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Francis Guy: «I think of myself as the citizen of the world»
Francis Guy:
«I think of myself as the citizen of the world»
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Evgeniya Kondakova-Theodorou
Author: Evgeniya Kondakova-Theodorou
Translation: Maria Charnaya
22.07.2018

The director of the Museum of Wine in Erimi is a man, who is convinced that music and culture have a bright future in Cyprus.

Meet my guest for today — Francis Guy — a composer and conductor of Commandaria Orchestra.

Country of origin: Great Britain – Cyprus.

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I am a music scholar and a symphony and opera orchestra conductor. My work is my passion, although combining concert work with my research projects is still quite a challenge for me.

Recently, we released a few research publications and a series of orchestra performances, recorded using the so-called «free bar-line notation».

It is a concept that I introduced to the field of music studies as a composer. It is used to avoid standard linear musical notation. There is no bar line, which gives the composer freedom of expression, while at the same time also providing greater performance freedom to the musician.

This, obviously, raises many questions during performances, because orchestra musicians sometimes don’t know when to start playing, but I am working on that. 

The «trend» itself has already been picked up and used in works by contemporary composers like Pierre Boulez, Giya Kancheli, Janni Christou, Dimitri Khristov, Hans Werner Henze and others.

I was born here in Cyprus to a Cypriot mother and a British father. My mother happens to also be a composer and thanks to her I was surrounded by music since birth. I can’t imagine doing anything else in life. When I was a child my family traveled a lot and lived in different countries. I was a very curious child and it was an important experience for me. I learned many different things and heard a lot of different music played by well-known musicians. At the same time, my heart always belonged to Erimi — a small heaven in Cyprus.

Being a composer means knowing how to inspire musicians in your orchestra to create music together. Mastering the technical aspect of being a conductor — is not difficult. Motivating and inspiring musicians to see beyond what is written in the their sheet music — is a lot of work!

Interpreting music requires solid musical knowledge, as well as an ability to transform results into real sounds. Composer’s emotions, thoughts and ideas need to be fully conveyed to the audience.

I am a lucky man. My work is my hobby. At the same time there are a lot of things in life that I really like doing.

I spend most of my time in Cyprus, where I take part in different cultural projects. The Museum of Wine is one of them. Alongside numerous other events, the museum hosts «Commandaria Orchestra and Friends, Chamber Music Series». Throughout the season, the museum also hosts concerts meant to celebrate different events in Cyprus and abroad. You can visit our website or page on Facebook to learn more about what we do.

Being a project affiliated with the Museum of Wine, Commandaria Orchestra was created to promote music projects that are directly or indirectly related to Cypriot culture from antiquity to present time. I am the creative director and conductor of this orchestra.

The founder of the museum, Anastaia Guy, composes different music pieces for our orchestra. Some of the recent pieces include «In Vino Venus», «The Commandaria Courtyards», «The Wine Trails», «Kinyras», «King of Paphos».

We also like to partner together with other Cypriot and foreign conductors. So, for example, in May 2016 we held a premiere of Concerto for Clarinet and Strings, conducted by Cypriot conductor Artemis Efotiti.

The name of the orchestra has two origins: a unique and ancient type of Cypriot wine and the fact that the museum is located in the historic administrative center of what is known as the «Great Commandaria».

The word itself — orchestra — stems from the word «orchos», which in the time of Homer was used to describe a range of vines, which was then turned into «orchistes» and used in relation to a group of dancers or musicians, who took part in religious rituals and celebrations dedicated to Dionysus, which were held in the vineyards.

There are a few fantastic musicians, who live permanently in Cyprus. Some of them are Cypriots, others are foreigners. I have an opportunity to work together with them and create incredible projects.

Contemporary Cyprus is a good place to be a musician, and particularly a conductor. However, in order to organize a concert, we need an audience. And this is the hard part — attracting educated people, who are interested in classical or original contemporary music.

The media does not do much to promote this genre and there are rarely any reviews published following new performances. It is important to educate and motivate people to take part in cultural life and events. How else will they know what is happening in their country?

The situation has gotten somewhat better, but the progress is slow. I believe that if we are able to join forces with the media, which needs to become more art- and culture-friendly, then we will be far more successful and our projects will be able to survive financially.

Everyone knows that Cyprus has a long and extensive history. I am deeply inspired by the idea of a cultural project that is dedicated to the history of this country. These projects can be related to Greek or Cypriot mythology, its medieval history, which on the one hand was a very difficult chapter in the lives of many island residents, but on the other hand saw the rise of Cyprus as an important European trade hub.

I live close to the Kourion acropolis and it is a powerful source of energy and inspiration for me. I’ve spent a lot of time walking around this ancient city, through the woods outside the ancient stadium and the Temple of Apollo, as well as the beach, of course. You can feel the intoxicating scent of the sea mixed together with the smell of nearby cypresses, pines, thyme and other fragrant plants. This mix helps you relax and provides inspiration for further work.

I think of myself as the citizen of the world. Every opportunity to visit a new country is like a challenge that invites me to exchange my musical experience and ideas with people of other nationalities and cultures. This I find to be truly interesting. 

Cyprus is a multinational country. There are many ways to make a home and a living here. Some people live quiet lives enjoying the mediterranean lifestyle, while others take up business, culture and other opportunities.

I think that the media and government institutions, which in many ways control the lives of our citizens, need to focus on providing alternative information, which lies beyond cheap, everyday content. And it is a matter of time before this change takes place.

The island of Aphrodite offers excellent climate conditions and a very high standard of healthy living. Visitors, as well as residents, have a lot of things they can do here, from relaxing at the beach to taking walks through the woods and in the mountains. You can do all this while enjoying the island’s culture. I wish for everyone coming to Cyprus a chance to enjoy all these things as well as get to know the friendly people of this island. I also certainly recommend visiting Kourion as well as Akamas.