It was June 2015, when I received a call from Fragoulis Karagianopoulos, a good friend and former instructor during my classical guitar studies. The call was about a youth orchestra looking for a mandolin player and without much talk, I immediately answered yes, I would help them.

I am really fond of youth orchestras as I also started playing mandolin in a youth orchestra when I was just 7 years old and never really stopped (although at some point we all became adults).

iliadis 300x300-minThis call was a beginning of a great journey, where I came to meet Costas Iliadis, an inspired Greek musician and teacher who has dedicated a lot of effort and time to create an amazing Orchestra; the Underground Youth Orchestra. This symphonic orchestra consists of 25 music students that play a great variety of music and are performing very frequently in Greece (more about this orchestra at the end of this article).

After our introduction, I was asked to participate in a rehearsal for a recording of an arrangement of a well known piece of music, Cole Porter’s – I Love Paris (with a twist).

The Rehearsal

All this sounded lovely, so here I was a Sunday morning, descending to the basement (hence the underground in the orchestra’s name) of Costas Iliadis house which had long been re-arranged to a music rehearsal room for the orchestra. There I met the members of the orchestra, a group of nice young kids with a passion for music.

I also found out that also helping out with the orchestra were some professional musicians, one of which was David Lynch, a famous Jazz performer that had made the arrangement for the song to be recorded.

I was already a fan of David Lynch, admiring his performances and his overall style. He is a prominent figure in Greece’s music scene and we are all very lucky to have him here in Greece.


Paspala ElliAnd of course there was also Elly Paspala. Elli is well known in Greece for her musical career and achievements that include cooperation with Manos Hadjidakis, concerts at the prestigious Athens Concert Hall and many many others (the list is very big, check the paragraph at the end of the article for more info).

I was already a fan, so I was very pleased to know that Elly was going to sing during the recording.

The rehearsal went great. The members of the orchestra were all lovely, and Costas Iliadis, the conductor was excellent, smiling and patient – something required with a youth orchestra.

Hearing Elli sing was lovely but also I was very happy to learn that this activity was not just another recording. It was part of a plan to promote Athens (and Greece) in the middle of this financial crisis that has traumatized this small but great country. I truly believe that music must serve a purpose – the purpose can be a humble or great, but still; anyway, this is the subject of another article…

Back to the rehearsal, the mandolin I used was a large body 8-string mandolin from Richard Morgan, the Tasmanian luthier, and thus it got a lot of attention. Everybody liked it and I heard great comments for its tone, clarity of sound and of course looks!

Next step, the studio.

I love Athens in the Studio


Going in the Studio

The recording took place near the center of Athens, at Diana, a big studio with enough room for the orchestra. Sound engineering was excellent, and recording with Elly Paspala and the orchestra was just great, as well as listening David Lynch playing his saxophone.

After almost four hours, the recording was over and in the mean time the German ambassador joined us in the studio to watch the recording take place, as did a crew that came to shoot video to be used in the video clip. My special mandolin got some attention from the crew as was expected!

You can see the result (the video clip) at the beginning of the article, and I think you will agree that the mandolin sound added color to this recording and made it somehow even more special! It was a great pleasure playing with these excellent musicians and great people and I am looking forward to our next joint performance.

In the mean time, I enjoy listening to the recording and viewing the video clip, as I am sure you do!


About Elly Paspala

Paspala Elli

Elly Paspala was born on May 17 in New York of Greek parents. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Manhattan School of Music where she studied voice with Soprano Judith Raskin. She studied acting with the actor William Hickey at New York’s H.B Studios. While studying at Manhattan and after graduation, she gave many concerts throughout U.S and Canada as well as performing in operatic productions, one of which was the New York production of director Bob Wilson and composer Gavin Bryar’s opera “Medea”.

Elly Paspala came to Athens in 1982 where she immediately began her exclusive musical association with Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis which lasted until 1988. After this extraordinary experience, Elly Paspala continued to develop her artistic identity by beginning a solo career releasing her first album “In the Glow of the Moon” in 1988. It is an album containing 11 songs written by internationally renowned songwriters and composers such as Kurt Weill, Randy Newman, Nino Rota, Nicola Piovanni and others. Elly Paspala was the supporting act for Randy Newman in his Athens concerts in 1989. Paspala’s rendition of Kurt Weill’s “Youkali” was included in the 1990 Sony Japan’s cd collection “European Female Favorites”.

In 1990, she released her second solo album, “Island of the Lotus Eaters”, with songs written in greek by composer Stamos Semsis and lyricist Vasilis Nikolaidis. Due to its success this same album was later recorded in London with english lyrics written by Lawrence Roman and released under the title “Living a Lie” in 1993.

You can read more (i.e. the rest of her bio ) about Elli Paspala here

About the Song

The song is an arrangement of Cole Porter’s I Love Paris, and is being used as a way to show that despite the financial crisis, Athens remains a place close to our hearts, a place that everybody should visit and discover.

Cole Albert Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964) was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre. After a slow start, he began to achieve success in the 1920s, and by the 1930s he was one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage. Unlike many successful Broadway composers, Porter wrote the lyrics, as well as the music, for his songs.

After a serious horseback riding accident in 1937, Porter was left disabled and in constant pain, but he continued to work. His shows of the early 1940s did not contain the lasting hits of his best work of the 1920s and ’30s, but in 1948 he made a triumphant comeback with his most successful musical, Kiss Me, Kate. It won the first Tony Award for Best Musical.


About the arrangement

The arrangement for the orchestra (with solo mandolin) is by David Lynch. David Lynch is one of the most respected and accomplished musicians on the contemporary Greek music scene today. Though obviously not of Greek descent, the unique musical language he has developed by submerging his own expressive idiom into that of the Greek musical experience has earned him the reputation as being a musician of extraordinary sensitivity and versatility.

Of Irish and Eastern European ancestry, David was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He studied jazz music with James Moody, Charles Lloyd, Ralph Bowen and John Coltrane associate, Garvin Buschell. After receiving various music awards and scholarships, David continued his studies at Dick Grove Music Workshops and began his professional career playing in numerous clubs, studios and with a variety of big bands.

At age 21, his need and desire to broaden his musical and personal horizons brought him to Europe. After an extended period of traveling he settled in Athens, where the environment seemed right for introspection and exploration.

You can read more about David Lynch here.

About the Underground Youth Orchestra

 TheUnderground Υouth Orchestra was created in 2010 by the musician Kostas Iliadis, that serves as the artistic director, conductor and also does the arrangements for the orchestra. The orchestra was quickly recognized for its qualities, started performing and won the love and hearts of music lovers in Greece.

The groups consists of 25 music students, aged 10-22 years old and is complemented by three professional musicians which are responsible for the orchestra administration.

You can read more about the Youth Undeground Orchestra at their facebook page here.


Did you like the recording? Use the comment area below to let me know!



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