In a completely sold out event, the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) and the AAFSW Fun For Funds Fundraising Events Committee hosted a very successful Valentine’s Day celebration on Friday, February 10 at 7:00 p.m. at the University Club of Washington DC. Nearly 100 guests enjoyed a magical musical arrangement offered in three parts by renowned pianist, Aphrodite Mitsopoulou, as well as the ambience of the University Club, a stylish mansion in the heart of Washington, DC where the diplomatic, international and local university communities frequent. To commemorate Valentine’s Day, Ms. Mitsopoulou gave us an international and Greek piano musical interpretation of the four international natures of Love: Storge (affection), Philia (friendship), Eros (being passionately in love), and Agape (unconditional charity).
Aphrodite Mitsopoulou was born in Greece and started her musical studies in the National Conservatory of Athens. In 2007, she received her Soloist’s Diploma from the Conservatory of Art and Technology, obtaining the First Unanimously Excellent Award and the Highest Honors for Outstanding Performance. Ms. Mitsopoulou earned her Master’s Degree in 2009 on a partial scholarship from the Boston Conservatory. Some of her notable teachers include Valery Sagaidachny, Janice Weber, Anna Ouspenskaya and Thomas Mastroianni.
Ms. Mitsopoulou received the first Prize in 2004 at the “Golden Muse” Competition for her interpretation in Greek and Contemporary Music. Further, the Pi Kappa Lambda Music Honor Society offered Ms. Mitsopoulou a lifelong honorary membership for her artistic and academic profile. Having received an O1 visa awarded to artists for extraordinary ability, Ms. Mitsopoulou has resided in the United States since 2010.
Highly trained as an educator, Ms. Mitsopoulou has worked as a faculty-selected tutor while at the Boston Conservatory and currently maintains an active teaching and performing schedule (www.pianowitz.com). Ms. Mitsopoulou is responsible for the Pre-K curriculum and musical program in St. Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church Bilingual School in Falls Church, Virginia. Her students compete successfully in national and international competitions such as the AAMS International Competition, The Lion’s Scholarship of Virginia Music Scholarship Foundation, The Golden Key International Competition, the NVMTA Judges Recitals, and the Baroque Competition.
Ms. Mitsopoulou has performed as an accompanist and solo performer in various events. She performed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 2016 for the event entitled “From Romantics to Greek Composers of the 20th Century,” which was co-sponsored by the Greek Embassy. She holds a special permission from the Hellenic Center in Greece to perform rare compositions. Ms. Mitsopoulou’s other performances include recitals in the Church of the Holy City with the participation of the DC Chamber music orchestra members, the Loudoun Choral Society, the Woman’s Club of Arlington, the Kreeger Museum, the Bahai’ Center of Sterling, and the Steinert Hall in Boston.
After our guests enjoyed drinks and appetizers in the elegant Keefer Memorial Library of the University Club, we all proceeded to the ballroom and dining hall, which was decorated with red roses in red heart-shaped vases for the occasion, all of which were later gifted to our guests. Ms. Mitsopoulou welcomed the guests with the beautiful piano sounds of international love tunes. Ms. Mitsopoulou’s first piano arrangement included: Il postino (Luis Bacalov), Romeo and Juliet (Nino Rota), Cinema Paradiso (Andrea Moricone), La Vita e Bella (Nicola Piovani), Over the Rainbow (Harold Arlen), Moonriver (Henry Mancini), To a Wild Rose (Edward Mc Dowel), Memory (Andrew Lloyd Weber), Never on Sunday (Manos Hatzidakis), Milise mou (Manos Hatzidakis), and Theme from “Zorba the Greek” (Mikis Theodorakis).
Following this first piano arrangement, our guests enjoyed a delicious dinner of their choice, which included: chicken chesapeake, grilled shrimp capellini, and lemon ricotta agnolotti. Then, Ms. Mitsopoulou indulged us with a mini piano recital. The first piece was by Franz Liszt (1811-1886): Étude No. 6 in A Minor. When Franz Liszt was twenty years old, he heard the great violinist Niccolò Paganini playing in Paris and he was absolutely mesmerized. When Paganini played, people swore they could see the sparks flying from his bow. Liszt, after being utterly inspired by Paganini’s Caprice No. 24, decided to create a piece equally difficult for the piano by trying to imitate the technical difficulties of the violin and, especially, how to switch effortlessly from the one technique to the other (pizzicato, double stops, etc). As Ms. Mitsopoulou explained, this étude shows the possibility of the human body and spirit.
Ms. Mitsopoulou continued her mini piano recital with the Eight Dances from the Greek Islands by Yannis Costantinidis (1903-1984). The Eight Dances from the Greek Islands is a work with intense nationalistic and folkloric elements. Each dance has a different rhythmic and melodic pattern, representing the style of each island. The meter (5/4, 7/8), the notation, the grace notes, and the harmonic and dynamic changes create a unique color for each dance. Most Greek dances are performed in a circular way with the dancers holding each other’s hands to symbolize the continuation of the generations. As Ms. Mitsopoulou noted, for a Greek, it is hard to listen to this work without remembering the color of the Greek seas, its volcanic rocks, its wild beauty, and the feeling of freedom.
Last but not least, Ms. Mitsopoulou played Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849): Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31. As Ms. Mitsopoulou explained, the second of the four Scherzi of Chopin is one of the most celebrated pieces of the pianistic repertoire. The B flat minor scherzo was composed and published in 1837, five years later than the first one. Originally, the work is in B flat minor but its bigger sections are either in the relevant key of D flat major or in A major (middle section); it creates a large range of emotions for the listener. One of Chopin’s students, Willhelm von Lenz, wrote for the sotto voce of the opening that “For Chopin it was never questioning enough, never soft enough, never sufficiently weighted (tombe).”
After Ms. Mitsopoulou received a standing ovation for her mini piano recital, our guests enjoyed their delectable dessert: forest red fruits in a handmade chocolate nest. Ms. Mitsopoulou concluded her program with light dancing love tunes for piano. Our guests danced the night away to the sounds of: It’s Now or Never (Elvis Presley), Strangers in the Night (Bert Kaempfert – Frank Sinatra), Are You Lonesome Tonight (Elvis Presley), When I Fall in Love (Nat King Cole), You Are the Sunshine of My Life (Stevie Wonder), Fly Me to the Moon (Frank Sinatra – Bart Howard), The Way You Look Tonight (Jerome Kern), Unforgettable (Irving Gordon), Yesterday (John Lennon and Paul McCartney), Always on My Mind (Elvis Presley), Feelings (Morris Albert – Frank Sinatra), You are My Sunshine (Johnnie Davis), Ob-la-di-Ob-la-da (John Lennon and Paul McCartney), Take a Chance on Me (Tony Anderson – Abba), Careless Whisper (George Michael), Woman in Love (Barbra Streisand), How Deep is Your Love (Maurice Gibb), Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word (Elton John), The Winner Takes It All (Benny Anderson), and My Funny Valentine (Richard Rodgers).
AAFSW would like to thank all our guests for supporting AAFSW and for enjoying a romantic Valentine’s evening with all of us at the beautiful University Club. AAFSW Fun For Funds Fundraising Events Committee would especially like to thank our very talented pianist, Ms. Aphrodite Mitsopoulou, for such a successful fundraising event, benefiting AAFSW, which was made possible by her gracious and gratis participation in this lovely musical evening full of melody, dance, and great company!
Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, AAFSW President
AAFSW Fun For Funds Fundraising Events Committee Chair