July 12th, Day 6

Submitted by: Paul Caccamo

Don’t you love it when you wake up in the morning with the day free to do whatever you want, stretching ahead of you like an empty five-lane highway? That was today. So, after a leisurely breakfast on the lovely rooftop restaurant of the Titania Hotel, a few singers and I decided to head up to the Parliament building to watch the changing of the guard. The costumes alone made it worth the trip. Check these guys out:

They’ve got these little black poof-balls on the top of their clogs, presumably to keep from bleeding out if they were to hit themselves with the sharp tips. 
As far as the process itself, it is like a long, slow choreographed dance. It takes about five minutes to cover 10 meters. I can only imagine the hours of training that had to go into this process, and we wondered who came up with it in the first place. I’d like to think that a couple generals were drinking ouzo one night and made it up whilst barely containing their laughter.
Once they were situated, another soldier in fatigues came up and inspected the uniforms, making sure each thread of the black tassels were in place, and that the thousand pleats of their kilts were properly ironed. And there they stood. And stood. And stood some more. Time to go.
He passed inspection! This time.
After that I decided to wander the city a bit. I’ve always loved the traffic chaos of many European cities, and Athens is no slouch in this respect. For instance, there are clearly marked lanes most of the time, but they appear to be merely suggestions. Two lanes in practice fit three or even four lanes of traffic. Every time a light turns green it is like the start of a moped Grand Prix, with helmets and safety clothing clearly optional. Incredibly noisy, and smelly too. 
There is a part of the city called the Plaka, right below the towering Acropolis. The “streets” are often so narrow one can touch buildings on each side. Intersections are rarely 90 degrees, instead going off in all different directions. For the navigationally challenged it would be very easy to lose one’s bearings. Because I was just going whichever direction looked more interesting, it wasn’t long before I was more or less lost. I thought surely I could find my way, but after 30 minutes without finding the hotel, I had to deal with reality and call up this app that will direct you back to the hotel instantly. Fifteen minutes later I’m back with time to spare to make our evening concert. Saved by technology yet again!
The church where we performed tonight was stunning. I tested a couple notes on the piano and they were still reverberating five seconds later. Our poor singers though, during the warmup the sun was absolutely blasting them through the windows. Athens in the summer is an oven.

A small sample of the artwork in this church. As in all Greek Orthodox churches, a fresco of Jesus Christ is in the dome:

After a short and lovely few songs by the church’s women’s choir, we took the stage. At this point I’d like to digress a moment to say that until very recently, women were not allowed to sing in Orthodox churches. Nor do they usually allow instruments of any kind, just chanting, so it was very heartening to hear this Choir perform. Moreover, they actually rented and tuned a nice Yamaha upright for me to play, and invited our choir to sing. Progress marches on!
Our set consisted of some religious music, interspersed with quite a few of our more upbeat gospel type songs. We were having a grand old time and the audience was incredibly receptive and appreciative. I must confess, though, I wondered how some of our repertoire would be received since it is quite out of character to allow secular music to be performed in an Orthodox Church. This feeling increased substantially when we broke into “Heavenly Aeroplane” as an encore, complete with choral-ography. Ofer is fearless, though, and his instincts proved to be right on target, as this performance produced a standing ovation, including the priest. 
The members of the church then served all of us a delightful Greek dinner before sending us on our way. Just another great day in what has been a fantastic trip.
Thanks for reading,
Paul Caccamo