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“Zoi mou” Meaning “My life”

10 years ago my mother suffered from a terrible illness, Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia and it is therefore an issue very close to my heart. Her illness and death was the most life changing experience for me.

While being close to her in this difficult phase of her life nothing could help her more than the love of her children and music. In my own experience with my mother, no drug helped her more at this time in her life than the love of her children and music. Once I had moved my piano into her room, we were able to overcome previous communication barriers and enjoy each other’s company in a different way through this shared language of music that broke down previous communication barriers. My daily practise sessions in her room became something very ‘special’ for us during this difficult time we were going through.

It is estimated that this year alone 225,000 people in the UK will develop dementia, that is one every three minutes.[1] Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease which results in memory loss, impaired thinking and affects daily life both for those suffering from it and their family and friends. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, but music has been shown to provide a variety of benefits at different stages of the disease. Research suggests that music can be a lifeline for dementia sufferers by helping improve their social interactions with others and restoring a sense of self.

From a very early age I had the priviledge to work for a chartiy that Sir Yehudi Menuhin had established. It was called Live Music Now. This charity has realised the potential of music in enhancing and improving the lives of people whose lives may be challenged ‘due to disability, illness, poverty or social disadvantage.’[2] Working in a range of venues and institutions from care homes and hospices to mental health hospitals and schools they provide musical stimulation tailored to their audience. Moreover, they employ young professional musicians offering them with a platform to improve their performance skills as well as help them to realise the long-lasting and wide-ranging benefits music can offer to those most disadvantaged in our society. I myself was the only young pianist selected to promote their mission and performed mainly at care homes across the country. Live Music Now also enabled my Southbank Centre debut, where I performed to charity sponsors at the time.

Bringing together the two experiences of my life my early student charity work and the traumatic experience of seeing my mother suffer from such an illness I hope to serve as an example of the joy and benefits that music can bring. Not only do I wish to support the efforts of Live Music Now but help create programs at such places and countries where such efforts are non-existent.

Kindly listen to these songs below that I recorded when I lost my mother, her favourite three songs and join our mailing list below for more news on my efforts. Kindly Join us with a donation and I will let you know how this is next used …so you are also part of my efforts towards the above charity mission statement.


[1] Statistics taken from the Alzheimer’s Society website (https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-us/news-and-media/facts-media).
[2] Quote from Live Music Now’s mission (http://www.livemusicnow.org.uk/live-music-now).

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The art of self-accompaniment

The practice of accompanying oneself on the concert platform is almost extinct. It was an artistic practice more closely associated with the intimate salons of the aristocracy. The early eighteenth-century composer and singer Domenico Alberti, for instance, used to accompany himself as well as other singers. This practice became progressively rarer as the art of written pianoforte accompaniment was developed by composers such as Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Strauss and Fauré, and as the concert halls grew bigger. Of course the performer has to decide whether the limitations imposed by the practical difficulties outweigh the interpretative advantages, but the fact is that there is an extensive repertoire that lends itself to this kind of performance, most notably Arie Antiche, as well as some lieder and other concert song repertoire.

Elena Kokka

Repertoire for self- accompaniment: A selection of art songs, arie antiche, lieder, greek songs and lighter repertoire.
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A personal note

As a child I was lucky enough to discover the joy of music. It always made me feel at peace and was a source of happiness and energy. From a very early age, I loved improvising, singing, playing the piano, even dancing to music - music and playing were the fun part of the day.

I dedicated myself first to the piano and in my daily practice I found, like every pianist who tries to overcome the limitations of the instrument by making it sing, that what Chopin said was more and more true. ‘You must sing if you wish to play’, he said, and he encouraged his students take up singing lessons.

All great music imitates the human voice. It is powerful and has such an immediate effect on the soul and the heart.

While practising solo piano pieces, I would love to sing the melodic lines and, conversely, when practising singing, I would get extraordinary pleasure from playing the piano accompaniment at the same time, enjoying the harmonic depth that the piano gave. It was like I was able to overcome the limitations of the piano by using my voice. And then when I was just playing again and not singing, I felt more deeply than ever what Chopin said: ‘Il faut chanter avec les doigts!” ( “You must sing with your fingers”).

Serving music in these two ways - with the voice and with the piano - has been a long and fascinating journey. I feel so lucky that I can both play and sing and I hope that you will enjoy this combination of piano and singing that, after a great, exciting and adventurous journey, I am able to offer!

Yours,
Elena Kokka
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Information to be uploaded by October 2018

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Information to be uploaded by October 2018