In Between the Acts, The Globe and Mail takes a look at how artists manage their time before and after a creative endeavour.
In 1962, Nana Mouskouri released The Girl from Greece Sings. Now, at age 83, she still does, in about as many languages as the United Nations officially recognizes. Mouskouri, whose latest album is Forever Young and who will tour Canada throughout May, spoke by phone with The Globe and Mail, about lessons learned, the masters who taught her and a farewell tour that wasn’t that.
In 2004 or so, I decided to do a final tour. I was getting older. I thought I should stop singing. I went around the world, going to all the places I thought I should go. The tour lasted four years. I finished in 2008 in Athens, at a beautiful, ancient theatre, the Herodes Atticus theatre. Before the final show, I felt as if I was going into my grave.
It was a sad period after that. I spent three years without singing and trying to find another life. But it was not possible. I decided to sing again.
Of course, I had to find an excuse, because I was ashamed to be coming back after saying I was retiring. The excuse was to celebrate the 50 years of The White Rose of Athens, which was my first international hit. This was in 2011. Then I did a tour for a while and it ended. In 2014, I found another excuse to tour, which was to go on a Happy Birthday Tour, which also ended. Since then, I haven’t been touring.
Last year, I decided to record an album, Forever Young, based on the Bob Dylan song. I’m not saying it’s about me. It’s the songs that will be forever young. The songs I recorded for the album were ones I never did before, because they belonged to other people. Songs like Hallelujah and In the Ghetto.
To keep your voice, you have to keep on singing. I’ve been singing for 60 years. I’ve studied music. There is a discipline to my singing. Learning is important, whether it’s another style or singing in a new language. It’s work. It’s important for the voice to be more flexible.
Early on, I worked with people like Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte and Bobby Scott. To be 25 or 26 years old and to work with Quincy Jones – can you imagine? I’d been singing in Greece, but I learned immensely from him. I spent a month in 1962 in New York recording an album with him, The Girl from Greece Sings. “Listen to the masters,“ he would say to me. I learned how to approach music in a certain way. Working with him was a big lesson. He’s still my friend. I really adore him.
With Harry Belafonte, it wasn’t only about singing. It was about how to stand on stage and how to present myself on stage. For me, my life has been a great school. I appreciate it, and it’s the reason I can still sing in the same keys as I did when I was young.
Quincy, Harry and Bobby Scott, they guided me on the way, from an early age. I’ve continued on, with the examples they set for me. I worked with other people in other countries as well. I’m here today because of them and because I was ready to learn.
Nana Mouskouri’s Canadian tour begins May 3 at Victoria’s Royal Theatre and ends May 25 at Moncton’s Casino New Brunswick.