...it is just one week ago that you left this world for the stars and just yesterday when hundreds of us accompanied you to your last home and said goodbye to you...
...at this moment of unspeakable pain for your loss, it is so hard to put my feelings in words, but yet, I need to try it at least, it might be a balm for my heart.
...at this moment when it is impossible to believe that I cannot talk to you anymore, I cannot write to you, I cannot tell you my news, share my happiness, or my sadness, I cannot hug you, I cannot laugh with all the many jokes we said, at this moment when I feel that I lost so much, I think the best is to say what I had and still have and not what I lost. If we do not have, we do not suffer for the loss...
The most precious thing that music gave me through my life, is love. Love for music anyway, but mostly, love for people. And one of the most wonderful things I owe to the fact that I am a musician, is that I was so blessed for having connected my life so closely to yours for the last 20 years. You are one of the most wonderful human beings that passed over this world. So I will talk about all the beautiful things that you were, you are and will be forever. And I know that I do not only speak for myself, but that thousands of other people share the same feelings that I will try to describe in this text, which will be hard to keep it short. I could talk about you non-stop.
More than 20 years ago, I got to know of you, after listening for the first time to Tango en Skaï (what else?). Like so many thousands of people, I fell in love with that piece right away. I made a home recording of it and sent you a tape, together with a letter of admiration. At the time there was no internet and you did not yet use a computer, so as you were already famous, I did not expect you to answer to an unknown to you person, since it meant that you had to write by hand, to put it in an envelope and take it to the post office! But you did answer very warmly and I was so impressed and happy. You later told me that you always answered everyone, you could not imagine ignoring people. One of your numerous acts of generosity.
Then, in 1996 I was invited to a guitar festival in Voronezh, Russia, that was where we first met and we immediately became friends. I was so enchanted by your incredible playing, stage presence, contact with the public, I was enchanted by your personality and warmth, I felt so close to your way of playing which had a lot in common with my own taste in music. And I felt so happy and honoured with your warm words about my playing.
I proposed to you to come to Greece, you kindly accepted and so we arranged your very first Greek concert in Athens in the conservatory where I taught at the time. The success you had was just tremendous, we were afraid that the balcony of the hall might... fall because of the immense applause, which was like an earthquake! As your first encore, you played an arrangement of the Postman by the great Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis, whom we both loved and you were so sweet to give me a copy of the music right after. Since then, your contact with Greece became regular and you and the Greeks got to love each other so much. Those days we had dinner for the first time and we felt that it was so easy to open up and say many of our secrets and share so many common feelings and thoughts. It was obviously meant to be a lifetime friendship. Since very early we ‘adopted’ each other as brother and sister and always used the Greek diminutives: brotherako, sisteraki, Rolanako, Elenaki. We exchanged so many letters signed with these affectionate names.
I got to know your music more and more and was so enthusiastic when I discovered that you were not a composer of the one lucky ‘hit’ piece, but a rare genius talent, top level in so many aspects: you played like an angel, with so much finesse, character, beautiful singing, with impeccable rhythm and you made the guitar sound like an orchestra. You composed music that immediately was loved and adopted by every guitarist and music lover who heard it. You made such ingenious arrangements like hardly anybody else did. You once told me how important it was that you had high-level studies in composition. This made you able to use in a magnificent way the instrument that you knew so well and bring out the greatest ideas, inventing so many new ways to expand its limits and making all of us, guitarists, feel lucky that we are able to play the guitar. I am so certain that your compositions will live for as long as the music of Sor (whom you loved so much), Tarrega, Barrios or Villa Lobos.
Playing your music was a bliss for me, I recorded a lot of it, I was honoured and so happy to have some wonderful pieces of yours dedicated to me, I was so incredibly happy when we agreed to play together in 2001 your Concertomaggio for two guitars and orchestra in Athens. For the same concert you made such a wonderful arrangement of Hadjidakis’ Postman (Hadjidakis was celebrated in that concert) for two guitars and orchestra.
We had a lot in common concerning the way we listened to music, we both were incredible perfectionists and crazy about... good tuning! I knew that every tiny dot in your scores is important and it has to be taken seriously, I rarely met a composer that knew so well what he wanted and played it exactly as he wanted, which was the best way for his music.
But apart from what your music meant for me and will mean for the rest of my life, what I will cherish even more, are the countless deeply human moments we shared during 20 years. I lived in Greece and you in France but still, we managed to meet and be in contact rather regularly, so I felt that you lived much closer. I rarely met someone who was so capable to love so many people in all the five continents! You were such a modest and friendly person, you always paid attention to people and you made everyone feel special by listening to what they had to say, never ignoring, never underestimating and never being snobbish. As the really great artists usually are!
