis Pantzaras, whoever went to him, he’d show then [...]. He taught them an instrument for two or three months – not much, they couldn’t start playing, you know? I got started because of those two guys from Moundros, two of them [...], and they took me to play because they didn’t have a clarinetist [...]. And I learned from them, too, I got started, anyway, and then I went from there».

Giorgos Konstantios first began playing with two musicians from Kaminia. But since they were also beginners, he chose to join a band in Moundros, and work alongside Kostas Papataros [violin] and Giorgos Karachalias [santouri]. After 1949, he collaborated regularly with Manolis Poriazis from Portianou [violin], and the well-known violinist Tilemachos Katsikas from Thanos, while he also joined, on occasion, the music band of the Tsandis brothers, who lived in Livadochori: «In thirty-three [1933] I began to play [with the band from Moundros]. Later, in 1948 or 1949, people began to emigrate and they both left for America. And they left me behind, by I was a master by then, let me tell you [...]. I’ve played with Manolis Bourgiazis, he plays the violin, he’s still alive, he’s living in Portianou, Pourgiazis [Porgiazis]. We played together for seventeen years, he played the violin. He sang, too. He sang well [...]. Another one, the best violinist in these parts, was called Tilemachos Katsikas, he was from Thanos and we played together for seven years [...]. He died young, around fifty years old, that’s when he died, but the way he played the violin – he was born to play the play the violin [...]. Oh, and there were the Tsandis brothers, from Livadochori. They came here as refugees, but I don’t know how, they were old [...]. Well, once in a while, if they were asked to play somewhere and didn’t have a clarinetist, I’d join then, but we didn’t play together regularly». In 1955, and at the age of 12, his son, Andreas (who plays the accordion and the harmonium) also joined the band. Konstantios describes their collaboration: «The two of us, we made more money. Because the accordion kept the melody going, and combined with the noise the clarinet makes, we didn’t need any other instruments.»

Giorgos Konstantios has played the clarinet in festivals, weddings and christenings, in most of the villages in Lemnos: «I’ve played in pretty much all of them, all of the villages». Events he performed at regularly included: [The island-wide festival of Aghios Sozos:] «We played there every year! It was the largest festival on the island, there was no other like it [...]. They’d get a petrol lamp, two or three musicians, and they played there, and then, in the morning, they’d pack up and go. But then the villagers, the cafe owners anyway, they wouldn’t go over there [where the chapel is] and the festival moved down into the village. And it lasted, it lasted three days, yes [...]. Many musicians turned up, they went to Aghios. But they didn’t go to the village, because there were only two cafes. If they went to one and we went to the other, that was it. There were no cafes, and they couldn’t look after people, they didn’t have [...]. The Tsandis brothers went [from Livadochori], people went from Kastro [Myrina], a man by the name of Delikoukos, he played the santouri, he was a good musician [...]. And they went by sea, generally, on the boat».

He also regularly performed in festivals held in Kaminia, on August 15th [the Assumption of the Virgin Mary] and August 23rd, for the Novena [9-day prayer] of the Virgin Mary. He also played the clarinet at the Festival of Aghios Charalambos in Plaka: «We’d go to Plaka. There was a festival there, of Aghios Charalambos, and this festival lasted a day or two, and we’d go on foot, and you know how far it is? Five or six hours. Five hours to go, another five to come back, there were no cars, there was nothing, you either had a donkey or you’d walk, there was no other way». Of the weddings in the villages of Lemnos, and the musical practices connected to them, he said: «In Kaspakas, weddings lasted two days! Kaspakas was the worst village! If you went there, you had to go round all day, on the Monday, until the evening. You had to play all night and then the next day [...]. Here, too [in Kaminia], we went round here, too!»

On the repertoire of tunes and songs musicians played at festivals, he said: «They danced syrta. There were a lot of syrta, a lot [...]. They danced the Kalamatianos a lot, too [...]. We played many zeibekika. Smyrnio, one where people dance in twos, it’s like a syrtos, and then turns into a ballos, you know what I mean? [...]. I don’t know how it came to be called ‘Smyrnio’, maybe they brought it from Smyrna, I don’t know. But they called it Smyrnio, anyway [...]. And there were new songs coming out, too, we didn’t always play the same things».

Local dances, such as «Kechagiadikos», «Livyzikos» and «Patima» were also played in festivals and celebrations: «The «Kechagiadikos», they danced that, and «Patima», those are the local dances. They still dance the «Patima». [...]. The «Kechagiadikos» is danced in a circle... It has words, too: «Vre Kechagia perifane, me tis platies lagares» [...]. Livyzos, he was a lyra player from Moundros, he played the lyra [...]. And he’d written a song, the «Livyzikos» [...]. It caught on, they still dance the «Livyzikos» today!».

According to Konstantios, up to the Second World War, only lyra musicians performed at weddings. There were also old amateur singers who improvised couplets to the tune of the «Gambritsios» [a traditional wedding tune]. But when bands, with violins and clarinets, began to perform at weddings, they no longer played the «Gambritsios», but replaced it with marches and other tunes.

Their repertoire also included tunes known locally as «European»: «We played them all. The fox trot, the waltz, all of them. Whenever someone asked for them, you had to play them [...].» Musicians picked up new tunes and songs by listening and practicing: «Let me tell you, I had a good ear. I don’t mean to brag, but when a couple of people knew a tune and played it, I picked it up [...]. As long as they told me the scale, D major, C major, whichever it was, and I’d learn it».

Giorgos Konstantios stopped playing the clarinet in 1975, aged 60. But he kept his last clarinet, for sentimental reasons.