I knew that every time I was happy about something, you were happy for me, isn’t it the best proof of love and friendship? You told me more than once, that you did not know the feeling of jealousy, a feeling that poisons the heart of so many other people and I can confirm this, from the way you talked with enthusiasm about people you esteemed, admired and loved. On the other hand, when I was sad or anxious about something, you were the one that I mostly needed to talk about it, you were the one that would understand so well what I felt, who cared so much, who never got tired of listening, who asked questions and encouraged me to bring out my deepest feelings. And you were the one that after you heard me carefully, you would always say something that would make me feel better in the end. Oh, how grateful I was to you for this and how much I will miss it. To be like you, someone has to be very sensitive and to have empathy for other people, such a rare gift. Even this year that you were ill, you still did listen and still helped me when I had a hard time. I remember when in 2005 I had a concert in the famous Salle Cortot in the École Normale in Paris and for reasons beyond my control, I did not have the time to prepare well, so I called you on the phone the same day, being desperate and telling you in tears that I am going to play a terrible concert. You managed to help me remove my fear and I ended up playing one of my best concerts. Thank you my brother.
On the other hand, so many times you blessed me with your friendship, love and trust, sharing with me your good news, knowing that I would be happy for you and proud of you, my precious brother. But also confessing to me your own problems, secrets and fears, asking and listening carefully to my opinion, expecting my support and understanding and showing that it was not only me who felt that you were my best friend but that I was also among your best friends. How beautiful it is to know that a wonderful human being needs your friendship and is generously offering his or hers?
Finally, this very year, you trusted me from the beginning with the terrible news of the attack of cancer, which horrified me. I was so scared by the thought of losing you. How is it possible that such a wonderful person, who has given and offered generously to so many people his music and his love, how is it possible that he will not live until he is really old and he has completed his journey on this earth? How much more music you would compose, how much more love you would offer and receive, how much more laughter you would share with your friends until your old age? This ruthless question ‘why so early’ haunts the people who get left behind. But your ability to love, during this year of your terrible illness, brought so many people closer and made us know and love each other. As if you wanted us to help each other through love, at the time we have to face our extreme pain for your loss.
I respected the fact that you did not want the world to know that you were ill, since you wanted to continue your life normally for as long as possible. All this year, I was in even closer contact with you and tried to experience as many moments near you as I could and to support you as much as I could. I saw that you fought this terrible desease with such an incredible courage, I admired you so deeply and I was so extremely proud of you, indeed as a sister. Calling each other brother and sister was not a joke, we are indeed such.
I was blessed to have the chance to see you for a last time two weeks before you passed away, when you were in the hospital and I came to Paris just in order to say goodbye to you. Your suffering made me suffer as well and I tried to do everything I could in order to reduce your pain. But fortunately you also had better moments, that made us all so grateful and hopeful. I felt happy that I could give you warmth and affection at such a crucial moment and to tell you not to be afraid and to ensure you that everything will be all right. It is amazing that happiness can exist even at moments of extreme pain and suffering. We were joking until the last days. You were hoping until the last days and you convinced us to hope as well. For a long time we felt that your power of will and our love, might be able to win in this tug of war that we all played with death. Death all alone on the one side of the rope and we on your side, trying to pull harder and beat him. Unfortunately, he was stronger...
But what cannot die is love. Death could take away only your body from us but we kept our love for you and our love for your music. You left with us, four wonderful children, which you love with all your heart, you are so proud of them and you made them love each other. I cannot use past sentence, I am sure that you still exist somewhere in the universe and your love will always be protecting us all. You left behind you so much beautiful music that will be played and appreciated for the following centuries. And, (as our beloved Manos Hadjidakis said about his own life a little before he died) you lived three lives in one, so we should not count the length of a life with days, months and years but with the intensity of emotions, which you certainly experienced and caused as much.
I will miss you my so beloved friend and brother, I will miss you terribly and no matter how many things I can say in order to calm my pain, I cannot miss you less, I am afraid. What I can do in order to face this extreme pain, is to share love and time with all the people that will also love you for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, they are so many, that I know that to whichever place on earth I will go, there will always be one of them there, ready to talk and share our memories from you! And also, I have to be able to wait. Wait until time will calm the pain and replace it with the smiles that every thought about you, will bring to our faces. I will also wait for the day that I will meet you again. A few days ago, after I said the last goodbye to you with a completely broken heart, I wrote to you a long letter where I put together many thoughts and feelings and where I proposed to you that we make an appointment in some other world, which will be without pain and suffering, but only happy and peaceful. There, we will all laugh, play music and talk till eternity! I think that the idea for this appointment with all the people you love, made your soul a little lighter in its way towards heaven. The only thing that you will have to excuse me for, is that I will try to be as late as possible for our appointment my dear brother! But you have my word that I will come! And we will have so much to tell each other, that eternity will not be enough for!
You will always have all my love and affection
Elenaki, your sisteraki
5 November 2016 (written for the Japanese Magazine Gendai Guitar and for the Greek online guitar magazine www.tar.gr )
Elena Papandreou Guitar soloist - Professor, University of Macedonia)
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